by Max Barry

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Anava Hinduism

In the early centuries of Antarctic settlement, the continent's climate refugees brought several disparate religions between them. For a time, they clashed violently, but as Antarctic society took its current form in the 29th century, Antarctic religious life went through many changes. Today, Antarcticans follow a unique branch of the Hindu faith known as Anava Hinduism. The defining feature of Anava Hinduism is not only the religion itself - for Anava Hindus range all the way from passionately faithful to quite secular - but also the way of life that is followed by all its adherents, regardless of their level of belief in the gods. In this way of life, the value of all human life and happiness is the supreme virtue, and it is an ideal that all Anava Hindus uphold with religious passion. This ties into the two purposes of a human life in Anava Hinduism. The first is kama, which is personal and spiritual freedom, and the free fulfillment of desires, wishes, passions, love and affection, and savoring the experience of life. There is also dharma, which is the recognition of the inherent dignity and equality of human beings and the pricelessness of human life, actively living out the values of kindness, benevolence, understanding, and respect, and the rejection of hate, prejudice, harm, and neglect towards any person. Both of these virtues, lived out in a balance with each other, are considered by Anava Hinduism to be the defining aspects of a fulfilled life.

Anava Hinduism is notable for its belief in an infinite cosmology; existence was never created or will never be destroyed, but is instead cyclical. Countless realities exist alongside one another, always being created and destroyed, giving rise to new ones. Life itself is also believed to be cyclical; in samsara, the cycle of life, death, and rebirth, the nature of a person's fortunes in life, and the nature of their next life, depends on the karma, the sum of all the good and harm that they have done in this life. In Anava Hinduism, the cycle of samsara is something to be cherished and enjoyed, rather than something to escape from. The basis of existence, in Anava Hinduism, is the atman, the identity, nature and experience of the self, and the key to enlightenment is in fully convincing oneself that the atman is one and same with the brahman, the ultimate reality of existence. The belief that the nature of reality lies in human experience is often considered to be the core of Anava Hinduism, and the basis for its passionately humanistic outlook on life.

The metaphysical worldview of Anava Hinduism is notable for its many gods. Almost a countless number are recognized and worshipped; Antarcticans typically look up to one deity with most of their worship and devotion, but they do not discount the existence and importance of the other gods. Some of the most important and widely worshiped deities in Antarctica are the trimurti (Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer); Indra, god of the heavens; Agni, god of fire, warmth, and energy, Durga, the warrior goddess, who combats the evils and threats of the world; Ganesh, who removes obstacles, and places them when necessary; Saraswati, goddess of knowledge, wisdom, and the arts; Parvati, goddess of love, beauty, and family; Lakshmi, goddess of good fortune and prosperity; and Krishna, avatar of Vishnu, and god of love, compassion, and tenderness. Many others are worshiped and invoked at times, drawn from the ancient Hindu hymns and myths, whose contents are common knowledge in Antarctica and turn up from time to time in everyday conversation.

The practice of Anava Hinduism varies widely in Antarctica. Not all Antarcticans believe strongly in the gods or practice the faith, and such variance of belief is accepted as part of the Anava Hindu religion, as its unifying aspects are considered to be the values of dharma and kama, and the unity of the atman and brahman, beliefs that are shared even by irreligious Antarcticans. Most religious Antarcticans do pray privately at times, but most of their communing with the gods is done instead at temples, each one ornately decorated and usually dedicated to a particular god. Each temple also has a sacrificial fire at the center, for puja, the ritual of worship, which in Antarctica is often done with incense, perfumes, mint leaves, or other fragrances. The main aspect of faith in Antarctica, however, is simply communing with the gods, asking them for favors and forgiveness, living by Anava Hindu values, and simply talking with the gods about whatever one would like to say. Another religious practice, for Antarcticans who are seeking spiritual knowledge, is to go on yatras, or pilgrimages, across the continent. Vostok is often at the end of such yatras due to its place in the Anava Hindu faith, but whatever the destination, the experience of the journey is valued most deeply of all.

A few of Anava Hinduism's unique characteristics originate from the Shinto religion, whose adherents were among the first converts to Anava Hinduism in the earliest stages of the faith's formation in the 29th century, and who heavily influenced the nascent Antarctic religion as a result. Much like the ancient Japanese religion, Anava Hinduism has an animistic quality to its worldview; animals, plants, and inanimate objects are believed to have spirits of their own, and treating them with according kindness and respect is considered part of living a moral life. Miko, Shinto shrine maidens, also have a counterpart in the Anava Hindu faith; they can be any gender, and aside from upkeep of the temples, they are most notable for their remarkable memorization of the Hindu hymns and myths. They usually work other jobs to make a living, but they are easily recognized, for they are the only Antarcticans who wear bindis, which in Antarctica come in the form of small red gems on the forehead shaped like upright rhombi.

Another idiosyncratic aspect of the Anava Hindu faith is its heart in Vostok. Centuries ago, when the ice sheet melted away and opened Lake Vostok to the air for the first time, it was discovered that the lake had sustained life for over 14 million years. The nexus of Anava Hindu faith soon gravitated towards this ancient center of life, and a city on the shores of the lake soon became a home for the faithful. Today, Lake Vostok and its surroundings are considered the most sacred place in Antarctica, and the city of Vostok is home to a great number of temples and miko. Antarcticans from all over the continent often go on yatras to the ancient lake to seek spiritual knowledge, and both practicing and non-practicing Vostok residents are happy to give any that they have. Vostok is home to many more faithful Antarcticans than the other cities, but it is home to plenty of irreligious Antarcticans as well, and even among the faithful, the city remains just as much an exemplar of Antarctic open-mindedness as its neighbors.

In Antarctica, there are several cultural holidays - holidays that are celebrated by all Antarcticans, whether faithful or secular. The most well-known of these is Diwali, the Festival of Lights. In Antarctica, Diwali takes place from the 19th to the 23rd of June, so that the middle day is June 21st, the winter solstice. It symbolizes the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance. During the festival, every inch of Antarctica's cities are festooned with lights - an especially splendid sight in the Antarctic winter darkness. On October 1st, an early spring day, Antarcticans celebrate Holi, the Festival of Colors. The coming of spring and sunlight is celebrated in an exuberant free-for-all, in which people throw coloured powders at each other, and generally have fun and do whatever they feel like doing. There are also several religious holidays that are observed by the more faithful Antarcticans, which honor the lives and achievements of particular gods. These include Krishna Janmashtami, which is celebrated on September 1st; Ganesh Chaturthi, on September 15th; Navaratri, honoring Durga, from the 22nd to the 31st of October; Ratha Yatra, on July 1st, when Antarcticans honor Vishnu; Vasant Pachami, honoring Saraswati, on February 1st; and Maha Shivaratri, honoring Shiva, on March 1st.

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