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 and 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 Vishnu the Preserver and Shiva the Destroyer (both of whom are often worshipped as supreme gods); Indra, god of the heavens; Surya, god of the Sun; Agni, god of fire, light, and heat; 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 (who is often also worshipped as Shakti, a supreme goddess); 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 Vedas and other Hindu sacred texts, certain parts of which remain commonly known and discussed in Antarctic society.

The practice of Anava Hinduism varies widely in Antarctica. Not all Antarcticans believe strongly in the gods or observe the practices, and such variance of belief is accepted as part of the Anava Hindu religion, as its mose defining tenets are considered to be the cyclical nature of life and the unity of the self and the divine, beliefs that are shared even by irreligious Antarcticans. Each of Antarctica's cities is characterized in various locations by the presence of temples, each one ornately decorated and often dedicated to a particular god. Each temple also has a sacrificial fire at the center, for puja, the ritual of sacrifice, 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. This is sometimes done at temples, but is usually done at home. In fact, much of the Anava Hindu faith is practiced privately, or at least among family and close friends. It is often accompanied by mantras, utterances which are believed to transcend language and reflect a deeper and more spiritual level of reality, as well as the well-known practice of meditation. These rituals are not considered by Antarcticans to be the only way to define religious faith, though they are considered to be a reflection of faith by those who do practice them.

Temples in Antarctica are maintained by pujari, who have special duties in maintaining their temple and its spiritual sanctity. Their knowledge of Hindu scripture is singularly broad and deep, as they read and re-read it regularly. Much of their time, in fact, is spent pondering and discussing with others about the nature of morality and life within the cyclical nature of existence, and within the unity of the self and the divine, with the Hindu scriptures as a guide and a basis for these thoughts. In stark contrast to the fiery zeal found throughout much of the rest of the world, the eternal pursuit of spiritual insights and knowledge is considered the essence of religious faith in Antarctica, and its most religious citizens spend their time in open-ended thought and discussion with each other. As a result, Anava Hinduism is quite distinct for its flexible and open-minded nature, and its ideas often complement those of science and secular culture. Pujari are fairly recognizable in Antarctica, as they are also the only people 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 priests. Antarcticans from all over the continent journey 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 the full moon of October, 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 and water balloons at each other, and generally have fun and do whatever they feel like doing. There are also many miscellaneous holidays that, while less prominent, are also commonly celebrated. Some of them are religious in nature, honoring particular deities and sacred figures; some examples are Krishna Janmashtami, Rama Navami, Maha Shivaratri, Vasant Panchami (dedicated to Saraswati), and Hanuman Jayanti. Others are more idiosyncratic in nature, such as Ratha Yatra (the Odia chariot festival), Chinese New Year, Naga Panchami (the snake festival), and Valentine's Day.