Maori and Hindu beliefs and practices have much in common, a Hindu community organisation has noted.

The Hindu Council of New Zealand, which has branches in Auckland, Wellington and in the South Island, and is dedicated to ushering in a “dynamic, vibrant Hindu society in Aotearoa,” kickstarted a two-week “Yogathon” at Te Kakona O Te Aroha Marae in Lower Hutt , Wellington, on June 18 to mark International Yoga Day.               

“The marae in Lower Hutt gave us the space for our opening ceremony,” said Vijeshni Rattan, president of the council’s Wellington branch.

“In the past, we have also held a conference at the marae where we talked about the similarities between the two cultures.”

Rattan said living in NZ involved understanding Maori culture in order to “align with them.”

“The reason we wanted to stay on the marae was because we wanted to learn their Tikanga practice,” Rattan explained. “We have to be careful of showing disrespect or causing offence. For example, if you are in NZ and you accidentally go and sit on top of a table and a Maori sees that, it is really offensive to them. While sleeping, your legs should not be pointing toward anybody’s head. This is against the Tikanga practice.”

Rattan likened Tikanga to Hindu practices, such as removing footwear before entering a temple.

The marae is similar to a Hindu temple, with “carved idols” representing different deities or gods , Rattan observed.

She said many Maori families took part in the yogathon, in which each practitioner was challenged to perform 108 Surya namaskars ( sun salutation).

“The Maori worship the sun god just like Hindus do,” Rattan claimed.

The Hindu council is mindful of the need to show respect in matters of faith and is sometimes compelled to take on the role of a pressure group.

Rattan recalled an incident in 2019 when an organisation was “selling meat while celebrating Diwali” at Chuton Park in Wellington.

“The organisation was bombarded with emails before finally agreeing to celebrate Diwali with no meat,” Ratan noted with satisfaction.

Celebrating Hindu festivals is a priority on the council’s calendar of events.

Holika Dahan was celebrated on March 18 with Indian High Commissioner Muktesh Pardeshi lighting a bonfire on Esplanade beach in Petone. The event was hosted by the council in partnership with the High Commission.

Kites soared in the sky as Makar Sankranti and Pongal were celebrated by the council in partnership with the Wellington Mutamizh Sangam on January 22 at Avalon Park, Lower Hutt , with local dignitaries in attendance.

Rattan delivered a prayer in Sanskrit at the St. Peter’s Church during a food distribution event held in October last year.

Every year, Hindu council members tie rakhis on Raksha Bandhan Day on the wrists of police and firefighters to honour those who keep the community safe.

Rattan sees the Hindu heritage bequeathed by her Fijian forefathers as something that must be passed on to the next generation, to keep it alive in Aotearoa New Zealand.