Showing posts with label hinduism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hinduism. Show all posts


Creation Myths of Ancient India: World Mythology Series for the Middle and High School Humanities Classroom

Teaching creation myths from ancient India can be an exciting way to engage middle and high school students in the Humanities or English Language Arts classroom. It provides an opportunity to explore different cultures, beliefs, and worldviews. In this post, we will delve into the significance of creation myths and explore some examples of creation myths from ancient India.

I discuss how to teach creation myths from ancient India to middle and high school students in a Humanities or English Language Arts classroom.
From the soaring Himalayas to the tropical coastline,
the Indian subcontinent's diverse geography
has shaped India's rich and complex history.

Creation myths are an integral part of human history and culture. They are stories that explain how the world came into being and how humans, gods, and other beings came to exist. Ancient India is rich in mythology and has a plethora of creation myths that provide a unique perspective on the universe's origin.

What is a Creation Myth?

A creation myth is a traditional story that explains how the universe, Earth, and all living things came into existence. These myths are often considered sacred and passed down through generations. Creation myths vary across cultures, but they all share a common thread: they attempt to answer fundamental questions about the nature of existence and our place in the world.

Creation Myths from Ancient India

India has a rich and diverse tradition of creation myths. These myths are drawn from Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and other religions that originated in India. Here are a few examples of creation myths from ancient India:

The Rig Veda Creation Myth: This is one of the oldest creation myths in India, dating back to around 1500 BCE. It tells the story of the god Prajapati, who creates the world by sacrificing himself.

The Puranas Creation Myth: The Puranas are a collection of ancient Hindu texts that describe the creation of the universe. They tell the story of the god Brahma, who creates the world by meditating on the lotus flower that grows from the navel of the god Vishnu.

The Buddhist Creation Myth: In Buddhist mythology, the universe goes through
Ancient India boasts a host of creation myth traditions.

cycles of creation and destruction. The creation of the universe is said to begin when the Buddha Amitabha creates a pure land, a perfect world where beings can attain enlightenment.

The Jain Creation Myth: In Jainism, the universe is eternal and has no beginning or end. However, it constantly changes, and beings are reborn in different forms. The universe is divided into six realms, including the human realm, the animal realm, and the realm of the gods.

Teaching Creation Myths from Ancient India

Teaching creation myths from ancient India can be a fun and interactive experience for students. Here are a few tips for incorporating these myths into your Humanities or English Language Arts curriculum:
  1. Provide Context: Before diving into the creation myths, provide students with some background on ancient India, its religions, and its culture. This will help students understand the significance of these myths and appreciate their cultural and historical context.
  2. Engage in Close Reading: Read the creation myths with your students and encourage them to analyze the language, themes, and symbols used in the text. This can be a great way to build critical thinking and analysis skills.
  3. Compare and Contrast: Compare and contrast the creation myths from ancient India with creation myths from other cultures. This can help students see the similarities and differences between different worldviews and gain a broader perspective on human history and culture.
  4. Explore Art and Literature: Creation myths from ancient India have inspired a wealth of art and literature. Encourage students to explore visual art, literature, and music that are inspired by these myths. This can be a great way to connect with the myths on a deeper level and explore their cultural significance.

Teaching creation myths from ancient India can be an enriching and enlightening experience for middle and high school students. It provides an opportunity to explore different cultures, beliefs, and worldviews and to build critical thinking and analysis skills. 

Feel free to check out my TpT store, where you can purchase my unique lesson plan on teaching creation myths from ancient India!

I sell a ton of Humanities-based educational digital downloads on my TpT store and on Made by Teachers. Check 'em out!


Photograph: The Watermelon Booth

The Watermelon Booth, Festival of India, Washington Square Park


God is in Everything in Richmond Hill

Interior of Sikh Temple, Richmond Hill, Queens
Visiting the Sikh Temple in Queens, I am reminded that God is in everything. Why is that a potentially uncomfortable statement?
         Standing next to his uncle in the kitchen of the Govinda Café in Richmond Hill, Claude slices sandwiches into triangular pieces while explaining why the deities, Krishna and his brother Balarama, are not on display today. “They’re being painted. Their eyes,” he says, pointing to the temple room where clearly the curtain has been drawn. Steve explains to me that when the deities are being prepared no one is allowed to look upon them except their caretakers. Hare Krishna devotees believe that the statues of the deities on display in their temples are manifestations of the God himself. This concept makes me a little uncomfortable. I am used to images and statues in churches and in a holy place. In Greek Orthodox Christianity, icons, or images of the saints and God are venerated as physical portals into the divine. To pray to the icon is to pray through a window peering into the divine. The Hare Krishna devotees feel their holy places are graced by divinity itself. Not only that, but they offer food to the deities every day. “Krishna eats first,” one devotee explains, “then we wash our hands and eat.”
  Claude smiles as he finishes up preparing the sandwiches. All the food prepared in the café is vegetarian. To eat meat is a profanity against Krishna. God is in the food. God is in the strawberry flavored chai. God is in the people around us. The panentheism the devotees profess is dogmatic. To think of anything in the material world as not made of God is tantamount to heresy. “God is in everything,” Claude says, smiling again, “even in the prasadam” (the name for the food offered to the gods). I buy an iced Snapple for two dollars.

   Steve tells me he wants to take me to the Sikh temple two blocks away. We say our goodbyes to Claude and his uncle, disappointed that we can not see the deities. Claude says to us, “You go to the Sikh temple. It’s dirty.” Later I ask why the Sikh temple is considered dirty. Steve explains to me that the Sikhs are a syncretic faith combining both elements of Hinduism and Islam. The women do not cut their hair. Nor do the men. And some do not bathe as frequently as is customary in the West. The Sikh are from the Punjab region of India. Their language is Sanskrit. It does not have the same lilt as Hindi; as I am used to hearing Claude and Sham speak two blocks away. I am struck by Claude’s discriminatory remark but assume it is only natural to want to criticize a faith that is so similar to your own but marked by different customs. It is similar to the attitude of Protestant Christians and Catholic Christians or Hasidim and Orthodoxy in Judaism.
       Passing in front of the “Punjabi Bride” shop, the colors of the dresses tell a story of attention to imagery. The Sikh seem to marry the imagistic imagination of Hinduism with the cold monotheism of Islam. While the women’s dresses are colorful and bombastic, the interior of the Baba Makham Shah Lubana Sikh temple (or gurdwaras, as it is known here) is blue and muted. In front of the temple portico, men discuss with each other in their own tongue; I am not privy to what they say. Loudspeakers mounted onto the outside walls project the religious chant being sung inside. Steve and I take off our shoes before entering the temple. “Cover your head with a bandanna,” Steve tells me, “You can’t go into the temple with your head bared.”
       I take my shoes off and place them in a cubby hole. Men, women, and children come in to take off their shoes. No one bothers the other. A man sits next to me slowly taking off his shoes. I notice no one stares at me. I am immediately aware that I am not seen as an outsider. In fact, no one asks me why I am here or whether or not I believe. The temple is open twenty-four hours a day. The poor and homeless often come to seek shelter and food. Seated behind the Sikh holy book, men take turns reading from the sacred texts non-stop, day and night. I follow Steve's lead. Bowing to the book, I think of my own love for books and wonder if it is the same thing. I do not worship the physical book, but merely its contents. And even then, I am trained to be critical of what I read, and never take anything as absolute truth. Again, I feel out of place, but no one reads my mind nor do they ask me of my convictions.

        Steve says hello to those he knows and introduces me as his friend the philosopher. I stand up and Steve suggests I partake of cereal food given to me by a Sikh holy man. The sweet cereal paste is moist and delicious. I thank him and he nods. Mothers sit with their children in the temple area. One smacks her child on the behind gently so he won’t roam the temple area. Older men sit with each other and listen to the readings uttered in monotonous glory. Younger adolescents with turbans but wearing Westernized T-shirts and shorts enter the temple and sit. The space is peaceful. The word that comes to mind is non-judgmental. Although I read about a recent brawl in front of the temple only a few weeks ago, today, there is no hint of animosity or discontent. What the people do here everyday is interwoven into the fabric of their everyday life. The holy man serving me the cereal paste most likely has a job, maybe it is an electrician or building contractor. He dedicates time to serve God in this temple. Steve and I sit in silence for one minute. At the most. Getting antsy, we both get up to be served prasadam. 
        Entering the serving area adjacent to the temple space, a few dozen Sikh eat prasadam. Portraits of Sikh gurus adorn the walls. One is decapitated and holds his own head. Another is a photography. A more recent holy man. A gentle West Indian from Guyana serves Steve and I. He speaks to me in Hindi. I say I do not understand. He then speaks to me in broken English. “I go to the Krishna temple too. But I come here.” Steve tells me he recognizes him from the Hare Krishna Temple. I ask him if it is okay that I eat the prasadam even though I am not an adherent of Sikhism. “God is in everything,” he says simply. That seems a simple enough answer. There is no hint of proselytizing. The Sikh have carved out a space for themselves in a small pocket of New York City adjacent to the A train in Richmond Hill, Queens. I sense a strong familial bond between the people. Outsiders are not a threat because amongst themselves there is a strong sense of communal identity. The caste system already dictates the place of people in society. There is no equivocation about one’s place in the world. Ostensibly, everyone is aware of their place. Any tension or anxiety about who they are and what they espouse as belief is not present in these believers. The melody of the chant echoes through the serving room. The male voice is quite beautiful, sung with his whole body. 
       As I eat the prasadam: the dahl, the sappu, the biryani rice, I recollect the fact that I have not eaten meat for a week since hanging out with Steve. Am I becoming a believer again? To me, Krishna is a concept. God is a difficult concept. Krishna, Vishnu, Jesus, Balarama. All ways to articulate a concept that is abstract and hard to grasp. I can relate to the need to arrive at a temple like the one I sit in today. But I do not feel the conviction to go beyond God as a concept that is difficult to reason. Maybe impossible. For many here maybe there is no need to go beyond belief. To sit at the podium in the center of the temple and chant holy songs is as natural as combing the lice out of your son’s matted hair, or rising early to water your garden before the sun’s heat becomes too intense. One thing I envy is the eagerness I experience here. There is no apparent worry about the “why” or the “how.” 
       By 10:00 PM the temple becomes crowded. A young man with his hair bundled into his headdress sings to himself. A more urban male play fights with his buddy in the lobby. Two young women dust the benches in the portico. Two older men read the news. Steve and I wash our hands again. I drink warm brown chai. It is hot to my lips. My stomach is sated. I yearn for something. But I do not quite know. I know I do not have the faith to believe. But I envy belief. I envy faith. Steve drives me to the train station. “Roselli,” he says, “You were not out of place in the temple. You didn’t look anxious at all. Some people I take there are anxious at first. Not you.” I smile and suggest that I have traveled a bit so I am used to differences in culture. But, I say, it is also because the Sikh temple is inviting and the people kind.

Would you like to read more? Fetch Greig Roselli's book of essays, Things I Shouldn't Have Said (And Other Faux Pas) for more good writing, dammit.  
photo credits: steve e.