17 April, 2021

Indonesia Diary

In Outlook this week, a diary from multicultural Indonesia.

Indonesia Diary
Saraswati and Hijab

When L.K. Advani saw a performance of the Ramayana in Delhi in the early 1990s by a touring dance troupe from Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim nation, he inevitably turned the experience into a politically-motivated lament: why can’t India’s Muslims be more like Indonesia’s? After a more recent visit to the archipelago, he did not fail to report another peculiarity of Indonesia’s public life – sculptures of heroes from the Mahabharata and the Ramayana adorning traffic roundabouts. But this time Advani did not malign Muslims back home—years of propaganda against “Babur ki aulad” had perhaps made that unnecessary. Nevertheless, for an Indian visitor to Indonesia, the juxtaposition of Islamic religiosity with Hindu mythology can be, to say the least, intriguing. For instance, virtually every woman on the streets of Yogyakarta, the nation’s cultural capital, is dressed in...

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