The Hindi word mela means any kind of festive gathering, something that brings people together. Hong Kong itself is a bit of a mela, as it is a global city that has brought together people from around the world.
This includes people from the South Asian community, who have lived in Hong Kong for many years. They have done business with locals, and built places of worship to reflect their culture. To celebrate this integration of Hindu culture into the local community, the Hong Kong Chinmaya Foundation (HKCF) is holding a mela this Thursday.
It’s a long-awaited follow-up to the HKCF’s 2010 mela, which celebrated Krishna, one of the most revered and loved Hindu deities. The success of that event encouraged the HKCF to hold the upcoming carnival on a bigger scale to share the beauty and wonder of Indian culture with the wider local community in Hong Kong.
Ahead of the big event – the Hanuman Carnival @Central Harbourfront SummerFest – Young Post talked to HKCF’s director for Hong Kong, Swamini Supriyananda. She said the bigger mela has brought bigger challenges to the foundation, but Supriyananda believes those challenges are similar to the ones Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god, faces in the scriptures.
Hindus often use stories to teach their children about God and Hanuman is a popular idol with children. He represents bravery, mental and physical strength, and loyalty, so his stories are used to teach children the importance of these qualities.
Hanuman’s strengths are particularly evident in the Hindu epic, the Ramayana. The ancient story describes Hanuman’s unyielding devotion towards the hero Ram, a symbol for his selfless dedication to God.
But Hanuman won’t be the only monkey at the carnival. He’ll join forces with the Chinese monkey king – Sun Wukong. The idea of the crossover between the two figures came to light while Supriyananda was watching Monkey King cartoons.
“I noticed the similarities in the story [to Hanuman’s stories],” she says. “China is geographically close enough to India for fables to be passed along the way. For us, Hanuman is an idol representing those same qualities of bravery, courage, service, which you find in every tradition. The qualities are not Hindu specific.”
The mela will showcase Hindu culture and customs through a variety of games and live entertainment, which Supriyananda says will cross any language barriers. But the mela is more than that.
Malina Kirpalani, a volunteer for the mela, explained that the HKCF wants to share the ancient wisdom of the Hindu scriptures. By helping people find spiritual growth and happiness, it will help them make positive contributions to society.
The fair will also promote the Hindu concept of ahimsa or non-violence. This includes not eating animals, so to encourage this, the fair will include a Vegetarian Food Fest featuring delicious meat-free dishes from restaurants in Hong Kong.
There will also be a Yoga Festival. Today yoga is a popular physical activity, but it is actually an ancient form of exercise and meditation that was first introduced by Krishna in the scriptures. The balance of a healthy body and mind are very important in Hindu culture, and Hanuman is a great example of this.
“The yoga festival focuses on body, mind and intellect, so that we to can live up to the ideal that Hanuman represents,” says Supriyananda. “Hanuman is very physically fit, and also emotionally devoted, noble and loyal. And intellectually, he’s very intelligent. He’s a perfect model to showcase body, mind, and intellect.”
The event will certainly be a great way to learn about one of Hong Kong’s most vibrant communities, but it’s also a great chance to reconnect with family.
“Now with technology, people are too busy to spend quality time together, but mela encourages quality family time,” says Supriyananda.“Very often we make time to be there with people in times of need and sadness, but it’s also extremely important to be with people in times of celebration.”
The Hanuman Carnival @Central Harbourfront SummerFest will take place this Thursday from noon to 7pm. Free admission.