Hinduism in the Philippines

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Hinduism is among the oldest of the world's faiths. It is a dharma or way of life evolved by the great sages and seers of ancient India. Its traditions extend back before recorded history. In the Philippines, Hinduism has influenced both our religious and cultural practices, which dates back during the precolonial period. Hinduism is currently limited to the small recent immigrant Indian community in the Philippines.

The Om symbol, which is a symbol that is considered as the most sacred in Hinduism. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/The Unicode Consortium)


According to historians, the Philippines was believed to be under the Sri Vijaya Empire from the 4th to the 10th centuries. The Hindu-Malayans, such as the Majapahit Empire was over the archipelagos of Southeast Asia but was later displaced by the arrival of the Islam, who converted Hinduism to Islam in 1414, and of Borneo. Before the arrival of the Arabs, the rulers were called Rajas, or Rajahs. Visayas was said to be named after the last Southeast Hindu Prince, Sri Vijaya.

During the precolonial period, the Philippines was part of the Hindu empires based in Java and in other islands with local Rajahs giving tribute to empires such as Sri Vijaya and Majapahit. However, with the spread of Islam and Christianity, the propagation of Hinduism was restrained.

During the American colonial period, a certain religion destroyed all idols. Ancient statues of the Hindu gods were hidden to prevent their destruction. Discoveries of artifacts like a 4-pound gold statue of an Indo-Malayan goddess was found in Mindanao in 1917 as well as Garuda, the phoenix who is the mount of Vishnu was found on Palawan.

Practices and Beliefs

Hindus worship the nameless and formless Supreme Reality Bramh by various names and forms. These different aspects of one reality are symbolized by the many gods and goddesses of Hinduism. For example, Brahma (not to be confused with the over-arching Bramh) is that reality in its role as creator of the universe; in Vishnu it is seen as the preserver and the upholder of the universe; and Shiva is that same reality viewed as the principle of transcendence which will one day 'destroy' the universe. These are the Trimurti, the ' three forms,' and they are not so much different gods as different ways of looking at the same God.

Puja is the daily ritual by which devotees seek communion with the divine. Puja symbolizes a devotee's desire to offer love and devotion to the Lord, thereby surrendering his or her individuality to Him. Hinduism recognizes self-surrender as a supreme path to salvation.

Hindus call their tradition sanatana dharma, the eternal law, and everything of religious importance is termed anadi, beginningless. Hinduism has never consciously given up anything of its large heritage that accumulated over the centuries.

Om or Aum

Aum or OM in one word is the symbol and summaries the total essence of Hinduism or Sanatana dharma. The symbol Aum (also called Pranava), is the most sacred symbol in Hinduism — omnipotent, omnipresent, and the source of all manifest existence. The meaning of OM is the oneness with the supreme and the merging of physical form with the spiritual. Brahman, in itself, is incomprehensible; so a symbol becomes mandatory to help realize the Unknowable. Om, therefore, represents both the unmanifest (nirguna) and manifest (saguna) aspects of God. Pranava means that it pervades life and runs through our prana or breath.

A page from a 17th-century copy of Ramayana. The epic is one of the famous epics in Hinduism. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Folklore, Arts and Literature

The two greatest epics of India are Ramayana and Mahabharata. Ramayana presents the conflict between good and evil. Rama, with his wife Sita and his brother Lakshmana, represent the eventual victory of good over evil, represented by Ravana, the ten-headed king. Rama is helped by the monkey king, Hanuman and his tribes of monkeys. The Ramayana has been a perennial source of spiritual, cultural and artistic inspiration not only to the people of India but also to people all over the world. It has helped to mould the Hindu character and has inspired millions of people with the deepest of love and devotion. This great epic has versions in almost all Asian countries including the Philippines' Maranao version, "Maharadia Lawana."

The most sacred of Hindu texts - The Vedas, the Brahmanas, the Aranyakas, and the Upanishads - are all 'sruti' meaning 'what is heard' from the original Vedic Rishis, whose inspired utterances were passed down. While sruti works are considered to be divine revelations, the 'smriti', thought still sacred, are acknowledged to have been crafted by men. They include the epics - The Ramayana, The Mahabharata - the Dharma Sutras (of which the most famous are the Manusmriti, Laws of Manu) and the Puranas.

The Sutras

Short compendia or Sutras (literally "threads"), were composed to present the essentials of each Hindu discipline in a succinct and reliable manner. In the course of time, virtually all subjects of traditional learning received their sutras. Thus, developing the context of religion Srauta-Sutras, summarizing the rules applying to public sacrifices; Grhya-Sutras, providing a summary of domestic rites; Kalpa-Sutras, compendia of other rituals; Dharma-Sutras, manuals of religious and secular law; and Sulva-Sutras, providing elementary geometry and rules of construction for fire-altars and so forth.

Language and Vocabulary

It is evident that the Filipino language and vocabulary was strongly influenced by the original Sanskrit. Local words like Guro (teacher) came from the Hindu word Guru. Karma, a Hindu concept, is culturally understood by Filipinos. The following are some of the Sanskrit words used in the Filipino.

  • bahagi (part, portion) in Tagalog, is bhag in Hindi,
  • diwata (god or goddess) is devata
  • dukha (poor, destitute) is duhkha
  • guro (teacher) is guru
  • katha (story, fiction) is katha
  • mukha (face) is mukha
  • yaya (nurse) is aya

Hinduism Today

Actual followers of Hinduism are mostly confined to communities of indigenous and native people as well as new converts. Nowadays, there are new noticeable Hindu practices like Yoga and meditation. The presence of various Hare Krishna groups like Sai Baba, Paramansa Yoganda (SRF) and Mekha Baba are also evident.


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  • Hindu Wisdom. (accessed on January 21, 2008).
  • Ramayana - A Picture Gallery. (accessed on January 21, 2008).
  • Zedge (accessed on January 21, 2008).
  • About.com (accessed on January 21, 2008).



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