Wednesday, July 8, 2020

The ethno-cultural identity of the Indian diaspora in Australia.

The ethno-cultural identity of the Indian diaspora in Australia. the issue of cultural identity and distinctiveness of the Indian diaspora in the evolving multicultural milieu of Australia. While considering the aspirations and anxieties regarding ethno-cultural reproduction and retention of identity, one must differentiate the multiple components of the Indian diaspora. Broadly speaking, they may be classified into four categories: one, the 'old immigrants'; two, the 'new immigrants'; three, the 'geographically indirect' Indian immigrants; and four, the second generation Australia-born Indians.

The Sikh Punjabis and Muslims who are mostly of rural origin performing agricultural and unskilled work represent the 'old immigrants'. Their distinctive dress, symbols and behaviour set them apart from the wider community. The 'new immigrants' are unlike their peasant counterparts in that they are drawn from different parts of India, are well-educated, technically skilled, hold white collar jobs and belong to the middle and upper socio-economic levels of Australian society. The ethno-cultural identity of the Indian diaspora in Australia Between the two, there is little interaction and therefore they remain socially distant.

The 'geographically indirect' Indian immigrants are those whose ethnic origin is Indian, yet their country of previous residence is different from their country of ethnic origin. These are the people of Indian origin who had emigrated to Australia from Fiji, Sri Lanka, Singapore and parts of East Africa and whose socio-cultural moorings differ sharply from their counter parts who came directly from India. The second-generation Indians are those born in Australia of Indian parentage. Of these four distinct categories of Indian diaspora, one common thread that binds them all is their primary motivation to emigrate to Australia, viz.
The desire to enhance their socio-economic status. What, however, differentiates them is the varying degree of concern regarding the preservation and perpetuation of their ethnic identity. In this regard, the 'old immigrants' and the 'geographically indirect' immigrants evidence greater concern towards drawing "ethnic boundaries" around themselves than the 'new immigrants' and the second generation Indians of Australia.

ethno culture identity australia

The ethno-cultural identity of the Indian diaspora in Australia These visible "ethnic boundaries" are apparent in their residence patterns, relations with the wider Australian society, concept of identity, social networks and political behaviour. The 'old immigrants', largely the Punjabi Sikhs, are concentrated in the Woolgoolga/Cotts Harbour, which is predominantly an agricultural region. Fiji Indians and Sri Lankan Tamils are also less dispersed and live in concentrated neighbourhoods of metropolitan/urban centres.
The ethno-cultural identity of the Indian diaspora in Australia  Also, there is a high degree of socio-cultural distance that separates the 'old immigrants' and the 'geographically indirect' Indian immigrants from the wider Australian society. Such social distance is maintained due to the past discriminating practices perpetrated against them by the dominant community, which has led them to adopt a more insular and inward-looking cultural identity. This is in sharp contrast to the attitude of the 'new immigrants', who, although adhering to Indian culture, do not do so in the manner exhibited by the former. For, given their primary motivation to rise in their profession, the 'new immigrants' seek to "melt into" the mainstream Australian society in contrast to their counterparts. So much so, the concept of ethno-Indian identity and symbols of cultural identity are strong among the former. This, in turn, explains the intense concern evidenced by the 'old immigrants' and the 'geographically indirect' Indian immigrants in communal networking leading them to replicate their inherited religious practices and rites in Australia.

In this connection, mention may be made of the pioneering efforts taken by the 'old immigrants' and 'geographically indirect' Indian immigrants to construct public places of worship such as gurdwaras and Hindu temples in different parts of Australia. Also, going by the dispensation of grants under the state With the policy of multiculturalism taking root in Australia, the Indian diasporic community has taken considerable advantage and has since been engaged in a flurry of activities to retain and reproduce their cultural distinctiveness. For instance, it was only in the early 1960s that a community of Sikhs living in Woolgoolga established the first gurdwara in Australia.

Before the establishment of this gurdwara the Sikhs had used private houses as places of worship. In 1969, another gurdwara was built architecturally on the pattern of the gurdwaras in India. And, as of today, there are 20-25 gurdwaras, with at least two in every major Australian city. Similarly, the first traditional Hindu temple of Sri Venkateswara in Australia was formally inaugurated on 30 June 1985 in Sydney after protracted discussions and disputes among diverse Indian groups. There have been other places of worship and prayer in cities like Melbourne and Perth, but the one in Sydney is the first of its kind patronised by Hindus from South India and Sri Lanka. A grand temple dedication ceremony of the Sri Vakrathunda Vinayar Temple in Victoria was held in October 1992 and regular prayers and celebrations take place there.

The Hindu Society of Victoria completed constructing the temple by mid-1994 and it is considered to be one of the leading ecumenical Hindu temples. By May 1997, the temple was completed and two large rajagopurams consecrated. Another development has been the increase in the number of gurus, yogis, babas, swamis, spiritual mothers, and tantrik advocates visiting Australia. In the 1960s and 1970s, gurus with a universalist outlook began to reach Australia in large numbers seeking converts. This is considered as part of the 'counter-cultural' movement with a larger following of the youth. Important among them is Swami Ranganathananda of the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Mission who came first in 1964. Later he founded the Vedanta Society of New South Wales. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi too gained a wide following. The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) or the Hare Krishna movement came in 1969. Among others who visited are Baba Muktananda who founded the Siddha Yoga syndicate in 1970, Guru Maharaji in the 1960s, Swami Venkatesananda, Yogananda Paramahansa, and Swami Chinmayananda.