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Hinduism in the Philippines

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OM, a sacred syllable and a quintessential symbol of Hinduism. Its meanings are many.

Hinduism has been a major cultural, economic, political and religious influence in the archipelago that now comprise the Philippines. However, currently it is limited to the small recent immigrant Indian community, though the traditional religious beliefs have strong Hindu and Buddhist influences. Hinduism arrived from the Javanese empire of Majapahit.

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History · Deities

Beliefs and practices

Philosophy · Dharma
Artha · Kama · Moksha
Karma · Samsara
Yoga · Bhakti · Maya
Puja · Temple

Vedas · Upanishads
Ramayana · Mahabharata
Bhagavad Gita · Puranas
Dharmaśāstra · others

Related topics

Hinduism by country
Gurus and saints
Reforms · Criticism
Calendar · Hindu law
Ayurveda · Jyotisha
Festivals · Glossary Persecution


Precolonial period

Before the Spanish colonial period, the archipelagos of Southeast Asia were under the influence of the traders of Hindu-Malayan culture, such as the Majapahit Empire, which was being supplanted by Islamic conquest by the Sultanate of Malacca, who had converted from Hinduism to Islam in 1414, and of Borneo. In the Majapahit Empire, the last Hindu kings retreated to Bali around 1500. Influences from the subcontinent may be traced earlier before the arrivals of the Arabs and the Europeans during the 1400s and 1500s, respectively. The rulers of many of the islands were called Rajas, or Rajahs. For example, the central region, Visayas, is said to be named after the last Southeast Hindu Prince Srivijaya.

Spanish colonial period

Hinduism was deterred by the spread of Christianity by the Spaniards and the spread of Islam by Indonesians and Malay missionaries before the Spaniards. It is highly possible however, before the arrival of the new religions, that the Philippines was part of Hindu empires based in Java and in other islands. Local Rajahs gave tribute to such empires that included Sri Vijaya and Majapahit.

American colonial period

Ancient statues of the Hindu gods were hidden to prevent their destruction by a religion which destroyed all idols. One statue, a 4-pound gold statue of an Indo-Malayan goddess was found in Mindanao in 1917, which now sits in the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, and is dated from the period 1200s to early 1300s. Another gold artifact of Garuda, the phoenix who is the mount of Vishnu was found on Palawan.

Hinduism today

There is some growth in the religion as of late, although most temples cater to the same communities. Actual adherents of Hinduism are mostly limited to communities that include indigenous and native peoples, expatriate communities, as well as new converts. There are various Hare Krishna groups and popular Hindu personalities and groups such as Sai Baba, and Paramahansa Yogananda (SRF) that can be found. Hindu based practises like Yoga and meditation are also popular.


Statue depicting Shiva as Nataraja, or "Lord of the Dance".

National Psyche

Although Hinduism is now a minority in the country, Hindu beliefs still pervade the national psyche; it is socially and culturally ingrained in the majority of Filipinos, who are mostly Roman Catholic with a significant Muslim minority. An example is that karma is readily understood and is a part of the native ethics.


With the advent of Spanish colonialism in the 16th century, the Philippines became a closed colony and cultural contacts with other Southeast Asian countries were limited, if not closed. In 1481, the Spanish Inquisition commenced with the permission of Pope Sixtus IV and all non-Catholics within the Spanish empire were to be expelled or to be “put to the question” (tortured until they renounced their previous faith). With the re-founding of Manila in 1571, the Philippines became subject to the King of Spain and the Archbishop of New Galicia (Mexico) became the Grand Inquisitor of the Faithful in Mexico and the Philippines. In 1595, the newly appointed Archbishop of Manila became the Inquisitor-General of the Spanish East Indies (i.e.,the Philippines, Guam, and Micronesia) and until 1898, the Spanish Inquisition was active against Protestants, Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims. As was the case in Latin America and Africa, forced conversions were not uncommon and any attempt not to submit to the authority of the Roman Catholic Church was seen as both rebellion against the Pope and sedition against the Spanish Crown, which was punishable by death.

However, the linguistic influence left its most lasting marks on every Philippine language throughout the archipelago with the following Buddhist and Hindu concepts directly from the original Sanskrit. About 25% of the words in many Philippine languages are Sanskrit and Tamil terms:

From Tagalog:

  • budhi "conscience" from the Sanskrit bodhi
  • dalita "one who suffers" from the Sanskrit dharita
  • dukha "poverty " from the Sanskrit dukkha
  • guro "teacher" from the Sanskrit guru
  • sampalataya "faith" from the Sanskrit sampratyaya
  • mukha "face" from the Sanskrit mukha
  • laho "eclipse" from the Sanskrit rahu
  • maharlika "noble" from Sanskrit mahardikka
  • saranggola "kite" from Sanskrit layang gula via Bahasa Malayu
  • asawa "spouse" from Sanskrit swami
  • tala "star" from Sanskrit tala

From Kapampangan:

From Tausug:

Sanskrit and Sanskrit-derived words common to most Philippine languages:

  • sutla "silk" from the Sanskrit sutra
  • kapas "cotton" from the Sanskrit kerpas
  • naga "dragon or serpent" from the Sanskrit naga

Folklore, Arts and Literature

The Ramayana and the Mahabharata are the two great epics of India. Ramayana portrays the battle 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 demon king. Rama is helped by his devotee, Hanuman and the army of monkeys under the command of the monkey king Sugriv.

Versions from the different ethnic groups of the Philippines exist. The Maranao version is the Maharadia Lawana (Mahārāja Rāvaṇa). Lam-Ang is the version of the Ilocanos. In addition, many verses from the Hud-Hud of the Ifugao are derived from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

See also

External links


  • El Sanscrito en la lengua Tagalog - T H Pardo de Tavera, Paris 1887;
  • The Philippines and India - Dhirendra Nath Roy, Manila 1929 and India and The World - By Buddha Prakash p. 119-120.
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Hinduism in the Philippines. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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