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Video interview: Hindu leader, Ano Rao

Updated Monday, 23rd April 2012

In this video, executive representative at the Hindu Council UK, Ano Rao, discusses her role and the general role of women in religion with The Open University's Graham Harvey 

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Graham Harvey

Hello, could you tell us about your role in the Hindu community, what leadership roles you play?

Ano Rao

I'm the executive representative of the Hindu Council UK.  I mainly deal with the human right issues of Malaysian, ethnic Indians and Sri Lankan Tamils as an advisory council of Britannia Hindu (Shiva) TempleTrust, I'm a life member there.  I usually do prayers when there is a need, especially when there is sufferings of ethnic Indians anywhere in any parts of the world, like in Malaysia, in Sri Lanka, I've done the prayers for them to get released, for them to, you know, get on with their lives peacefully, as we believe that fire ritual prayers in Hinduism is very important for our wish to succeed.  We believe in God.  Hinduism is all about gods that, you know, prayers will answer when you do continuously your prayers.

Graham Harvey

Do you play a role in the ceremonies and services, as a woman, as a leader in the community?

Ano Rao

Yes, I do, yeah.

Graham Harvey

Can you, yeah, tell me about that?

Ano Rao

I lead the fire rituals with my husband, as you know, that in the Hinduism the couple, the husband and wife have to give the danna to the fire rituals in order to get the bone to get the wishes from the god.  So my entire family, we get involved and then we did the fire rituals, we also give vegetarian milk to all the devotees so that our prayers will be answered, for the IDP camps, you know, it can be anyone as a human being, you know, they are human beings as well, suffering.  We don’t like children, women and elderly people to suffer in camps, because it’s our freedom.  When someone is taking away our freedom, it’s not something that you're giving away, so as a leader I have invited all these leaders, MPs, and that was my role there, organising the programmes, and it was quite a difficult one but I did it.

Graham Harvey

Yes.  I wonder what you think about the benefits of if there were more women taking positions of leadership in the Hindu community and in other religions, what would the benefits be?

Ano Rao

The benefits will be the community will come first to the women than men, they approach.  The women leaders are more skilled, if I told you you have given them a field they're more skilled with many skills, like cooking, like nowadays women are very highly educated, they are very good office managers, and also on the religious side they know how to do the pujas, they know how to do the prayers, the mantras and they are, in fact they are practicing Sanskrits and everything.  What I feel that as a devotee, I personally feel that a strong about what I do as Hinduism says that when something goes wrong, unethically, you have to intervene and do justice, so what we are doing as activists, we are doing justice.  So in order to, we as the end users and also devotees of the temple, in order to get things done we have to approach the politicians.  They are the ones sitting there in the House of Commons, we’ll highlight to the international communities, they are the ones in power who can take actions, you see.  Which in our case is happening.  The politicians are helping us.  That doesn’t mean that we are political, I know some people will say that you, I mean the Hindu Council is political in a way, but we are not political.  We seek politicians’ help, that doesn’t mean that we are political.  What we are doing is we are human rights activists, we don’t want injustice to the ethnic Indians in all other parts of the world.

Graham Harvey

How does that convert into religion, what are the benefits there?

Ano Rao

Religion, yeah, I feel that just because Hinduism says that all women have to listen to men all the time and the man is taking an active role first, as you know that, when the - like for a marriage play, in a marriage, men lead first, so we as a bride, we have to hold his hand and go first, so that we accept that because that’s the rules of the heaven and also rules of the Hinduism.  But in otherwise, like other fields like women leaderships in the temples and everything, that should be given opportunity to become trustees because we nowadays, women are very highly skilled and are very highly educated, like degree holders, you see.  Compared to men and women, we have to be treat equally.  So therefore Equality Act has been passed, however we find that still women in Hinduism still at the bottom because we have not been given equal opportunities there, you see.  Like in some temples there’s only a male trustees, there’s no women participation there.  So how the women devotee is going to get advice on many issues on religion, Hinduism, from males, because they feel scared to approach male trustees.  So that is one of the examples.  So therefore I feel that, you know, women should be given equalities in all aspect, so that they can exploit.  They’ve got a lot of, even it can be a housewife, it can be anyone, they’ve got a lot of skills within themselves, you see.  As Hinduism says that each and every human being, they’ve got a power within themselves.





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