Link post

The act or system of blending, combining or reconciling inharmonious elements.

Kalpa, Sutlej Valley, India

I learned the word syncretism when I was reading about Kalpa, a village in the Indian Himalaya that I visited on October 19, 2022. In ancient times, Kalpa was at the crossroads of Tibet and India, and received constant influence from both cultures. What I found truly fascinating about Kalpa is that part of its population practices syncretism. Instead of choosing between Hinduism or Buddhism, they decided to practice both, merging its rituals and customs. Furthermore, the religions not just only coexist harmoniously in Kalpa: They share temples and festivals.

Syncretism between Hinduism and Buddhism is not only practiced in Kalpa; it is common in the rest of the Kinnaur District of Himachal Pradesh as well as other areas of India. As far as I am aware, in modern times there aren’t many places in the world where two major religions are blended together like Hinduism and Buddhism are in Kalpa. This got me thinking: Why doesn’t this happen more often in modern times?

Rakchham, Baspa Valley, India

I believe more syncretism between faiths does not happen because modern society would dismiss it: It would likely mock it and call it pseudo-faith. I believe this is a shame: to me it makes sense that if religious syncretism was practiced and accepted more in society, the world would be more harmonious. The Kinnauris were too isolated to be told that merging religious practices was wrong, and by the time their lands were well connected to the modern world, syncretism was very ingrained in their culture.

Syncretism does not only apply to theology: it also applies to ideology. In the past, people would blend schools of thought, mainly in the name of compromise. As political polarization continues to thrive in the world, my experience spending time in a place where religious syncretism got me thinking: How can we apply political syncretism in our communities so that we can live in more harmoniously?

Key Monastery, Spiti Valley, India