The Crestiad

Cedar Crest College newspaper since 1923

Popularity and Understanding of Hinduism in the US

By Noalani Hendricks, Staff Writer

The Hindu population in the United States is growing due to globalization and immigration.

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 resulted in an upswing of Indian immigration to the U.S. The acceptance of Hinduism by non-Hindus, however, can be related to the 1893 Parliament of World Religions.

Noalani Hendricks/Crestiad Dr. Allen Richardson spoke at the Interfaith Festival on Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014.

Noalani Hendricks/Crestiad
Dr. Allen Richardson spoke at the Interfaith Festival on Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014.

Dr. Allen Richardson, Ph.D., Professor of Religious Studies and author of Seeing Krishna In America, explained, “The 1893 world’s fair built [an] entire city, attracting thousands of visitors. As a result of his participation in the World’s Parliament of Religions, which was connected with the fair, a Hindu, Swami Vivekanada, created a large following in the U.S. He spread the idea that Hinduism is all tolerant. This helped create a general acceptance [of Hinduism] during 1960s through the American counterculture.”

During the Interfaith Festival on Oct. 4, Dr. Richardson recalled that he noticed a greater amount of Hindu temples being built throughout North America in the 1970s.

The overflowing acceptance of Hinduism dwindled during the 1970s and 1980s when Hinduism was debased as cult-like by mainstream society. The U.S. society returned to a more conservative Christian framework.

Modern day popularity is mainly due to stereotyping that only scratches the surface of Hinduism.

According to Dr. Richardson, Mata “Amma” Amritanandamayi or “the hugging guru” brought a simplified interpretation of Hinduism to Westerners through hugs.

Another popular aspect of the Hindu religion is the lifestyle practices of yoga. According to the Yoga Day USA, about 16.5 million Americans practice yoga regularly.

Hinduism is generally peaceful, but it is also much more multifaceted.

At the Interfaith Festival on Saturday, Jinalben Patel, senior genetic engineering major, presented a PowerPoint presentation on some commonly used Hindu iconography and idols or murti utilized during worship.

The Interfaith Festival was held to help students become more informed of religions other than their own.

The mere acceptance of religions in our society is ineffective.Even though Hindus successfully translate the many positive aspects of the religion, American society still revokes acceptance when there was disagreement in religious practice.

 In 2006, the film “Divided We Fall Americans in the Aftermath” showed the aftermath of 9/11 when a turban-clad Sikh was mistaken for a Muslim and murdered because of his appearance. Many Hindus were also mistaken for Muslim or otherwise feared because of their appearance.

However, Patel said, “Generally, the response to Hinduism has been welcoming.”

Patel added, “At the grand opening of a temple I was surprised to see a mix, it was 50/50 Indian and non-Indian!”


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This entry was posted on October 8, 2014 by in Lifestyles and tagged .
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