Hinduism in the United States

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American Hindus
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Total population
1,500,000 (2008)
0.4% of the U.S. population[1]
Pew Research Center
Languages
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Religion
Hinduism
(Shaivism · Vaishnavism · Smarta Tradition · Shaktism · Agama Hindu Dharma · Arya Samaj · Brahmo Samaj · Hare Krishna movement · Neo-Vedanta · Swaminarayan Sampraday)

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Hinduism by country

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Hinduism is a minority religion in the United States, American Hindus accounting for an estimated 0.4% of total US population.[1] The vast majority of American Hindus are Indian Americans, immigrants from India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Caribbean (Trinidad, Guyana, Suriname) and other countries, and their descendants, besides a number of converts.

In the year 1995, Indian Supreme Court in case of Ramesh Yeshwant Prabhoo observed as follows:

"No precise meaning can be ascribed to the terms 'Hindu'. 'Hindutva' and 'Hinduism'; and no meaning in the abstract can confine it to the narrow limits of religion alone, excluding the content of Indian culture and heritage. The term 'Hindutva' is related more to the way of life of the people in the sub-continent. It is difficult to say that term 'Hindutva' or 'Hinduism' per se, in the abstract can be assumed to mean and be equated with narrow fundamentalist Hindu religious bigotry..."

While there were isolated sojourns by Hindus in the United States during the 19th century, Hindu presence in the United States was virtually non-existent before the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Services (INS) Act of 1965.

Currently, Hindu-Americans hold the highest education levels among all religious communities in the United States. In particular, they have the highest level of higher education.[2][3] Many concepts of Hinduism such as law of karma, reincarnation and yoga have become prevalent among main-stream American population.[4] For example, 24% of Americans believe in reincarnation, a core concept of Hinduism.[5]

Demographics[edit]

The United States Department of State's International Religious Freedom Report 2004 found some 1.5 million adherents of Hinduism corresponding to 0.5% of the total population. Another unattributed source cites 2.4 million people.[6] The Hindu population of USA is the world's eighth-largest; 10% of Asian Americans are followers of the Hindu faith.[7]

American Hindus have highest rates of educational attainment and household income and also tend to have lower divorce rates, among all religious communities. 48% of American Hindus hold a post-graduate degree.[8][9] According to a study by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion and Public Life in 2012, 48% of American Hindus have a household income of $100,000 or more, and 70% make at least $75,000, which is highest among all religions in United States.[2][3]

History[edit]

Swami Vivekananda on the Platform of the Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893

Swami Vivekananda addressed the World's Parliament of Religions in 1893 in Chicago. He spent two years in the United States lecturing in several cities including Chicago, Detroit, Boston and New York. In 1902 Swami Rama Tirtha visited the US for about two years lecturing on the philosophy of Vedanta.[10] In 1920 Paramahansa Yogananda was India's delegate at the International Congress of Religious Liberals held in Boston.

Prior to 1965, Hindu immigration to the United States was minuscule and isolated, with fewer than fifty thousand Indians immigrating before 1965. In those earlier days, visitors, students and some traders were primarily the only ones who bothered to set foot in the USA. The Bellingham Riots in Bellingham, Washington on September 5, 1907 epitomized the low tolerance in the USA for Indians and Hindus. In the 1923 case United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind, the Supreme Court ruled that Thind and other South Asians were not "free white persons" according to a 1790 federal law that stated that only white immigrants could apply for naturalized citizenship. The Immigration Act of 1924 prohibited the immigration of Asians such as Middle Easterners and Indians. This further prevented Hindus from immigrating to the United States.[11] Despite such events, some people, including professionals, stayed and worked until the Immigration and Nationality Services (INS) Act of 1965 was passed. This opened the doors to Hindu immigrants who wished to work and start families in the United States. It included Hindu preachers as well, who spread awareness of the religion among a people that had little contact with it.

Also during the 1960s, Hindu teachers found resonance in the US counter-culture, leading to the formation of a number of Neo-Hindu movements such as the International Society for Krishna Consciousness founded by Swami Prabhupada. People involved in the counter-culture such as Ram Dass, George Harrison, and Allen Ginsberg were influential in the spread of Hinduism in the United States. Ram Dass was a Harvard professor known as Richard Alpert and after being fired from Harvard was receiving a lot of media coverage. He traveled to India and studied under Neem Karoli Baba and came back to the west as a Hindu teacher and changed his name to Ram Dass which means servant of god. A student of Ram Dass, Jeffery Kagel, devoted his life to hinduism in the sixties and is now making many CDs chanting the sacred mantras or spiritual verses. He has been very successful and is considered the rock star of yoga. George Harrison was a member of The Beatles which in its peak of popularity was receiving more media coverage than any other band in the world. He became a devotee of Swami Prabhupada who is the founder of ISKCON (mentioned above). George Harrison started to record songs with the words "Hari Krishna" in the lyrics and was widely responsible for popularizing Hinduism in America with the younger generation of the time. Allen Ginsberg, the author of Howl, became a figure in the sixties that was also heavily involved with Hinduism and it was said that he chanted "Om" at The Human Be-in of 1967 for hours on end. Other influential Indians of a Hindu faith are Chinmoy and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

A joint session of the United States Congress was opened with a prayer in Sanskrit (with some Hindi and English added), read by Venkatachalapathi Samudrala, in September 2000, to honour the visit of Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The historic gesture was an initiative by Ohio Congressman Sherrod Brown who requested the US Congress House Chaplain to invite the Hindu priest from the Shiva Vishnu Hindu Temple in Parma, Ohio.[12] Another Hindu prayer was read in the United States Senate on July 12, 2007, by Rajan Zed, a Hindu chaplain from Nevada.[13] His prayer was interrupted by a couple and their daughter who claimed to be "Christian patriots", which prompted a criticism of candidates in the upcoming presidential election for not criticizing the remarks.[14] In October 2009, President Barack Obama lit a ceremonial Diwali lamp at the White House to symbolise victory of light over darkness.

Hindu temples[edit]

President of the United States Barack Obama receives a red shawl from a Hindu priest from Sri Siva Vishnu Temple in Lanham, Maryland (October 2009)

The Vedanta Society was responsible for building some early temples in USA starting in 1906, but they were not formal temples. Earliest traditional Hindu temple in the United States is the Maha Vallabha Ganapathi Devastanam owned by the Hindu Temple Society of North America in Flushing, New York City. It was consecrated on July 4, 1977. This temple recently underwent significant expansion and renovation.[15]

Today there are over 450 Hindu Temples across the United States,[16] spread across the country, with a majority of them situated on the east coast centred around the New York region which alone has over 135 temples [17] the next largest number being in Texas with 28 Temples [18] and Massachusetts with 27 temples.[19]

Other prominent temples include the Malibu Hindu Temple, built in 1981 and located in Calabasas, is owned and operated by the Hindu Temple Society of Southern California. The temple is near Malibu, California. Apart from these, Swaminarayan temples exist in several cities across the country with a sizable following.[citation needed]

The oldest Hindu Temple in Texas is the Shree Raseshwari Radha Rani temple at Radha Madhav Dham, Austin.[20] The temple, established by Jagadguru Shree Kripaluji Maharaj is one of the largest Hindu Temple complexes in the Western Hemisphere,[21] and the largest in North America.[22][23][24]

In Tampa, South Florida, Sri Vishnu Temple is established before about 160 years

Goddess Shakthi at Parashakthi Temple, Pontiac, USA

Parashakthi Temple[25] in Pontiac, Michigan is a tirtha peetam in the west for Goddess "Shakthi" referred to as the "Great Divine Mother" in Hinduism. The Temple was envisioned by Dr. G Krishna Kumar in a deep meditative kundalini experience of "Adi Shakthi" in 1994.[26]

The Indian American Cultural Center opened on March 9, 2002, in Merrillville, Northwest Indiana. It was in 2010 on June 18 that the temple was finalized and opened, The Bharatiya Temple of Northwest Indiana. This temple is adjacent to the Cultural Center. In the native way of Hinduism, one would never see different sectarian groups worship in one temple. The Bharatiya Temple is unique in its own way by allowing different sectarian groups to worship together. The Bharatiya Temple has four different Hindu groups as well as a Jain group.[27]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b [1]
  2. ^ a b "Hindu-Americans Rank Top in Education, Income". Retrieved Dec 1, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "Hindu-Americans Rank Top in Education, Income". Retrieved Dec 1, 2012. 
  4. ^ "Americans turn to Hindu beliefs". The Times Of India. August 18, 2009. Retrieved Dec 1, 2012. 
  5. ^ "We Are All Hindus Now". Retrieved Dec 1, 2012. 
  6. ^ [2]
  7. ^ "Asian Americans: A Mosaic of Faiths". The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Pew Research Center. 19 July 2012. Retrieved 13 October 2012. 
  8. ^ "Study Shows, Hindus Have Lowest Divorce Rate and Highest Education Level in America". The Chakra. June 13, 2011. Retrieved May 28, 2012. 
  9. ^ "US Hindus have higher education and lowest divorce rate". The Global Indian. Retrieved May 28, 2012. 
  10. ^ Arora, R.K. (1978), Swami Ram Tirath, his life and works, page 56, Rajesh Publications, New Delhi, India
  11. ^ Mann, Numrich, Williams, Gurinder, Paul, Raymond (2007). Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs in America : A Short History. Cary, NC, USA: Oxford University Press. pp. 44–45. 
  12. ^ For the first time, a Hindu priest will pray before US Congress, rediff.com, 14 September 2000.
  13. ^ "California Senate opened with Hindu prayer for first time". Asian Tribune. 2007-08-29. Retrieved 2008-07-24. 
  14. ^ Boorstein, Michelle (2007-07-27). "Hindu Groups Ask '08 Hopefuls to Criticize Protest". The Washington Post. 
  15. ^ Official website of the Flushing temple.
  16. ^ http://allhindutemples.com/?multi_country=America
  17. ^ http://allhindutemples.com/?multi_city=New-York
  18. ^ http://allhindutemples.com/?multi_city=Texas
  19. ^ http://allhindutemples.com/?multi_city=Massachusetts
  20. ^ India today international. Volume 1, Issues 1–8. Living Media International. 2002.
  21. ^ Vedic Foundation Inaugurated at Barsana Dham, Austin. Retrieved Dec 15th, 2011.
  22. ^ Ciment, J. 2001. Encyclopedia of American Immigration. Michigan: M.E. Sharpe
  23. ^ Hylton, H. & Rosie, C. 2006. Insiders' Guide to Austin. Globe Pequot Press.
  24. ^ Mugno, M. & Rafferty, R.R. 1998. Texas Monthly Guidebook to Texas. Gulf Pub. Co.
  25. ^ "Parashakthi (Eternal Mother) Temple". 
  26. ^ "Honoring the eternal Divine Mother". India Abroad. 2011-12-30. 
  27. ^ Pati, George. "Temple and Human Bodies: Representing Hinduism". International Journal of Hindu Studies 15 (2): 191–207. doi:10.1007/s11407-011-9103-x. Retrieved 30 January 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]