Americanizing Hinduism and other Pagan News of Note

Top Story: The CNN Belief Blog has a story about Hinduism in America, and how some younger Hindus are trying to “forge a distinctly American Hindu identity that’s more tightly woven into the national fabric.”

The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Houston

“Our parents had to build everything from scratch to make a united Hindu community in this country,” said Tejas N. Dave, 17, a high school junior who volunteers with a project bringing yoga to unprivileged Americans. “Now we’re trying to reintegrate it back into society,” he said, “to make people realize that Hinduism is a religion and a way of life and a philosophy that’s not too different from what a lot of others believe. We’re all trying to make a better society.” Some young Hindus are envious of the attention that American Muslims and Mormons have received in recent years – even if not all of the attention has been positive – and are trying to raise Hinduism’s national profile.

The article mentions the Hindu American Foundation and its work, an advocacy group that has done outreach to the Pagan community in recent years, and profiles younger Hindus who want to take their faith “outside officially Hindu spaces.”

Yet [Kavita] Pallod, 23, has spent a good deal of time thinking about how to apply her faith to her life. “I believe that karma is the principal that guides the universe,” she said, referring to the Hindu concept of cosmic justice. “It’s one of the reasons I joined Teach for America.”

In my recent interview with historian Kevin M. Schultz, he mentioned that Catholics and Jews in the early 20th century worked to “present a positive and forceful image of what it meant to be an American” using the “languages of good Americanism to show they belong.” This article makes it quite clear that this process is well underway for American Hindus. That said, despite Hinduism’s many successes in building infrastructure and mainstreaming some of their practices, there still remains a lot of distrust and hostility, as evidenced by the comments section of the CNN profile. American Hindu organizations will also have to decide, ultimately, how they are going to present themselves to other faiths. Hinduism’s theological diversity has allowed proponents to engage with Pagans, noting their common ground, while also (sometimes vociferously) portraying themselves as monotheists. It’s a complex subject, but American politics hates complex subjects, and the process of “Americanizing” a diverse decentralized umbrella faith may present roadblocks in the future.

In Other News:

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

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About Jason Pitzl-Waters
  • Mojavi

    Anti-Harry Potter article: Here’s a terrifying possibility: New novels (made into movies?) about “good” and evil demons, and the thrill of being possessed by the “good ones.” Look out JK Rowling and Stephanie Meyer, I’m writing that gravy train.

  • Thomas Valdez

    I always crack up when someone characterizes Magick and Paganism as “occult”. Occult literally means hidden, and how can something be hidden when it is on sale at the local Barnes and Noble or available on the ‘net?

  • Lori F – MN

    What sort of terrifying stories will replace Harry Potter? How about Percy Jackson? The kid is a troublemaker at school. He has ADD and is dislexic and it’s being glorified! What kind of monster is Riodan to promote this problem and exploit and admire these issues?

    As a mom with 2 sons with learning disabilities. I can only applaud.

  • Thelettuceman

    I really need to be smarter about not clicking on links that direct me to comments that I know will only inflame me and piss me off. The amount of head-in-the-sand on the CNN blog comments section is more than enough stupidity for me this week.

  • Lady Jake

    Many thanks for yet another fine post, Jason! As a dharma Pagan who is increasingly influenced and inspired by Sanatana Dharma (aka Hinduism), I really appreciate your coverage of Hindu issues here in the Wild Hunt.


  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    I have long been bemused by Virginia — a Southern state right next door to the US Supreme Court and thus the battleground for cases that, delightfully, became the law of the land. Now we no longer have a SCOTUS that’s as much fun, but VA is still next door to The Washington Post, and that’ll do in a pinch.

  • Alice C. “A.C.” Fisher Aldag

    What a lovely temple. Y’know what would make that more acceptable to Mr. & Mrs. Average American? An interpretive center and tours. Seriously! “While in Houston, visit the beautiful BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, see the gorgeous art, learn history…” Demystify and edify, folks.

  • Lady Jake

    Done & done: “Together with the Mandir, the ‘Understanding Hinduism’ exhibition treats visitors to a concise, yet comprehensive study of the Hindu religion.”

  • Elnigma

    IME the courtesy displayed to visitors at Hindu Temples in the US would make anyone of good will feel welcome.

    They just need to know to take their shoes off outside and quietly respectful of their space.

    I don’t think it’d necessarily demystify because temples tend to have strong energies. They are not museums.

  • Tor_h_tor

    Oh yeah, I’ve got your Krishna, + many other god/devil things, right here @ me wee video

  • Elnigma

    That’s a lovely temple

  • ati sundar


    I am hindu from India. Your observations about hindus vociferously denying polytheism are sad but true in modern times. Even I used to think like that. But slowly I realized that hindus just have internalized the christian/abrahamic view of themselves. This is result of 800 years of islamic rule and 200 years of european christian rule. Confusion reins supreme in the minds of hindus , especially “highly ejicated hindus”. My current understanding of hindu tradition is similar to that of Pizza. Pizza has a base and some toppings. We can have one topping, many toppings or no toppings. In the similar manner, there is a base of hindu philosophy and toppings are the gods/goddesses. It doesn’t matter how many toppings are there. Even no topping is fine.
    This is reason, I think , that the terms like polytheism/monotheism don’t find
    any mention in traditional sanskrit literature. Ancient pagans didn’t identify themselves as polytheist actively. But as author Jordan Paper says in his book
    “The Deities are many … ” , if you leave any bunch of humans in the wild for few thousand years, they will come up with some kind of polytheism.

  • G

    The modern Hindu deeply influenced by Christianity and Islam tries to portray that Hindus believe in just one god. Sad.