Hinduism in the United States
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The advent of Hinduism in the United States has long been a subject for debate. It is believed that adherents to Hinduism arrived with early immigrants who may have been on the continent since the founding of the United States. The number of adherents, however, did not increase to a significant number until the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Services (INS) Act of 1965. Since then, the United States' growing Hindu population has enjoyed greater equality and attracted the attention of scholars.
The ARIS study of 2001 found some 1.1 million adherents of Hinduism in the United States (0.4% of US population).
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 lecturing on the philosophy of Vedanta. 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 U.S. was minuscule and isolated. 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. 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.
In September 1965, an elderly Indian sadhu named Swami Prabhupada arrived in New York. After a short time, he acquired a troupe of followers, and founded the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Since then many Hindu communities exist, from close-knit communities of mainstream Hindus living near one another to several farm communities owned by ISKCON.
Other influential Indians of a Hindu faith are Chinmoy and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Today, the most visible of the Hindu preachers appear to be those who sing the Hare Krishna Mahamantra (i.e. the Gaudiya Vaishnavas) as well as other Vaishnavas, and those of a Shaivite faith. Numerous sadhus and Gurus live in or visit the United States.
Rajan Zed, Hindu chaplain from Nevada, read the first Hindu prayer in the United States Senate in Washington DC on July 12, 2007, in its 218 years history. In October 2009, President Obama lit a ceremonial Diwali lamp at the White House to symbolise victory of light over darkness.
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Hindu Temples in USA
Swami Narayan temple, chicago
Hindu temples in the United States
The first Hindu temple in North America is the Sri Venkateswara Temple in Penn Hills, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh. Sri Venkateswara Temple was consecrated on June 30, 1976 and receives an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 pilgrims every year. Another earliest Hindu temple in North America is the Sri Ganapati Temple in Flushing, New York City. It was consecrated on July 4, 1977.
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.
StatusThe Hindus of the United States seem to enjoy both de jure and de facto legal equality. Generations of Hindus, both of South Asian, as well as European ancestry, have lived and worked in the USA, raising families, buying homes, and making roots, rendering their culture and spirituality an integral part of American culture. Hindus are second most educated among all religious groups in the United States, and are the second most affluent after the Jews. 43% of American Hindus made over $100,000 per year and 48% of Hindus have post-graduate degrees.
AwarenessSince Hinduism is a minority religion in the US, there is little awareness about it, particularly the concept of Sanatana or Sanatana Dharma or even Dharma among the general public. Many misconceptions, stereotypes exist and are sometimes further perpetrated by otherwise responsible entities (such as schools, school books and encyclopedic articles). It is widely perceived in America as a religion with caste and worship of the cow as its defining features. In South Indian traditions, cattle reverence is done primarily during harvest festivals, due to the animal having contributed significantly to the agrarian lifestyle. For example, the south Indian festival of Pongal reveres the cattle on a day known as Maattu Pongal by bathing and decorating them, and feeding them rich home-cooked savories.
A large fraction of American population today practices Hatha Yoga and meditation, concepts that have their origins in the Vedic culture. There has also been an extensive application of Hindu principles for self-improvement and execution of business in the work-place.