A Hinduism source guide: Exploring a diverse, growing community

Hinduism is the third-largest organized religion in the world and the Hindu population in the United States is estimated to have tripled in just over 15 years, to around 1 million. As Hindus’ numbers grow and as new generations are born here, journalists can find rich stories to tell about Hindus engaging in U.S. society.

A new study from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, titled “Asian Americans: A Mosaic of Faiths,” was released on July 19, 2012, and provides extensive insights into this diverse and growing faith community.

The study notes that Christians account for about 42 percent of Asian-Americans, while Buddhists account for about one-in-seven Asian-Americans (14 percent), followed by Hindus at 10 percent.

This source guide offers Hindu experts and organizations for reporters covering this community and related stories.

Background

Major issues in Hinduism in the U.S.

As with any immigrant group, the question of how much to assimilate into American society and culture is a major one for Hindus born overseas. Below are some issues involving assimilation that are of concern to Hindus in America:

  • Working to get Hindu holidays recognized by school districts and businesses. New York now takes religious holidays, including Hindu ones, into account when scheduling exams. New Jersey schools recognize Diwali as a holiday, but when Tampa, Fla., did away with school off-days for religious holidays altogether, the action prompted angry responses from many parents.
  • Determining what it means to be Hindu in America. Raising their American-born children in their faith has forced immigrant parents to define Hinduism’s beliefs and doctrines to an extent that they would not have had to do in India or other places where the religion is indigenous.
  • Responding to insensitivity, intolerance and hate crimes. Hindus have joined together to defend their faith and educate others in response to temple vandalism (in Minnesota) and remarks by public officials, including then-Sen. George Allen, R-Va., (who in August 2006 called a man of Indian heritage a “macaca”) and then-U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris, R-Fla. (who the same month said that to elect non-Christians would be to “legislate sin”). These efforts to educate communities have resulted in growing interfaith contact.
  • Becoming politically involved. As with other immigrant groups, Hindu-Americans feel pulled in two directions politically. Those who are American citizens know that becoming involved in American politics is a major path to assimilation. But most also feel deep political ties to their country of origin. Striking a comfortable balance can be difficult. The Hindu American Foundation divides its resources among a number of political causes, lobbying American Congress members on a range of issues, from human rights in India to wider recognition of Diwali as a holiday.
  • Constructing temples. Issues concerning the construction of Hindu temples in the U.S. have to do with freedom of religion, land use and the challenges of satisfying the religious needs of a diverse Hindu-American population. One U.S. temple may have to serve Hindus from Northern and Southern India, Guyana and the Caribbean, as well as their American-born children. Conflict can arise over style of architecture, selection of temple deities and priests. Temples in America also serve a range of purposes that Indian temples do not, with many functioning as community meeting halls, cultural resource centers and religious education schools as well as places of worship. In June 2006, the first national meeting of Hindu mandir (temple) executives was held in Atlanta. Executives came from 57 temples in more than 20 states, Canada and the Caribbean Islands. They passed resolutions on pan-Hinduism in North America, textbooks and community service. See the group’s website.
  • Monitoring textbooks. This has been a growing concern among American Hindus since 2005, when California proposed the adoption of nine school textbooks that some Hindus felt misrepresented their religion and were otherwise discriminatory. In September 2006, a California judge ruled that the state did not have to withdraw the textbooks but agreed that the process by which they are adopted is unfair. Out of the conflict, the Hindu Education Foundation was formed, and it now holds educational seminars for educators and parents in other states.
  • Promoting language. There is a small but growing move to promote the speaking of Sanskrit, the classical language of India and the liturgical language of Hinduism, among the Hindu diaspora, especially in America. The move was started by a group of students at the University of Maryland and young professionals from the same area. They launched a website in July 2006.

Demographic information

There is disagreement about the number of Hindus in the U.S. Temples do not require membership, so there is no official count. There have been few surveys, and results have varied depending on the way information was collected and how questions were phrased. Current estimates range from three-quarters of a million to 1.2 million.

Resources

  • Hindupedia

    Hindupedia is a Wiki-style online encyclopedia of Hindusim.

  • Hindu Students Council

    The Hindu Students Council describes itself as “an international forum that provides opportunities to learn about Hindu heritage through various activities, events and projects” on college campuses in the United States and abroad.

  • HinduNet

    HinduNet provides thousands of resources and links on Hinduism, its history, its beliefs and its principles.

Articles

Beliefs and scriptures

Philosophy and beliefs

There is no single Hinduism. “Hinduism has never been a ‘creed’ with a set of beliefs,” writes Harvard University’s Diana Eck, “but rather a culture and way of life.” It is the third-largest organized religion in the world. Hindus believe in one transcendent Supreme Being, reincarnation and karma. In the 1980s and 1990s, the editors of Hinduism Today attempted to summarize nine core beliefs of Hinduism for non-Hindu readers encountering the faith for the first time.

Scriptures

Hindus hold a variety of writings sacred:

  • The Vedas

    The Vedas are the primary texts of Hinduism and are among the oldest sacred texts in all the world’s religions, with the oldest of them composed about 1500 B.C. There are four Vedas: the Rig Veda, the Sama Veda, the Yajur Veda and the Atharva Veda.

  • The Rig Veda

    This is the Ralph T.H. Griffith English translation of the Rig Veda. This was one of the first e-texts developed for this site. Each page of this is cross-linked with the Sanskrit text of the Rig Veda.

  • The Sama Veda

    The Sama Veda, or Veda of Holy Songs, third in the usual order of enumeration of the three Vedas, ranks next in sanctity and liturgical importance to the Rig Veda, or the Veda of Recited Praise. Its Sanhita, or metrical portion, consists chiefly of hymns to be chanted by the Udgatar priests at the performance of those important sacrifices in which the juice of the Soma plant, clarified and mixed with milk and other ingredients, is offered in libation to various deities. The collection is made up of hymns, portions of hymns and detached verses, taken mainly from the Rig Veda, transposed and re-arranged, without reference to their original order, to suit the religious ceremonies in which they were to be employed.

  • The Yajur Veda

    Translation from the original Sanskrit of the Veda of the Black Yajus School, titled Taittiriya Sanhita.

  • The Atharva Veda

    This is the Ralph T.H. Griffith translation of the Atharvaveda. The Atharvaveda is a Vedic-era collection of spells, prayers, charms and hymns. There are prayers to protect crops from lightning and drought, charms against venomous serpents, love spells, healing spells and hundreds of verses, some derived from the Rig Veda, that are all very ancient.

  • The Upanishads

    These are mystical texts often written in the form of dialogues between deities and men. They were composed between 400 and 200 B.C. Sacred-Texts.com has an online translation by Max Müller.

  • The Puranas

    The Puranas are a narrative of the history of the cosmos from creation to destruction. There are 17 or 18 divided into categories named for the Hindu deities Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.

  • The Vishnu Purana

    This is a translation of the Vishnu Purana by Horace Hayman Wilson.

  • The Garuda Purana

    This is a translation by Ernest Wood of an abridged version of the Garuda Purana.

  • The S’rîmad Devî Bhâgawatam

    This is a translation of the S’rimad Devi Bhagawatam by Swami Vijnanananada.

  • The Devî Gita

    This is a translation of the Devi Gita by Swami Vijnanananada.

  • The Prem Sagar of Lallu Lal

    This is a translation of the Prem Sagar of Lallu Lal by W. Hollings.

  • The Mahabharata

    The Mahabharata is an ancient religious epic originally composed in Sanskrit. It tells of the many adventures of Krishna.

  • The Bhagavad Gita

    This epic is actually book six of the Mahabharata, but often stands on its own. It is told as a dialogue between Krishna and the soldier Arjuna on a battlefield before the fighting begins. It was composed about 200 B.C. Sacred-Texts.com has an online translation by Edwin Arnold.

  • The Ramayana

    This is an epic tale of the adventures of the deity Rama who fights to free his love, Sita, from the hold of Ravan, the King of Ceylon. Sacred-Texts.com has an online translation by Ralph T.H. Griffith.

Hindu sects

Scholars categorize Hinduism into three or, sometimes, four groups:

  • Vaishnavism (worship of the deity Vishnu); Approximately 80 percent of the world’s Hindus are Vaishnavites
  • Shaivism (worship of the deity Shiva)
  • Shaktism (worship of the deity Devi)
  • and sometimes Smartism.

North American resources

International scholars and sources

  • Mandakranta Bose

    Mandakranta Bose is a professor emerita at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. She is an expert on the Ramayana.

  • Gavin Flood

    Gavin Flood is the academic director of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies in Oxford, England. He specializes in the religions of South Asia and lectures on Hinduism.

    Contact: 01865 304300.
  • Ferdinando Sardella

    Ferdinando Sardella is an assistant professor in the history of religions at The University of Stockholm in Stockholm, Sweden. He has been a fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies and specializes in contemporary Hinduism, especially in South Asia. He speaks Italian, Swedish and English.

  • Arvind Sharma

    Arvind Sharma is a professor of comparative religion at McGill University in Montreal and specializes in modern Hindu thought. He is the author of Classical Hindu Thought: An Introduction.

  • Vijay Singal

    Vijay Singal is the secretary of the Hindu Council of Australia in Homebush, New South Wales. In 2012, Hinduism became the fastest-growing religion in Australia, largely due to the number of Indian and Sri Lankan immigrants coming to the continent. He can discuss the diversity of Hinduism in Australia.

    Contact: (02) 82504007.
  • Katherine K. Young

    Katherine K. Young is a professor of Hinduism at McGill University in Montreal. She specializes in comparative ethics between the religions of South India.

North American scholars of Hinduism

General

  • Lawrence A. Babb

    Lawrence A. Babb is a professor in the department of anthropology and sociology at Amherst College in Amherst, Mass. He teaches a course on religions in South Asia and has studied Hinduism as practiced in India. He has also written about modern interpretations of Hinduism.

  • Edwin F. Bryant

    Edwin F. Bryant is an associate professor of religion at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., where he teaches courses in Hindu philosophy and religion. He specializes in the Krishna tradition and the Hare Krishna movement.

  • Richard H. Davis

    Richard H. Davis is a professor of religion at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y. He is an expert in the Shaiva traditions of India. He can discuss the rise of Indian nationalism and how it makes itself felt in the U.S., as well as provide background information on the textbook debate. 

  • Diana L. Eck

    Diana L. Eck is a professor of comparative religion and Indian studies at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. She is one of the foremost scholars of Hinduism, having traveled and written widely about India and its religions. She is also director of Harvard’s Pluralism Project, which explores the religious diversity of the U.S. 

  • Nancy Auer Falk

    Nancy Auer Falk is a professor emeritus of the department of comparative religion at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. She is the author of Living Hinduisms: An Explorer’s Guide.

  • Anne Feldhaus

    Anne Feldhaus is a professor of religious studies at Arizona State University in Tempe. She specializes in folk Hinduism, medieval Hinduism and religious geography. Her publications include Connected Places: Region, Pilgrimage, and Geographical Imagination in Maharashtra (2003), and Water and Womanhood: Religious Meanings of Rivers in Maharashtra (1995).

  • Ariel Glucklich

    Ariel Glucklich is an of professor of theology at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He teaches a course in Hindu religious traditions and has written several books on Hindu dharma. He is the author of Dying for Heaven: Holy Pleasure and Suicide Bombers — Why the Best Qualities of Religion Are Also Its Most Dangerous.

  • Daniel Gold

    Daniel Gold is a professor of South Asian religions at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. He specializes in North Indian devotional traditions.

  • Brian A. Hatcher

    Brian Hatcher is a scholar of the Hindu tradition in colonial and contemporary India at Tufts University. His research interests include the transformation of intellectual and social life in colonial Bengal, the interrogation of modernity under the conditions of colonialism, and the expression of religious change among emergent Hindu movements.

  • Dr. John Stratton Hawley

    Dr. John Stratton Hawley is a professor of religion at Barnard College, Columbia University in New York City. He is a specialist in the traditions of Northern India and has written about issues facing American Sikhs.

  • Pankaj Jain

    Pankaj Jain is a scholar of Indic Traditions and Ecology and is an assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religion Studies and the Department of Anthropology at the University of North Texas. He has also taught at North Carolina State University, Rutgers, Kean, and New Jersey City University. He holds an MA from Columbia and PhD from University of Iowa.

  • John Llewellyn

    John Llewellyn is professor of religious studies at Missouri State University in Springfield. He is the editor of Defining Hinduism: A Reader, a volume of essays.

  • William K. Mahony

    William K. Mahony is a religion professor at Davidson College in Davidson, N.C. He is an expert in contemplative and Vedic Hinduism.

  • Vasudha Narayanan

    Vasudha Narayanan is Distinguished Professor of Religion at the University of Florida in Gainesville, and she helped found the university’s Center for the Study of Hindu Traditions, of which she is director. She is a noted scholar of Hinduism and the environment.

  • Anantanand Rambachan

    Anantanand Rambachan is a professor of religion at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. His areas of expertise include classical Hinduism, especially Vedanta.  Prof. Rambachan has been involved in the field of interreligious relations and dialogue for over twenty-five years, as a Hindu participant and analyst. He is currently an advisor to the Pluralism Project (Harvard University), a member of the International Advisory Council for the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, a member of the Theological Education Committee of the American Academy of Religion and a Trustee of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions.

  • Robin Rinehart

    Robin Rinehart is an associate professor in religious studies at Lafayette College in Easton, Pa. She is an expert in Hinduism and Hindu saints.

  • Arvind Sharma

    Arvind Sharma is a professor of comparative religion at McGill University in Montreal and specializes in modern Hindu thought. He is the author of Classical Hindu Thought: An Introduction.

  • Gene Thursby

    Gene Thursby is an associate professor of religion at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He co-edited The Hindu World.

Hindu art, music and architecture in America

  • Guy L. Beck

    Guy L. Beck is an adjunct professor at Tulane University in the Asian studies and religion studies departments. He is the author of Sonic Theology: Hinduism and Sacred Sound.

  • Linda B. Hess

    Linda B. Hess is a lecturer in religious studies at Stanford University in Stanford, Calif. She is an expert in the poetry of 15th- and 16th-century Hindu saints and can discuss their continued influence.

  • Timothy Lubin

    Timothy Lubin is an associate professor of religion at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va. He teaches a course on Hindu temples.

  • Joanne Punzo Waghorne

    Joanne Punzo Waghorne is a professor of religion at Syracuse University in Syracuse, N.Y. She has written a book about the construction of Hindu temples and their internal organizations in urban areas, including Washington, D.C.

Hinduism and the environment

  • Christopher Key Chapple

    Christopher Key Chapple is a professor of Indic and Comparative Theology in the Department of Theological Studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. His research has focused on the renouncer religious traditions of India including Yoga, Jainism, and Buddhism. He has written about nonviolence toward animals in the Asian traditions.

  • Pankaj Jain

    Pankaj Jain is a scholar of Indic Traditions and Ecology and is an assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religion Studies and the Department of Anthropology at the University of North Texas. He has also taught at North Carolina State University, Rutgers, Kean, and New Jersey City University. He holds an MA from Columbia and PhD from University of Iowa.

  • Eliza Kent

    Eliza Kent is an assistant professor of religion at Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y. She specializes in Hinduism and the environment in South India.

  • Mary McGee

    Mary McGee is the provost and vice president of academic affairs at Albright College in Reading, Penn. She is a former professor of religion and dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences at Alfred University in Alfred, N.Y. She has written about Hinduism and the environment and Hindu architecture.

  • Vasudha Narayanan

    Vasudha Narayanan is Distinguished Professor of Religion at the University of Florida in Gainesville, and she helped found the university’s Center for the Study of Hindu Traditions, of which she is director. She is a noted scholar of Hinduism and the environment.

  • Whitney Sanford

    Whitney Sanford is an assistant professor of religion at the University of Florida in Gainesville. She is an expert on Hindu narratives of agriculture and religion and nature in South Asia.

Gandhi

  • Peter Gottschalk

    Peter Gottschalk is a professor of religion at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. He studies the dynamic of the cultural interplay between Hinduism, Islam, and the West.

  • Lester R. Kurtz

    Lester R. Kurtz is a professor of sociology and anthropology at George Mason University. He is an expert in Gandhian thought and  editor of the Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace & Conflict and lectures around the world on violence, politics and peacemaking.

  • Sushil Mittal

    Sushil Mittal is an associate professor of religion and philosophy and the director of the Gandhi Center for Global Nonviolence at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va. He is an expert on Gandhian thought and a specialist in Indian studies. He is the author of several books on Hinduism.

Hinduism in America

  • Loriliai Biernacki

    Loriliai Biernacki is an assistant professor of religious studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her research interests include Hinduism in the diaspora, and the interface between religion, science, and gender.

  • Christopher Key Chapple

    Christopher Key Chapple is a professor of Indic and Comparative Theology in the Department of Theological Studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. His research has focused on the renouncer religious traditions of India including Yoga, Jainism, and Buddhism. He has written about nonviolence toward animals in the Asian traditions.

  • Corinne G. Dempsey

    Corinne G. Dempsey is an associate professor of religious studies at Nazareth College and the author of The Goddess Lives in Upstate New York: Breaking Convention and Making Home at a North American Hindu Temple, a profile of a South Indian community in Rush, N.Y.

  • Thomas A. Forsthoefel

    Thomas A. Forsthoefel is an associate professor of religious studies at Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pa. He is the co-editor of Gurus in America.

  • Daniel Gold

    Daniel Gold is a professor of South Asian religions at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. He specializes in North Indian devotional traditions.

  • Cynthia Ann Humes

    Cynthia Ann Humes is an associate professor of philosophy and religious studies at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif. She is the co-editor of Gurus in America, to which she contributed a chapter on Transcendental Meditation and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

  • Khyati Y. Joshi

    Khyati Joshi is an associate professor of education at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, N.J., and a scholar on cultural and religious pluralism in the United States. Her books include New Roots in America’s Sacred Ground: Religion, Race and Ethnicity in Indian America. She served as an adviser for the Pew survey and wrote a column for The Huffington Post about the findings.

  • Jeffrey J. Kripal

    Jeffrey J. Kripal is a professor of religious studies at Rice University in Houston. His specialty is Asian religions in America, and he focuses on European and American translations or adoptions of Hindu ideas and practices. He wrote a chapter on Adi Da for Gurus in America and has published five books concerning religious mysticism.

  • James F. Lewis

    James F. Lewis is a professor of religious studies at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minn. He wrote the chapter “The Jain Religion in Modern India” in Religion in Modern India.

  • June McDaniel

    June McDaniel is a professor of religious studies at the College of Charleston in Charleston, S.C. She focuses on Hindu women’s religious rituals and mysticism and contributed a chapter about Jayashri Ma to The Graceful Guru: Hindu Female Gurus in India and the United States.

  • Vasudha Narayanan

    Vasudha Narayanan is Distinguished Professor of Religion at the University of Florida in Gainesville, and she helped found the university’s Center for the Study of Hindu Traditions, of which she is director. She is a noted scholar of Hinduism and the environment.

  • Leslie Orr

    Leslie C. Orr is a professor of religion at Concordia University in Montreal. One of her areas of specialty is Hinduism in the West. She is the author of the book Donors, Devotees and Daughters of God: Temple Women in Medieval Tamilnadu.

  • Karen Pechilis

    Karen Pechilis is chair and a professor of comparative religions at Drew University in Madison, N.J. She edited The Graceful Guru: Hindu Female Gurus in the United States, which covers the American movements behind Ammachi, Anandamayi Ma, Gauri Ma, Gurumayi, Jayashri Ma, Karunamayi Ma, Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati, Mother Meera, Shree Maa and Sita Devi.

  • Stephen Prothero

    Stephen Prothero is professor in the religion department at Boston University. He is author of Purified By Fire: A History of Cremation in America and American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon, which looks at popular images of Jesus in film, television and print. He has also written about American Hindus.

  • Anantanand Rambachan

    Anantanand Rambachan is a professor of religion at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. His areas of expertise include classical Hinduism, especially Vedanta.  Prof. Rambachan has been involved in the field of interreligious relations and dialogue for over twenty-five years, as a Hindu participant and analyst. He is currently an advisor to the Pluralism Project (Harvard University), a member of the International Advisory Council for the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, a member of the Theological Education Committee of the American Academy of Religion and a Trustee of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions.

  • B. V. K. Sastry

    B.V. VenkataKrishna Sastry is a professor at Hindu University of America in Orlando, Fla., where he teaches courses in Hindu practices and principles and Sanskrit.

  • K. R. Sundararajan

    K.R. Sundararajan is a professor of theology at St. Bonaventure University in St. Bonaventure, N.Y. He is the co-editor of Hindu Spirituality II: Post-Classical and Modern.

  • Hugh B. Urban

    Hugh B. Urban is a professor of comparative studies at Ohio State University in Columbus. He contributed a chapter about Osho to Gurus in America.

  • Joanne Punzo Waghorne

    Joanne Punzo Waghorne is a professor of religion at Syracuse University in Syracuse, N.Y. She has written a book about the construction of Hindu temples and their internal organizations in urban areas, including Washington, D.C.

Interfaith relations

  • Brian A. Hatcher

    Brian Hatcher is a scholar of the Hindu tradition in colonial and contemporary India at Tufts University. His research interests include the transformation of intellectual and social life in colonial Bengal, the interrogation of modernity under the conditions of colonialism, and the expression of religious change among emergent Hindu movements.

  • Eliza Kent

    Eliza Kent is an assistant professor of religion at Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y. She specializes in Hinduism and the environment in South India.

  • Brian K. Pennington

    Brian K. Pennington is an associate professor of religion at Maryville College in Maryville, Tenn. He has written about Hindu-Christian relations and religious violence.

  • Anantanand Rambachan

    Anantanand Rambachan is a professor of religion at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. His areas of expertise include classical Hinduism, especially Vedanta.  Prof. Rambachan has been involved in the field of interreligious relations and dialogue for over twenty-five years, as a Hindu participant and analyst. He is currently an advisor to the Pluralism Project (Harvard University), a member of the International Advisory Council for the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, a member of the Theological Education Committee of the American Academy of Religion and a Trustee of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions.

  • Robin Rinehart

    Robin Rinehart is an associate professor in religious studies at Lafayette College in Easton, Pa. She is an expert in Hinduism and Hindu saints.

Hindu mysticism and mythology

  • Wendy Doniger

    Wendy Doniger is a professor of the history of religions at the University of Chicago. She is an expert on the mythology of Hinduism and has written about the origins of evil in Hindu mythology.

  • Meena Rani Khandelwal

    Meena Rani Khandelwal is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. She has received funding from the American Institute of Indian Studies to conduct a comparative study of Hindu ashrams in India and in the United States that investigates issues of social change.

  • Timothy Lubin

    Timothy Lubin is an associate professor of religion at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va. He teaches a course on Hindu temples.

  • June McDaniel

    June McDaniel is a professor of religious studies at the College of Charleston in Charleston, S.C. She focuses on Hindu women’s religious rituals and mysticism and contributed a chapter about Jayashri Ma to The Graceful Guru: Hindu Female Gurus in India and the United States.

  • Rachel Fell McDermott

    Rachel Fell McDermott is an associate professor in Asian and Middle Eastern cultures at Columbia University in New York, N.Y. She is an expert in the Hindu female deity worship traditions.

  • Laurie L. Patton

    Laurie L. Patton is the dean of arts & sciences and a professor of religion at Duke University. She is an expert in Hindu mythology.

  • Tracy Pintchman

    Tracy Pintchman is a professor of theology at Loyola University in Chicago. She specializes in women in Hinduism and is an expert on Shaktism, Hindu goddess worship.

Hindu scriptures

  • Mandakranta Bose

    Mandakranta Bose is a professor emerita at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. She is an expert on the Ramayana.

  • Edwin F. Bryant

    Edwin F. Bryant is an associate professor of religion at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., where he teaches courses in Hindu philosophy and religion. He specializes in the Krishna tradition and the Hare Krishna movement.

  • Vasudha Narayanan

    Vasudha Narayanan is Distinguished Professor of Religion at the University of Florida in Gainesville, and she helped found the university’s Center for the Study of Hindu Traditions, of which she is director. She is a noted scholar of Hinduism and the environment.

  • Laurie L. Patton

    Laurie L. Patton is the dean of arts & sciences and a professor of religion at Duke University. She is an expert in Hindu mythology.

  • Paula Richman

    Paula Richman is a professor of religion at Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio. She is an expert on the Hindu epics, especially the Ramayana.

  • Bruce M. Sullivan

    Bruce M. Sullivan is a professor of religious studies at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. He is a specialist in Hinduism, Buddhism, and India’s classical Sanskrit literary and theatrical traditions. He teaches a course on the Hindu epics.

  • Katherine K. Young

    Katherine K. Young is a professor of Hinduism at McGill University in Montreal. She specializes in comparative ethics between the religions of South India.

Women in Hinduism

  • Carol S. Anderson

    Carol S. Anderson is an associate professor in the departments of religion and women’s studies at Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Mich. She wrote a chapter about Gauri Ma in The Graceful Guru: Hindu Female Gurus in India and the United States.

  • Loriliai Biernacki

    Loriliai Biernacki is an assistant professor of religious studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her research interests include Hinduism in the diaspora, and the interface between religion, science, and gender.

  • Catherine Cornille

    Catherine Cornille is a professor of theology at Boston University. Her research interests focus on the Theology of Religions, the theory of Interreligious Dialogue, concrete questions in the Hindu-Christian and Buddhist-Christian dialogues, and the phenomenon of inculturation and intercultural theology. She wrote about Mother Meera in The Graceful Guru: Hindu Female Gurus in India and the United States (2004).

  • Kathleen M. Erndl

    Kathleen M. Erndl is an associate professor of religion at Florida State University in Tallahassee. She has written about gender issues and the worship of female deities.

  • Lindsey B. Harlan

    Lindsey B. Harlan is a professor of religious studies at Connecticut College in New London. She is an expert on Hindu marriage.

  • Meena Rani Khandelwal

    Meena Rani Khandelwal is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. She has received funding from the American Institute of Indian Studies to conduct a comparative study of Hindu ashrams in India and in the United States that investigates issues of social change.

  • Rebecca J. Manring

    Rebecca J. Manring is an associate professor of India studies and religious studies at Indiana University. She contributed a chapter on Sita Devi to The Graceful Guru: Hindu Female Gurus in India and the United States.

  • Nancy M. Martin

    Nancy M. Martin is an associate professor of ethics and department chair in the religious studies department at Chapman University in Orange, Calif. She teaches a course in gender in world religions and can discuss the role of women in Hinduism. She co-edited Love, Sex and Gender in the World Religions and wrote the chapter “Love” for The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Emotion.

  • June McDaniel

    June McDaniel is a professor of religious studies at the College of Charleston in Charleston, S.C. She focuses on Hindu women’s religious rituals and mysticism and contributed a chapter about Jayashri Ma to The Graceful Guru: Hindu Female Gurus in India and the United States.

  • Vasudha Narayanan

    Vasudha Narayanan is Distinguished Professor of Religion at the University of Florida in Gainesville, and she helped found the university’s Center for the Study of Hindu Traditions, of which she is director. She is a noted scholar of Hinduism and the environment.

Yoga, meditation, Tantrism and other practices

  • Loriliai Biernacki

    Loriliai Biernacki is an assistant professor of religious studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her research interests include Hinduism in the diaspora, and the interface between religion, science, and gender.

  • Douglas R. Brooks

    Douglas R. Brooks is a religion professor at the University of Rochester in Rochester, N.Y. He has written two books about Tantrism.

  • Edwin F. Bryant

    Edwin F. Bryant is an associate professor of religion at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., where he teaches courses in Hindu philosophy and religion. He specializes in the Krishna tradition and the Hare Krishna movement.

  • Subhas R. Tiwari

    Subhas R. Tiwari is a professor of yoga and meditation at the Hindu University of America in Orlando, Fla.

  • Hugh B. Urban

    Hugh B. Urban is a professor of comparative studies at Ohio State University in Columbus. He contributed a chapter about Osho to Gurus in America.

Organizations

Think tanks and university centers

  • The American Institute of Indian Studies

    The American Institute of Indian Studies is a consortium of universities and colleges in the United States at which scholars actively engage in teaching and research about India. It is at the University of Chicago.

  • The Center for the Study of Hindu Traditions

    The Center for the Study of Hindu Traditions is at the University of Florida in Gainesville. It is the nation’s first Center for the Study of Hindu Traditions, and it works to encourage the teaching, understanding and research of Hindu culture.

  • The Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies

    The Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies in Oxford, England, is one of the largest and most comprehensive centers for the study of Hinduism in the West.

    Contact: +44 01865 304300.

National political, cultural and social organizations

Hindu summer camps and other youth activities

  • Hindu Heritage Summer Camp

    The Hindu Heritage Summer Camp is a summer camp program designed to help Hindu youth reconcile their religion with what it means to be an American. It is an example of one of many Hindu camps across the country. The India Community Center in Rochester, N.Y., runs it. Padmanabh Kamath is the camp’s president.

  • Hindu Students Council

    The Hindu Students Council describes itself as “an international forum that provides opportunities to learn about Hindu heritage through various activities, events and projects” on college campuses in the United States and abroad.

  • Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) of America

    The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) of America is an organization that works to promote Hinduism among transplanted Hindis and to educate others about the religion. Its president is Abhaya Asthana. It is based in Houston, Tex.

Leaders and religious centers

Gurus in America

A number of religious teachers have migrated from India to America, and a few are American-born. Here is a list of the more prominent gurus who have roots in Hinduism and have large followings in the United States as well as around the world.

  • Mata Amrtanandamayi Devi

    Mata Amrtanandamayi Devi, also known as Ammachi or Amma, is called the “hugging saint.” Her main ashram is in New York City.

  • Gurumayi Chidvilasananda

    Gurumayi Chidvilasananda is the leader of Siddha Yoga, which was founded by Baba Muktananda. There are ashrams and meditation centers around the world. In the U.S., there are ashrams in New York, Boston and Oakland, Calif.

    Contact: 845-434-2000.
  • Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

    Maharishi Mahesh Yogi is credited with bringing Transcendental Meditation to the West. TM was a major component of the counterculture movement of the 1960s and had many celebrity adherents, including the Beatles and Mia Farrow. He died in 2008, but since 9/11, his followers have pursued “the Maharishi effect,” a power they believe can be found in collective meditation that can be used for good.

    Contact: 1-888-532-7686.
  • Sai Baba

    Sai Baba was an Indian-born guru who claimed between 6 million and 100 million adherents and 130 centers around the world before his death in 2011. He taught the unity of all world religions as different paths to the same God. Sai Baba’s followers credit him with many miracles.

  • Mother Meera

    Mother Meera is an India-based guru with an ashram in Colorado.

Hindu teachers and clergy

  • Pravrajika Vrajaprana

    Pravrajika Vrajaprana is a nun at the Vedanta Society of Santa Barbara in Santa Barbara, Calif. She says two issues confronting contemporary Hinduism are how it is practiced differently outside of India and how Hindus identify themselves – as Hindus or Indians or citizens of the countries in which they live now. Those answers can affect the way they practice the religion and how they pass it on to their children.

  • Gautam Jain

    Gautam Jain is a teacher of Vedanta based at the Vedanta Cultural Foundation in Somerset, N.J.

  • Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami

    Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami is the spiritual leader of the Saiva Siddhanta Church and publisher of Hinduism Todaya magazine of global Hinduism, which is published at Kauai’s Hindu Monastery in Kapaa, Hawaii.

    Contact: 808-822-7032 ext. 227.
  • Naranji Durlabhji Pandya

    Naranji Durlabhji Pandya is the temple priest at the Hindu American Religious Institute in New Cumberland, Pa.

    Contact: 717-774-7750.
  • Swami Yogatmananda

    Swami Yogatmananda is the priest of the Vedanta Society of Providence in Rhode Island.

    Contact: 401-421-3960.

Directories of U.S. Hindu temples and monasteries

  • India NET Hindu Temples

    IndiaNET.com maintains a state-by-state directory of Hindu temples in the United States.

  • HinduMandir.US

    HinduMandir.US maintains a list of Hindu temples in the United States and features photographs of the different American Hindu statues of deities.

Ashrams and religious communities

Related source guides