Since the introduction of Hinduism to America in the late 1800’s, the religion remained insignificant due to the minute Hindu population up until the 1970’s and 80’s, thanks primarily to the dot com boom, coupled with a formal Immigration Services Act. Indians, who are predominantly Hindus, migrated in the thousands to take up available jobs within the IT, medical and other industries, bringing together with them a faith that is both, intriguing and bizarre with its various gods and goddesses.
One of the biggest and most prominent examples of Hindu influences in America is the fact that approximately 20 million Americans practice the ancient physical, spiritual and mental exercise of yoga – one of the six schools of Hindu philosophy. With 800+ temples spread across the United States, festivals such as Holi, the spring festival of colors, is today celebrated in open areas (cordoned by police and city council officials) of major cities such as Texas, New York and California – often with the American public invited to unite with Hindus in celebration.
Another sensitive example; the legendary Kama Sutra. Although wrongly considered to be a manual for tantric sex, the Kama Sutra teaches one of four “human purposes” accordingly to Hindu belief – “wish, desire, love and sensual pleasure”. Certain chapters of this book were translated to English and gained immense popularity in 1990’s with illustrated books that moved millions of dollars in sales. Finally, pop culture. Religious Hindu chants and modern songs from Bollywood are creeping into mainstream American pop culture with examples such as the Hare Krishna mantra appearing in a number of famous songs.
Many of toady’s chart-toppers are a fusion of western pop mixed with Indian chants and/or classical Indian musical instruments, giving it the perfect (and unique) mix of east and west. Today, although Hinduism as a religion remains a mystery to most Americans, its influences are plentiful. From official Hindu prayers being offered at the US senate to sari-clad American actresses showing off their latest eastern attire, peace-loving Hinduism is here to stay in freedom-loving America.