Hinduism became a global religion in the 20th century. For millennia restricted to the Indian subcontinent, Hindus currently reside in some 150 countries. The universal outreach has not been only geographical. Rather, the modern reinterpretation of Hindu ideas and practices has paved the way to attracting converts and sympathizers beyond the Indian people. As during the classical epoch of Hinduism, the modern epoch continues to be prosperous and dynamic in bringing forth new forms, ideas, and practices of Hindu ideas and devotion.
Hindus are today found virtually all over the world, as natives, as descendants of earlier migrants, or as relatively recent arrivals. South Asia is, however, where most Hindus have always lived, where their old and new sacred centers are located, and from where they have migrated elsewhere, carrying with them significant elements of their cultural heritage (including religion and languages). With an estimated population of more than 885 million (13% of the human mass), Hindus as the followers of a world religion occupy the third place, behind Christians and Muslims.
It may be additionally noted here that, according to the U.S. Census Bureau data for 2007, there were 2.57 million Indians counted; it is reasonable to presume that the great majority of them, perhaps well over 1 million, are Hindus. Pakistan, all but 5% of whose population of 175 million consists of Muslims, would be another country with more than 1 million Hindus.
The character and antiquity of Hinduism have been subjects of scholarly debate, particularly in the recent past. It has been argued that Hinduism is not a religion in the sense in which Christianity or Islam is so. It does not have a founder, a revealed book, or a set of fundamentals of belief and practice. Given its subcontinental spread and the presence of regional, cultural, and linguistic diversities, people who are called Hindus by others, and who identify themselves as such in everyday life and at decennial census enumerations, usually display much diversity along regional, caste, and sectarian lines in matters of religious faith and practice. Hinduism is therefore more a family of religions rather than a single, homogeneous faith. The presence of common elements cannot, however, be denied.
Definitional features of particular religions (e.g., Christianity and Islam) should not, of course, set limits but may provide cues to what may be deemed to be the religious life of Hindus. Moreover, Hindu sects usually have the aforementioned characteristics of the Abrahamic religions. Actually, the Vedas too are regarded as revealed scripture by textual pundits, but the Brahmanical notion of revelation is different in the sense that “knowledge” (vidya-) is believed to have been recovered spiritually by the ancient sages rather than received externally by them through a messenger. More important, perhaps, is the fact that today Hindus generally have little acquaintance with the Vedas. If one were to abandon the narrow approach and adopt a more general criterion, such as the notion of the “sacred” or the “holy,” Hinduism is as much a religion as any other.
The internal plurality of Hinduism was conceptualized by the sociologist M. N. Srinivas in a three-tier model comprising local, regional, and all-India or Sanskritic Hinduism. The diversities are most prominent if one focuses on the local level, and the common elements, at the subcontinental level. Enough historical evidence is available about the upward and downward passage of elements of belief and practice to constitute a single but heterogeneous Hinduism.
Besides its character, there is also the question of the historicity of Hinduism. The terms themselves— Hinduism, Hinduismus, hindouisme, induismo, and so on—were coined by Westerners (missionaries, Orientalists) in the late 18th and 19th centuries. It does not follow, however, that the phenomenon that the term designates did not exist earlier. It is more accurate to recognize Hinduism as an evolving set of beliefs and practices going back to the religion of the Vedas (ca. 1500 BCE onward) and beginning to take a form that is today familiar as the Puranas (mythological tales and legends constructed around the theologies of the divinities Shiva, Vishnu, and Devi) came to be composed (300–600 CE). At the beginning of the 11th century, the Persian traveler-scholar al-Béruni observed that Hindus differed fundamentally from Muslims and Buddhists in matters of religion. Regional folklore and literatures throughout the medieval period also contain numerous references to Hindus and Muslims as religious categories.
By the early 19th century, educated Indians also had begun to use the term Hinduism alongside Hindu Dharma. During the struggle for the overthrow of colonial rule, religious identities (Hindu, Sikh, Muslim) were exploited for purposes of political mobilization. It was in this context that the term Hindutva (“Hindu-ness”) emerged to project Hindu claims of historical antiquity and cultural primacy. It was not a religious movement. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, however, Hinduism came in for many reformulations at the hands of social reformers, political leaders, and religious thinkers, attesting to its characteristically dynamic character. The migration of indentured labor, mostly Hindus, to various parts of the world under the auspices of colonialism gave Hinduism a global presence. The fascination in the West for the supposed emancipatory potential of devotional Hinduism during the heyday of the counterculture movement of the 1960s and the arrival there of significant numbers of educated Indians for work opportunities during the closing years of the 20th century gave a further fillip to this process.
Beliefs, Thought, and Practice of Hinduism
Beliefs and Rites
The beliefs that characterize Hinduism range from those that have implications for everyday life (practical religion) to those that constitute abstract metaphysics. We will first focus on the former. Thus, there is the fundamental notion that individual and collective life must be grounded in the twin notions of righteousness and moral duty. The term dharma describes both and is generally employed in modern writings to also stand for the notion of religion. Hinduism is Hindu Dharma. The individual is wholly embedded in the collectivity, which is part and parcel of the cosmic order (rita). The latter admits of no arbitrariness and is akin to the notion of natural law.
Dharma literally means that complex of values and relations that sustains or upholds the social order or, in other words, produces and maintains social coherence. It is not all that different from the Latin religio for “obligation,” which is regarded by many modern scholars as the root of the word religion. Dharma is the foundational value orientation, and dharmic action is the primary goal of individual and social pursuits. The pursuit of dharma is an exercise in moral refinement, and as such, it is a this-worldly ethic.
Concretely, it entails in the case of the young the pursuit of knowledge (the study of scriptures and other forms of knowledge) and the acquisition of practical skills, which become the means of livelihood. Encompassed by dharma, then, is artha, or the rational pursuit in adult life of economic and political goals, and encompassed by both dharma and artha is the pursuit of pleasures, or kaa-ma. Dharma, artha, and kaa-ma constitute a hierarchy of values as well as of goal-oriented activities (purusha-rtha). A fourth goal is often added to these three, namely, moksha, or release from worldly existence, through spiritual endeavor that may include renunciation.
According to traditional sources, humanity shares physical needs with animals, but its defining quality is the capacity for dharma. There is a universally shared substratum of dharmic obligations (sarva sa-dharan dharma); there is considerable variation from person to person according to his or her stage of life (or ashrama, of which four are recognized, viz., brahmacharya, studentship; grihasthya, householdership; vanaprastha, retirement; and sannyasa, renunciation) and social status, most broadly defined in terms of one’s varna (Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaishya, Shudra). The compound term varna-ashrama-dharma captures this context sensitivity. Thus, the king’s dharma (ra-ja dharma) is to ensure that all his subjects are able to follow their traditional dharmas. Hindu society comprises numerous castes (jati), which are ranked according to the varna scheme. General and specific obligations may be relaxed, however, in times of acute stress: For example, dietary taboos may not be enforced during a famine or epidemic. The fourth stage of life, renunciation, which entails withdrawal from social life, is governed by its own dharma or code of conduct.
Dharma is the value base for the performance of purposive actions (karma). In its most general connotation, karma is any action, but specifically it refers to the performance of life cycle rituals (karma ka-nda). Such rituals are many in number, beginning with those relating to conception and including birth, initiation (in the case of clean caste boys), marriage, and death rites. Postmortem food offerings (shraddha) are an important component of Hindu piety. The performance of these rituals is usually carried out under the supervision of Brahman priests, but lower-caste people who may not be served by them employ their own ritual specialists.
Related to the notion of karma as dharmic action is the idea of the fruits of action (karma phala). Inherent in the concept of karma, and of the actor as a moral agent, is the expectation that, besides its worldly consequences, every action carries a positive or negative moral load. It is one’s unalterable fate that the consequences of this accumulation (sanchit karma) must be enjoyed or suffered. It is rarely possible to fully discharge the obligation in one biological lifetime; one may have to be reborn to carry on this work, hence the notion of the endless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, or transmigration of the soul (samsara). It is an ideal to obtain release (moksha) from this chain through spiritual endeavor, but this ultimately depends on divine grace (anugraha).
In an elaborate or simplified form, knowledge about the interrelated notions of dharma, karma, and samsara is widely distributed among Hindus generally. Indeed, these ideas find expression in all Indic religions. Foreigners also have noticed their prevalence. Al-Béruni (already quoted above) characterized the religion of the Hindus in terms of, among other features, belief in the divinity, soul, samsara or metempsychosis, and moksha. Some scholars of Indic religions have noted that the notion of karma is the closest that Hinduism comes to having a doctrinal foundation; indeed, karma and samsara have been said to together constitute the most complete theodicy in the history of religion.
The religious life of the Hindus is dominated by the performance of life cycle rituals but is not exhausted by it. Like the followers of any other faith, they also accord great importance to piety in the hope of receiving divine benediction. While philosophical (Upanishadic) Hinduism is constructed round the abstract notion of an indefinable transcendental reality (Brahman), which is the essence of every individual’s inner self (atman), in the lives of people generally, a loving and forgiving god or goddess, if approached with true devotion, is expected to be the redeemer. In view of the multiplicity of divine beings in Hinduism, a devotee can choose his or her favorite deity (ishta deva/ devī). Vishnu in his 9 (or 10) avatars, notably as Rama and Krishna the heroes of the epic Ramayana (composed in many languages over the centuries) and the Bha-gvata Pura-na (ca. 10th–11th centuries), respectively; Shiva; and Devi (again in many incarnations, as Durga in West Bengal, Meenakshi in Tamil Nadu, and Sharika in Kashmir) are the most widely adored deities.
The most commonly observed form of Hindu worship is the puja. It may be offered at home or in a temple. The object of adoration is an idol or anthropomorphic image (mu-rti), or set of images, representing a deity or deities. The image is “brought to life” by appropriate mantras and treated like a special guest—bathed, perfumed, fed, entertained, and put to bed. The key idea is darshan, seeing and being seen by the deity. Devotees who do not favor image worship read the scriptures (the Bhagavad Gita, ca. 200 BCE, is a favorite text) or engage in the silent repetition of mantras (japa). Fasting as an act of piety or in expectation of boons is also common. All these are, of course, activities for the individual.
Congregational worship is less common. The most common types are pilgrimages to holy places (tīrtha ya-tra-), such as the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna, and the unseen Sarasvati at Prayag, and sound and light rituals called a-rti, which may be held in a temple or any holy place. Devotees chant sacred verses, offer flowers, wave ghee lamps, blow into conch shells, and beat drums, usually at nightfall.
Trans-regional pilgrimages have, for more than a millennium (if not longer), played a crucial part in producing a sense of common religious identity among Hindus of all castes and communities. While pilgrims are on the move everywhere and all the time, some destinations and certain auspicious occasions have special sanctity attached to them; going there, particularly on a very auspicious occasion, is therefore considered particularly meritorious. Beside Hardwar and Prayag in North India, Ujjain in central India and Nashik in the west also may be mentioned. All four are sacred places where rivers meet and where the periodic (astrologically determined) Kumbha Mela (special bathing festival) takes place, when ritual impurities and moral infirmities can be washed away.
Astrology plays a significant part in the religious life of the Hindus, particularly those belonging to the higher castes. The notion of ritual purity, a crucial element in the determination of status within the caste system, is supplemented by the concept of auspiciousness, which primarily is a quality of temporal events. Although a birth in the family causes ritual impurity, it is an auspicious event; a death too results in ritual impurity and is considered inauspicious; marriages are both pure and auspicious. Auspicious timings for important events (e.g., marriage) are determined by consulting an astrologer or an almanac. Astrologers also devise protective or curative rituals to ward off the evil influence of planetary movements on an individual’s well-being.
Astrology and Ayurveda, or traditional Hindu (humoral) medicine, are mutually complementary bodies of sacred knowledge and practice. Their reach is generally confined to upper-caste people, who are served by Brahman priests. Lower-caste people have their own ritual specialists with distinctive methods of divination and the control of disease and misfortune. Expectedly, Brahmans look down on these specialists and their practices, but an outside observer would not find them all that different in their approach to situation management.
Systems of Thought
The highest forms of Brahmanical knowledge include grammar, logic, and metaphysics. Traditionally, six systems of philosophy (darshana) have been recognized, and they are concerned with ontological and epistemological questions. While the Sa-mkhya is considered the foundational system—it posits a dualism between matter (prakriti) and the self (purusha)—it is Vedanta, the monist system, that is the best known. The Vedic corpus contains theological affirmations, ritual procedures, and philosophical speculations. The latter were elaborated and formalized in the body of texts known as the Upanishads (secret knowledge). The Vedanta is a body of commentarial texts within the Vaishnava tradition of the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Brahma Sutra (a theological work concerned with the nature of Brahman, or the Absolute).
Internally diverse, Vedanta philosophy-theology comprises the Advaita (nondualist), Vishishtadvaita (qualified nondualistic), and Dvaita (dualist) traditions. Shankara (ca. 788–820 CE), the principal proponent of Advaita, is generally considered the most outstanding Indian philosopher ever. He asserted the ontological identity of the self (atman) and the Brahman, dismissing their separation as illusion (maya). It is the qualified dualism of Ramanuja (ca. 1017–1137 CE), however, which has been more influential among Hindus generally: His theology valorized the ideas of bhakti and divine grace.
Although Hinduism does not have an externally revealed scripture, from the time of Shankara, the Bhagavad Gita (“The Lord’s Song”) has enjoyed the status of the key text. Placed in the Mahabharata, it is a discourse on the nature of dharma, karma, and moksha and on the importance of true knowledge, which alone can end ignorance and illusion. The moral agent’s true self (atman) is said to be imperishable: This and the obligation to perform the duties required by one’s true nature (svabha-va), socially manifested through the varna scheme, without concern for the consequences, are presented as an ethic of responsibility. True knowledge (dhyana), appropriate conduct (svadharma), and ultimately divine grace received by embracing the path of devotion (bhakti) together constitute the Gita’s theory of action.
Although located within the Vaishnava tradition— the teacher (guru) of the doctrine is Krishna, an avatar of Vishnu—the Gita has been honored by all Brahmanical traditions. Not only Shankara, Ramanuja, and the dualist Madhava (12th to 13th centuries), all from South India, but also the outstanding Shaiva philosopher Abhinavagupta (ca. 960–1050 CE) of Kashmir wrote commentaries on it. In the 20th century, spiritualists like Sri Aurobindo, popular teachers like Swami Prabhupada, founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON; see below), and political leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi have offered their interpretations of the text. Gandhi acknowledged it as a source of enlightenment and comfort and read it as a discourse on the values of detachment and nonviolence or compassion in the discharge of one’s duties.
Medieval and Modern Developments in Hinduism
In the absence of a founder, a single foundational text, a minimal set of fundamentals, and a churchlike organization, Hinduism as a body of belief, thought, and practice has been singularly nondoctrinaire and open. It has a history. The sources of its dynamics have been internal and external. Hinduism has grown through a ceaseless intercourse between regional Brahmanical traditions and local traditions. It even borrowed from Buddhism and Jainism, which grew out of and in significant respects in opposition to it. Historians have noted both the absorptive capacities of Hinduism and its syncretistic tendencies.
The foregoing characteristics of Hinduism are perhaps best illustrated by the ideals of bhakti or religious devotion. Some of the earliest Vedic hymns of praise or solicitation, addressed to the powers of nature anthropomorphized as gods, may well be considered the seeds of this perennial spirituality. These seeds germinated in the soil of Tamil Nadu, India, nearly 2,000 years ago, spread elsewhere, and enlivened both Vaishnava and Shaiva traditions. Bhakti has produced some of the world’s most ecstatic religious poetry, with the human longing for union with the divine as its core theme. It considers all devotees equally worthy, irrespective of caste and gender. By medieval times, bhakti had become a subcontinental phenomenon, which had been enriched by the encounter with SufiIslam. New sects that maintained an ambiguous relationship with Hinduism (e.g., the Kabir Panth) emerged. A syncretic sant (“seeker of truth”) tradition also took shape in North India between the 15th and 17th centuries, which derived its constitutive elements of faith and practice from Vaishnava bhakti, SufiIslam, and a yoga cult.
Indeed, a new religion was born in this setting of immense religious fervor. Nanak Dev (1469– 1539 CE), an educated Punjabi Hindu of Khatri caste, who was familiar but largely dissatisfied with both Hinduism and Islam as practiced in his time, laid the foundations of a new religious tradition, which his followers called the Nanak Panth and is now known as Sikhism (from the word sikha, disciple). While the four major Indic religions— Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism— clearly are distinct from one another, they share some key ideas, such as dharma and karma, and practices, notably pilgrimage to holy places.
Modern developments in Hinduism had their origins in the impact throughout the 19th century of Western scholarship, political ideas, and Christianity. The emergence of interest in Sanskrit language and literature and Hindu philosophy followed the establishment of the colonial administration and went hand in hand with proselytization by Christian missionaries. Early appreciation of the benefits of British rule and admiration for certain aspects of the Christian faith gradually gave way to religious reform and revivalism and nationalist stirrings among educated Hindus.
The founding of the Arya Samaj by Dayananda Sarasvati (1824–1883) in western India and its successes in northern India represented the revivalist- reformist response to the challenge of the West; the projection of Vedantic Hinduism as the religion of humanity by Swami Vivekananda (1870–1902) was a modernist response. Confronted in Punjab with a situation in which missionary activity had the tacit support of the colonial administration, Dayananda adopted a two-pronged strategy. First, he called on Hindus to return to the “true” Vedic religion and to abandon later mythology and ritualism; second, he introduced the procedure for reconversion through a ritual of purification. Adopting a stance of total intolerance toward Islam and Christianity, he stressed the importance of solidarity among the followers of the Vedic religion, whom he called the Aryas, “noble people.” The Arya Samaj did not explicitly have political objectives, but it created an organizational framework that was later used by others for such purposes.
In Bengal, efforts to produce a syncretic religion from elements drawn from Vedanta and Unitarian Christianity did not long survive their initiator, Ram Mohan Roy (1772–1833). A more strident reassertion of Vedanta as the one true, complete, and universal religion, which was yet tolerant of other religions, was made by Vivekananda. His most urgent concern was to purify Hinduism of Puranic and other accretions and to rid Hindu society of internal divisions. More important, perhaps, he put forward the ideal of service to humanity as the highest form of spiritualism, claiming that it was rooted in the teachings of his spiritual master, Ramakrishna. The Ramakrishna Paramahamsa Mission, founded in 1897, became a movement that today has a worldwide presence.
An honest, nonegoistic concern for the sufferings of others was identified as true religiousness by Mohandas Gandhi (1869–1948), better known as the Mahatma (“great soul”), a term of great respect generally applied to holy persons among Hindus and bestowed on Gandhi by the distinguished littérateur Rabindranath Tagore (1861–1941). Gandhi considered himself a Hindu, not merely by birth but by conviction. He rejected the authority of tradition and scriptural texts and subjected every belief, convention, and practice to the test of moral reason and, eventually, the conscience. It is thus that he came to reject the ritual of animal sacrifice and the practice of untouchability (avoidance of direct contact by upper-caste Hindus with lowercaste people).
Gandhi studied the scriptures of other major religions and acknowledged deep indebtedness to Jainism and Christianity. From the former, he adopted the doctrine of the “many-sidedness” of reality (aneka-ntava-d), and from the Sermon on the Mount (in the New Testament), he derived the strategy of nonviolent passive resistance. He regarded all religions to be true, since the final objective—the search for Truth—was the same, and at the same time imperfect, because of the limitations of human understanding. Gandhi regarded religious plurality a human treasure, even a divine blessing, and stood for participatory pluralism. He considered conversion from one religion to another a matter of conscience but believed it unnecessary. The correct approach, he maintained, was to refine one’s religious sensibility within the framework of the tradition into which one was born.
Gandhi rejected the separation of religious and secular life. Politics was, he said, the form in which dharma presents itself in the modern age. His worldview was religious, but he supported the concept of the secular state and expected that it would completely refrain from interference in religious affairs. He deemed it as the moral responsibility of Hindus as the majority community of India (both before and after the partition of the subcontinent in 1947) to provide protection to all religious minorities. It was this that led to his assassination in 1948 at the hands of a Hindu bigot just before the commencement of a multireligious prayer meeting.
Hinduism, it seems, has been presented to its followers as a way of life by three kinds of exemplars, namely, those who focus on practice, like Gandhi did; those who stress on introspection, as Sri Aurobindo (1872–1950) did; and those who place personal experience above all other kinds of religiousness as Ramana Mahrishi (1879–1950) did. Aurobindo maintained an evolutionary perspective both on external reality as an expression of the Absolute and on the maturation of spirituality. He thus opposed those elements of Advaitic thought that posit the notion of illusion in appearances. The Maharshi (“great seer”), however, remained firmly committed to the unity of Brahman and atman.
Among the religious teachers active in India in recent years was Sathya Sai Baba (1926–2011), who had a vast following at home and abroad. He was reputed to possess miraculous powers; it was his support to educational and health care institutions that perhaps is the more notable aspect of his mission. Other Hindu religious teachers also were active in the second half of the 20th century, but some of them chose to work abroad, where their appeal was greater among those not born as Hindus. Tradition does not, however, recognize formal conversion as legitimate.
Gurus apart, Hinduism’s vitality results from the activities of Hindus generally. Old divinities sometimes come alive again, as is illustrated by the emergence in recent years of Vaishnav Devi as a beneficent goddess. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims visit her shrine near Jammu every year. Not so long ago, a new goddess, Santoshi Ma, was added to the pantheon, but her cult seems to have weakened. Big and small temples are coming up everywhere, pilgrimages attract millions, and allnight bhajan-singing neighborhood groups are common. In short, Hinduism is well and alive today at home and abroad.
Hinduism as a Global Religion
Traditionally, birth was the only way one could acquire Hindu identity, but one could lose it through many kinds of misconduct, one of which was the crossing of the seas. The Hindu way of life could be lived only in the sacred land of India, known to the ancients by names such as Jambu Dvipa and Bharatvarsha. Transgression of the rules was uncommon but not absent.
As early as the fifth century BCE, a Hindu prince is said to have settled in Sri Lanka. Later, in the first century CE, a Brahman adventurer founded a kingdom comprising Cambodia and the adjacent lands. Archaeological and cultural evidence testifies to the widespread presence of Hinduism and a rich civilizational synthesis in Southeast Asia. Its greatest monument is the world heritage site of Angkor Vat, a temple complex built by the Hindu king Suryavarman (1112–1152 CE).
Hinduism as a live religious tradition, which is traced back to the ninth century, survives among more than 3 million Hindus of the island of Bali (Indonesia), constituting 92% of its population. Among them, Brahman priests occupy a central place in society, but non-Brahman ritual specialists also exist. Temple rituals and ancestor worship are prominent features of Balinese Hinduism. Pura- Besa-kih, a complex of 22 public temples, where Shiva-Ra – ditya, Brahma, and Vishnu are worshipped, is highly revered. Ancestor worship distinguishes between those ancestors who are in the process of being purified and those who have been fully purified and attained divine status as a deva.
In more recent times, from the early 19th century onward, European colonizers carried indentured Indian laborers, mostly Hindus, to faraway places such as the Caribbean Islands, South Africa, and Fiji. Voluntary migrations also occurred, for instance, to east and central Africa and Southeast Asia. As these migrant communities stabilized, their social and religious lives underwent changes marked by the effort to both preserve old Hindu elements and adopt local elements.
A most significant event in the globalization of Hinduism was the 2-year stay of Swami Vivekananda in the United States, where he went in 1892 to attend the first World Parliament of Religions. His incluvist message of religious pluralism aroused considerable interest in Hindu philosophy and yoga (techniques of physical self-discipline and mental concentration). He established the Vedanta society for the propagation of Advaita (humanity incarnates the divinity) and social service as the true religion.
Yoga has found wide appeal in the West. In 1959, Maharshi Mahesh Yogi (d. 2008), the originator of Transcendental Meditation (TM) arrived in the United States. Claiming Vedic inspiration, he asserted that TM was a scientifically validated method of self-improvement. Other gurus focused more on piety. The most successful of them was Bhaktivedanta Swami Prahbupada (1896–1977), who reached the United States in 1965 and established the ISKCON (also known as Hare Krishna), teaching theistic devotionalism constructed around a cult of the Vaishnava god Krishna. This is now an international movement. TM too found followers in Europe and the United Kingdom. The Swaminarayan sect (established in Gujarat in the early 19th century) reached Britain in the 1950s, where it now has a large following among Indian immigrants.
The closing decades of the 20th century witnessed the migration of relatively large numbers of highly educated and professionally competent Hindus to the West, particularly the United States. While regional community, caste, and linguistic divisions among them seem to be weakening, a rich, although abridged, religious life survives. Newly built temple complexes have become a crucial symbol of Hindu identity. Indeed, serious observers claim that Hinduism is being institutionalized as an American religion within the framework of multiculturalism. It is noteworthy that Hindu migrants who support right-wing politics in India are enthusiasts of globalization and proud of Hinduism as a world religion.
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