Diminishing Hindu Population in Bangladesh From the Perspective of Ethnic Cleansing: A Conscious Unawareness? - Hindu American Foundation
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Diminishing Hindu Population in Bangladesh From the Perspective of Ethnic Cleansing: A Conscious Unawareness?

By January 16, 2015 September 21st, 2020 No Comments

The following guest post features an article on Bangladesh authored by Anirban Choudhury Arup (Lawyer, Dhaka Bar Association, Dhaka, Bangladesh) and Priyanka Bose Kanta (Researcher, Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Alliance). The authors can be reached at anirban.law.bd@gmail.com (Anirban Choudhury) and kantabose8@gmail.com (Priyanka Bose Kanta).

To download a pdf version of this article with a complete list of citations, please click here.


“The dead, it is said, do not live to tell the tale, but this is not true in ethnic cleansing. The dead do tell the tale; it is the living who are reluctant to speak.“ – Horowitz, 2001.

A bitter fact in today’s Bangladesh is that the Hindu population is dying out. The narrative that describes the vanishing Hindu minority, which once comprised 31% of the population in 1947 and dwindled to a meager 9% by 2002, reflects this sad reality.  At the time of India’s partition in 1947, Hindus comprised just under one in three East Pakistanis. When East Pakistan became Bangladesh in 1971, they were under one in five; thirty years later less than one in ten; and according to some estimates, less than 8% today. Utilizing demographic studies and other methods, Professor Sachi Dastidar of the State University of New York calculates that well over 49 million Hindus are missing today.

Discrimination towards the Hindu community in Bangladesh is both visible and hidden.The state’s bias in the Constitution and its reluctance to address human rights violations against minorities makes this discrimination evident. Moreover, there has been a long history of violence and repression against Hindus in Bangladesh, which has led to the community’s dramatic decline. This infamous history consists of many barbaric episodes of violence against Hindus over the years, including attacks in the aftermath of the Babri Mosque incident in India in the 1990s, the 2001 post election violence, and the vast appropriation of land under the Vested Property Act.

After initially embracing secularism in the post-independence era, Bangladesh is now known primarily as a moderate Muslim country. The atmosphere is certainly a changed one. The secularist era implied an equal existence for all, while the current period implies that other people exist because Muslims are moderate in Bangladesh. As a result of systematic human rights violations and discrimination, the Hindu population is now rapidly leaving Bangladesh at an alarming rate, more than that of any other time. This reinforces the allegation that Bangladeshi society is hostile toward the Hindu community.

The question then remains whether this migration of Hindus from Bangladesh amounts to ethnic cleansing.

Ethnic cleansing is a blanket term that covers a host of criminal offenses, rather than any one specific crime. Despite its recurrence, ethnic cleansing nonetheless defies easy definition. At one end it is virtually indistinguishable from forced emigration and population exchange, while at the other it merges with offenses like deportation, genocide and rape. Although there are many definitions and explanations of ethnic cleansing in the arena of international law, there are some components common to most of them. To narrow those elements down into one simple definition, ethnic cleansing is the attempt to create ethnically homogeneous geographic areas through the systematic forced removal or displacement of persons belonging to particular social groups. This systematic removal may consist of heinous crimes against such group.

The repeated incidents of violence as well as discrimination infer hatred towards a community entrenched in a nation’s social structure. Being victims of oppression, many Bangladeshi Hindus are forced to leave the country, while discrimination impels many others to seek better refuge in another country. The authors argue that these incidents indicate a discriminatory social policy towards the Hindu community in Bangladesh, which aims at and results in the unwilling departure of Hindus from their motherland.

This article intends to narrate the causes behind the gradual depletion of Hindus from Bangladesh in the context of ethnic cleansing. The authors will endeavor to find the most applicable definition of ethnic cleansing which would reflect the factors surrounding the current forced migration of Hindus from Bangladesh. Specifically, it will attempt to examine the prevailing situation in Bangladesh utilizing the definitions provided under international law. In doing so, the authors shall relay anecdotes and narratives of atrocities committed against Hindus in Bangladesh.

Discriminatory provisions in the Constitution, the repeated occurrence of atrocities, covert discrimination at both the governmental and societal level, and the violation of property rights of Hindus under the veil of biased laws will collectively comprise the primary basis for discussion in this article.

Atrocities on minorities: Tragedy or terror?

In the summary of his report on the events that transpired during the 1971 War of Independence from Pakistan, dated November 1, 1971, the late U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy (D – Massachusetts) wrote:

Hardest hit have been members of the Hindu community who have been robbed of their lands and shops, systematically slaughtered, and in some places, painted with yellow patches marked ‘H’. All of this has been officially sanctioned, ordered and implemented under martial law from Islamabad.

Unfortunately, even in independent and secular Bangladesh, the Hindu population has been suffering on account of its religious identity. Soon after independence in 1971, for instance, the government violated the religious freedom of Hindus when it demolished the remnants of Ramna Kalibari, a sacred and historic Hindu temple situated in Dhaka. The destroyed relics were the last symbol of this historical temple after it previously endured a massive attack by Pakistani invaders in 1971.  After the demolition, the land owned by the temple was transferred over to Dhaka Club, a recreation center for the elites.

Furthermore, many Hindu temples and properties were looted and demolished during communal riots in the early 1990s. In December 1992, following the infamous Babri Mosque incident in India, hundreds of temples in Bangladesh were demolished, properties were looted, and Hindu women were raped and killed. The anti-Hindu violence in December 1992 was the worst in terms of damage and destruction.

Several months after the riots, in mid-1993, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) led-government issued two orders, which were interpreted as sanctioning the persecution of religious minorities. Specifically, these orders from the Home Ministry asked commercial banks to: (1) control withdrawal of substantial cash money by account holders from the Hindu community, and (2) stop disbursement of business loans to the Hindu community in the districts adjoining the India-Bangladesh border.

Militant attacks against Hindus in Bangladesh escalated dramatically following the October 2001 general election that brought the BNP to power in coalition with hard-line Islamist parties. Following the elections, the BNP coalition and its supporters unleashed a large-scale campaign of violence targeting the Hindu community that lasted more than 150 days. During that period, there were reportedly more than 10,000 cases of human rights abuses committed against minorities. Hindu homes were looted, vandalized, and burned and Hindu temples and sacred sites were destroyed.  Scores of Hindu women and girls were raped.  In some cases, they were gang raped in front of their male relatives. Hindus were also assaulted on the streets, in their homes, and at their workplaces. “Systematic attacks resulted in a mass migration of Hindus to India and in particular to the bordering state of Tripura. The government did little to prosecute or investigate the violence.”

More than a decade later, on February 28 2013, the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) sentenced Delwar Hossain Sayeedi (Vice President of Jamaat-e- Islami) to death for committing crimes against humanity during the 1971 War of Independence. Following the sentence, activists of Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing, Islami Chhatra Shibir, attacked Hindus in different parts of the country. Hindu properties were looted, Hindu houses were burnt to ashes, and Hindu temples were desecrated and set on fire. And in early 2014, during elections and post-poll violence, armed gangs attacked minority communities, mostly in the southwestern and northern districts, including Jessore, Satkhira, Thakurgaon, Panchagarh, Chittagong, Nilphamari, Kurgram, Lalmonirhat, Satkhira, Gaibandha and Dinajpur. International aid agencies estimated that as many as 5,000 families were affected.  This wave of violence against the Hindu community was unprecedented and weighed heavily on conscientious and civilized citizens of Bangladesh of all religions.

Chronicle of constitutional discrimination: Deliberate marginalization

Cultural pluralism had historically been the key feature of the Indian subcontinent’s social structure, but it suffered a significant blow when the subcontinent was divided by the controversial “Two Nation Theory” in 1947. From that experience, the East Pakistani people realized that a nation cannot be formed solely on the basis of religion and that proper democracy was the ideal path. The 1971 Liberation War was a bitter reminder of this fact.

In independent Bangladesh, the 1972 Constitution contained all democratic principles, including secularism, which were the basis of our morale in 1971. That fabric was ultimately ruptured by subsequent governments, who shrewdly utilized religion as a weapon to deceive the country’s citizens.  In particular, the Fourth Amendment, which was considered the most debated amendment in the constitutional history of Bangladesh, altered and virtually destroyed all basic and essential features of the Constitution, particularly the core democratic values it established.  In January 1975, the Constitution (Fourth Amendment) Act 1975 was passed transforming the Constitution beyond any semblance of its original form.

Eventually, the short- lived government of Mustaque Ahmed (August – November 1975),  brought to power at the behest of young military officers, declared the “People’s Republic of Bangladesh” as the “Islamic Republic of Bangladesh” over state radio. And later in 1977, General Ziaur Rahman passed a presidential decree that removed the principle of secularism from the preamble of the Constitution and added a clause that provided “absolute trust and faith in the Almighty Allah.” The decree was subsequently legitimized by the second parliament of Bangladesh. Similarly, during General Rahman’s regime, a purely Islamic address `Bismillaher Rahmaner Rahim’ was inserted at the beginning of the Constitutional text.

While these events undermined secularist notions in the 1972 Constitution, General Hussein Muhammad Ershad went a step further in 1988 and perpetuated religion-based politics by officially making Islam the state religion through the 8th amendment to the Constitution.

With the annulment of the 5th amendment in 2010, the concept of secularism was, at least in part, reinstated as one of the four fundamental principles in the Constitution that were originally contained in the preamble of the 1972 version. But, inspite of the removal of the 5th amendment, the true meaning of secularism as enunciated during the early 1970’s has yet to be applied to our society. This is evident from the presence of contradictory terms – secularism as a state policy and Islam as a state religion. A Constitution is not only a legal document, it is a political document. It signifies the political consensus of a citizenry, and thus, every word in it bears a specific political connotation.

Consequently, if we agree that secularism is interlinked with democracy and that these principles, among others, were at the core of our liberationist zeal in 1971, then the presence of other contradictory clauses in the Constitution is both legally and politically confounding and inconsistent.

In Bangladeshi constitutional history, secularism has never meant profanity against a religion, but rather inferred a prohibition on the state’s ability to grant political status in favour of any one religion.  But when the “State Religion Islam” clause is inserted into a political document such as the Constitution, it creates widespread political implications and questions regarding the status of minorities. For instance, when citizens are from religions other than the “state religion,” are they denying the Constitution by their respective beliefs? And if so, what are the consequences when these citizens can’t help their religious identities?

The relationship between the secularism clause and the state religion clause in Bangladesh’s Constitution is too vague to answer these questions and leaves uncertain which clause ultimately prevails. The state machinery is silent on this issue and the state’s response in minority oppression cases is far too slow, which tends to lead Hindus to believe that the constitutional interpretation is in reality against secularism.

Low intensity violence: Saga of hidden discrimination

Whether Hindus as well as other minorities are discriminated against compared to Muslims is a question of fact. But the facts lead one to believe in the existence of such discrimination. The liberation war took a heavy toll on the lives of the Hindu population in Bangladesh. Many Hindus laid down their lives for the cause of independence, yet only a handful of them received state recognition for their deeds. Moreover, few minorities are hired in positions of power and prestige, so there is little or no representation of them in the government.  The representation of Hindus, for instance, at all levels of government and in the civil service are exceedingly low relative to their population. Dr. Samir Sarkar shows that while Hindu representation in parliament in 1954 (pre-independence era) was nearly 25%, it dwindled to less than 3% at later stages.

Similarly, prestigious posts in the Bangladesh Army, such as Colonel, Lieutenant General, Major General, and Brigadier, among others, include less than 5% Hindu participation, while representation in the navy, air force, and border guard regiment are negligible.  The situation with the Bangladesh police is slightly better, though this is unsatisfactory as well. Moreover, Hindu youths frequently allege that merely because of their religious beliefs, they are generally not recruited in the Defense and Foreign Services of Bangladesh as they are thought to have an unnatural tie with neighbouring India.

The jobs in the Foreign Service are the most lucrative civil service positions in Bangladesh. Coincidentally, this sector contains almost no Hindu representation. And Hindu representation at the officer level in the Administration is nearly non-existent. There are also reports of discrimination in the promotion of the few Hindu officials in the Administration. Furthermore, in the post liberation war governments, there have been very few members of the Hindu community serving as ministers and cabinet secretaries relative to their population.

Have there ever been any Hindu Foreign, Defense or Finance Ministers? Can a Hindu ever be a President of Bangladesh? Although it is arguable that there may not be suitable candidates, the circumstances are not conducive to providing opportunities for members of the Hindu community. It is a vicious circle indeed.

In the education sector, there are no statistics that clearly show discrimination against Hindu students. But the bias becomes obvious when one sees the extinction of age old TOLE (a traditional Sanskrit based institution to teach children basic learning in line with Hindu ideology) or Sanskrit Colleges, versus the enormous investment in Madrasas. Additionally, in some schools there are no teachers that can teach religious precepts to Hindu students. Moreover, daily media reports and social media stories narrate that Hindu students in Bangladeshi Universities are treated differently by right-wing teachers.

The Bangladeshi Government has also promoted discriminatory treatment against minorities by officially encouraging conversion to Islam through incentives. According to the Bangladesh government religious ministry circular number 2/a-7/91-92, dated 28 November 1991, newly converted Muslims were paid cash doles through budgetary allocations in the name of purported rehabilitation. This trend continues till today, albeit informally. Similarly, cremation grounds are taken over by force in cities such as Postagola, Dhaka and in others as well.

Political parties, despite electoral promises in their election manifestos, have failed to stand shoulder to shoulder with minorities. Not a single political party has ever come forward to sincerely support a cause of the minorities. Instead of protecting the minorities, the Government of Bangladesh has always tried to hide the whole gamut of discrimination and violence behind an intricate fabric of lies.

The infamous history of vested properties

Vested properties, otherwise broadly referred to as enemy properties, have been used as a means to oppress minorities in Bangladesh, especially the Hindu community. The concept of enemy properties in any legal system implies that the benefit arising out of such properties should not be used for an enemy state. In the history of the sub-continent’s legal system, the Defence of India Act,1939 and Rules were promulgated at the onset of World War II, which contained a provision for vesting all properties of an enemy upon a custodian.

After the emergence of Pakistan as a state, there were numerous discriminatory laws in place against non-Muslims. These statutes were not discriminatory on their face, nonetheless, they proved to be discriminatory under the prevailing circumstances. In 1965, war broke out between India and Pakistan. As the two states had been divided on the basis of religious identities, the state machinery of Pakistan was never sympathetic towards its non-Muslim citizens, particularly Hindus. The situation became worse during the 1965 war. Eventually, many Hindus had to flee from the country to neighbouring India. On September 6, 1965, a state of emergency was declared and the Defence of Pakistan Ordinance and Rules were promulgated with nearly the same language as contained in the 1939 Act.

This Act contained rules regarding “enemy” and “enemy properties.”  Many Hindus, who had to flee to India, were termed as supporters of India, and their properties were vested as “enemy properties” upon the Government.  Rule 182 of the aforesaid rules authorized the Central Government to appoint a custodian of enemy properties and with specific accompanying powers. In addition, the Enemy Property (Custody and Registration) Order 1965 provided for preventing the payment of any money to an enemy firm and to preserve the enemy properties during the war.

Many of these temporary wartime measures existed even after the war came to an end. Although the Emergency was called off and the 1965 Ordinance and Rules was repealed in 1969, new legislation known as the Enemy Property (Continuance of Emergency Provisions) Ordinance 1969 was enacted, which continued some of the provisions regarding enemy properties from the previously repealed rules. Consequently, the plight for those people fleeing Pakistan, mostly non-Muslims, persisted as their properties continued to be vested.

Despite the emergence of Bangladesh in 1971, the oppressing law of 1969 remained in force. Bangladesh was in no way a successor state of Pakistan and therefore could not be termed as an automatic enemy of India. Still, the 1969 Ordinance was arguably continued by the Laws Continuance Enforcement Order, 1971. The Ordinance was repealed in 1974, but simultaneously a new law was enacted in its place called the Vested and Non-resident Property (Administration) Act (VPA), 1974.

This Act specifically vested former “enemy properties” upon the Government and thus, became the actual successor of the 1969 Ordinance. Under this Act, though the Government was liable for management of the properties and tasked with returning them to their rightful owners in due time, in practice subsequent regimes actually had no intention of returning them. In many instances, when a person left the country for any reason, whether temporarily or permanently, they were designated as an “enemy” under the VPA, and their property was “vested” or seized by the state.  And frequently, when one Hindu member of a family left the country, the family’s entire property was confiscated.

After a prolonged movement against it, the Act was finally repealed in 2001 with the enactment of the Restoration of Vested Property Act. However, the Restoration of Vested Property Act still contained several flawed provisions. For instance, this new Act had no effect upon a large amount of land confiscated after 1969 and thus was insufficient to allay the plight  of many victims. The Act was amended in 2002, but its procedures only started very recently. Until all the confiscated properties are returned to their rightful owners, the stigma of the Enemy/Vested Property Act will keep haunting our national ideals.

Ethnic cleansing in international law: A glimpse

In spite of being frequently used, the term “ethnic cleansing” has not been clearly defined in international documents; rather it has been associated with a number of other offenses.  Reportedly, the terminology was first used in the context of the erstwhile Yugoslavia to describe certain human rights and humanitarian provisions in the territories of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia.

With  the  adoption  of Security Council Resolution 819 in the same context as the former Yugoslavia,  however,  there  was a  move  in  the  direction of legal recognition for the term,  as the Security Council condemned “any taking or acquisition of territory by the threat or use of force, including  through  the  practice of ‘ethnic cleansing’ as ‘unlawful and unacceptable’.” Security Council resolutions are binding upon all United Nations (UN) member states as per articles 24 and 25 of the UN Charter. Yet, the extent and nature of a binding resolution can be ascertained only according to the language used. The mere condemnation referenced above in Resolution 819 lacked the stricture to oblige state parties to act, though it still had normative value.

In the context of the present discussion, ethnic cleansing has more proximity with crimes against humanity. The terminology “crimes against humanity” covers a vast spectrum, sufficient enough to relate to this discourse. Such crimes have been articulated in article 7 of the Rome Statute and under article 5 any commission of such acts has been made triable. Links between these two have been established by many International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) cases.

For instance it was held in the Nikolić case that: “The implementation of that discriminatory policy, commonly referred to as “ethnic cleansing”, over the region of Vlasenica alone seems to have been so wide-spread as to fall within the Tribunal‘s jurisdiction under Article 5.”

In another case, ethnic cleansing was associated with crimes against humanity as it stated: “It does appear; […] relative to the events subject to its review, that a deliberate and systematic line of conduct called “ethnic cleansing” has been substantiated […].”

The word “systematic” draws special attention here. Article 7 of the Rome statute provides that: “….. ‘crime against humanity’ means any of the following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack.”

In the above definition, two adjectives “systematic” and “widespread” are interconnected with the conjunction “or”; not “and”. This enables the provision to include a wide range of activities within the definition. However, there are no specific parameters to measure these two elements; they need to be determined on a case-by-case basis. Also, the term “attack” has been defined as any mistreatment of any civilian population during peace or war, which is broad enough to include any ill-treatment against a definite population.

Similarly, the elements of crimes against humanity, primarily the “systematic” or “widespread” requirement has been held as a condition of ethnic cleansing. In the words of Mr. Tadeusz Mazowiecki,  the  special  rapporteur  of  the  Commission  on  Human  Rights,  on  the situation  of  human  rights  in  the  territory  of  the  former  Yugoslavia: “Ethnic  cleansing  may  be  equated  with  the  systematic  purge  of  the  civilian population  based  on  ethnic  criteria,  with  the  view  to  forcing  it  to  abandon the territories where it lives.”

When ethnic cleansing can be termed as a crime against humanity, the protection of minorities is a recognized privilege. For instance, article 2 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), 1948 provide as follows:

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Likewise, article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966 provides:

In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the right, in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practise their own religion, or to use their own language.

There are also several regional instances of this, such as the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities,1998 and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages,1992 in Europe.

Ethnic cleansing: How far and why it relates to the prevailing situation in Bangladesh  

At the most general level, ethnic cleansing can be understood as the “systematic” expulsion of an “undesirable” population from a given territory due to discrimination based on religious, ethnic, political, strategic, ideological differences, or a combination of these. In earlier cases, state participation was held as an essential element of ethnic cleansing and thus, a part of the “systematic” element. But later case law provided a distinction between these two and held that no formal policy needs to be shown to substantiate the claim of systematic occurrences.

The word “systematic” has been defined in the leading case of Akayesu, (Trial Chamber), September 2, 1998, para. 580:

The concept of ‘systematic’ may be defined as thoroughly organised and following a regular pattern on the basis of a common policy involving substantial public or private resources.  There is no requirement that this policy must be adopted formally as the policy of a state.  There must however be some kind of preconceived plan or policy.

According to this definition, a planned, repetitive course of action is enough to support the allegation of ethnic cleansing.

The Rome Statute states that crimes against humanity indicate attacks against a particular civilian group pursuant to any state or organizational policy. This was supported by the preparatory committee in the Finalized Draft Text of the Elements of Crime. However, this provision was accompanied by a footnote concluding that:

A policy which has a civilian population as the object of the attack would be implemented by State or organizational action. Such a policy may, in exceptional circumstances, be implemented by a deliberate failure to take action, which is consciously aimed at encouraging such attack.  

From this it is clear that it is not only an active state policy that may constitute an element of crimes against humanity, but also the failure to protect a population against  an attack, or the failure to suppress any such attack.

Accordingly, planned violence against a particular group has been held to be “systematic” by case law; while state failure to protect that group can also constitute a crime against humanity as well as a case of ethnic cleansing. In the context of Bangladesh, repeated occurrences of discrimination and the state’s unwillingness to protect minorities are evident, as noted in previous parts of this article.

Despite being home to profuse cultural diversity, the subcontinent has also witnessed the most brutal religious confrontations. Perhaps the inheritance of this history was sufficient to instill communal feelings among the mass population. That is why secularism was never a popular concept for the majority of the majorities, though Bangladeshi secularism was never a godless atheism. In order to claim support and recognition from the so-called Muslim world, an effort to be portrayed as an “Islamic State” was initiated soon after Bangladesh’s independence.

Though it arose out of a contextual necessity, this iconic compromise provided a huge opportunity for subsequent rulers to divert people’s attention away from secularism. With a view to claiming support from the majority, these regimes continuously tried to shape the country in an Islamic mould. Eventually, the Maududian theory of “political Islam” and an “Islamic State” found a strong base in Bangladesh.

The idea of an “Islamic State” was in direct conflict with a democratic ideology and was unacceptable to the nation’s minorities as well as it’s liberal population. Yet, the concept of an “Islamic State” garnered support from the general populace and helped in the rise of religious fundamentalism. Bangladeshi Hindus have been the helpless victims of this prevailing atmosphere for much of the post-independence period and the State has been surprisingly reluctant to protect them and in fact acted in an inexplicable manner on several occasions.

Systematic human rights violations against minorities started immediately after the independence of Bangladesh, even though it emerged as a secular state. The unlawful continuance of the vesting of Hindu properties was perhaps the first crucial symbol of this persecution. This was followed by the subsequent land confiscation and demolition of Ramna Kali Mandir ruins. Moreover, the 1989 attack by Muslims on the Hindu community in Daudkandi and Comilla, and the 1990’s communal riots resulting in the demolition of a number of Hindu temples were additional glaring examples of human rights abuses against Hindus.

Furthermore, the post-election violence in 2001; the attacks following the pronouncement of the verdict in the trial of war criminal Delwar Hussain Sayeedi in 2013; and the post-poll violence, particularly targeting Hindus, in January of 2014, collectively demonstrate a pattern of systematic persecution. The violence is perhaps the most flagrant example of the “systematic” element required for ethnic cleansing or crimes against humanity. Similarly, attacks on a Hindu locality for any trivial issue, ransacking properties and ordering them to leave the country and go to India, and conditions forcing them to escape are all commonplace and systematic in nature.

Hindus in Bangladesh also regularly complain about routine humiliation by being addressed as ‘infidels.’ Additionally, there is blatant discrimination in access to higher education, employment and business opportunities, political disenfranchisement, and incarceration by implication in fictitious cases. At the same time, vandalism and the destruction of deities and temples, forced conversions, abductions, rape and forced marriages to the rapist, and gang rape are regularly reported in the media.

All of these above mentioned atrocities and types of discrimination have resulted in lower levels of participation of minorities in educational institutions, parliament, the cabinet, the secretariat, reputable work sectors, military forces, civil service positions and other spheres of public life. These incidents have further forced Hindus to seek refuge in neighboring countries and those who have the financial ability to do so are immigrating to developed countries.

The reluctance of successive governments to send law enforcement to areas that have witnessed atrocities against minorities or not sending them at all, and the failure to promote and uphold the rights of minorities is all too apparent. Finally, state indifference in prosecuting perpetrators of crimes against minorities is a common phenomena.


Bangladesh’s Hindu population has been the victim of a systematic expulsion since soon after the emergence of the state. The pattern of severe discrimination and atrocities that have occurred in Bangladesh resemble the offense of ethnic cleansing, as defined under international law. As a result, we have strived to use the paradigm of ethnic cleansing when examining the exodus of Hindus from the country.

Discrimination enshrined in the Constitution, or the supreme law of the land, horrific incidents of violence, hidden discrimination that violates basic rights, and the legalized infringement of property rights are the major facets of the victimization of Hindus in Bangladesh. From these incidents and discrimination, the state’s reluctance to protect and promote the rights and safety of Hindus is clearly visible. While current and past Bangladeshi governments have repeatedly noted that the perpetrators of violence were not government agents, they have nonetheless been complicit in such acts by prosecuting few and punishing even fewer.

Perhaps because there are no concentration camps or killing fields and because the decimation of Bangladeshi Hindus has been occurring slowly but steadily over decades, it has been particularly difficult to get people to recognize it.

The silent process of ethnic cleansing serves its purpose, as the intent need not necessarily be to physically annihilate an entire victim group. A group can be practically destroyed by killing its political elite, intellectuals and people in general. The vacuum created by these killings leaves little or no chance for Hindus to thrive in Bangladesh as a distinct entity with self-respect and high ambitions. And that is how the quiet case of ethnic cleansing is taking place in Bangladesh – by killing the souls of Hindus.

Through this article, we appeal to common citizens from every country around the world and the larger global conscience to take notice of the suffering of minorities in Bangladesh. Those responsible for oppressing minorities must be held accountable for their actions, including the ethnic cleansing of Hindus and the murder and widespread violation of human rights of minority communities.

It is now incumbent upon the state of Bangladesh to reassure its Hindu and minority population at large that this nation is truly secular, that it is home to all its people, that an attack on one community is an attack on any community, and that those who attempt to humiliate any community will be dealt with summarily and with an iron hand. Ironically, we have virtually gone back to the days of constitutional secularism. We want to believe that this is a positive development. However, in order to earn that belief, the state has to act in such a way that will prove that they actually do what they claim to do.

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Hinduism is often referred to as Sanatana Dharma (the ‘eternal way’), indicating the religion’s emphasis on eternal truths that are applicable to all of humanity. Thus, it makes sense that a medley of mainstream movies could convey Hindu ideals that resonate strongly with audiences, while not actually talking directly about anything understood by the public as Hindu.

In Groundhog Day, for example, when cynical TV weatherman Phil Collins discovers he is trapped in a time loop, living the same day over and over, only to be released after transforming his character from an egocentric narcissist to a thoughtful and kindhearted philanthropist, it’s hard not to be reminded of the Hindu notion of samsara, a cycle of reincarnation from which a soul attains liberation by realizing its divine nature after lifetimes of spiritual practice. 

Or in The Matrix when Neo chooses the red pill of knowledge over the blue pill of ignorance, and is subsequently unplugged from an illusory world and cast into the truth of reality, the film seems to be conveying a foundational Vedic teaching: that we must transcend our own ignorance — a product of maya, literally meaning “illusion” in Sanskrit — to uncover our true nature. Hindu concepts appear to be further exhibited in Neo’s relationship with Morpheus, which starkly reflects that of a disciple and guru, as the latter reveals to the former the knowledge he needs in order to understand this “true nature.” As Neo’s faith in Morpheus’ words develops, so does his capacity to see past the illusion of the matrix, garnering him the ability to manipulate the laws of this false reality, similar to the Jedi and yogis described earlier.

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Hindu Americans and the Vedanta philosophy have significantly influenced notable intellectuals such as Henry  David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, J.D. Salinger, Christopher Isherwood, Aldous Huxley, Huston Smith, and Joseph Campbell just to name a few. Some feel that it started back In 1812, when Thomas Jefferson recommended to John Adams the writings of Joseph Priestley, a Unitarian minister who had published works that compared Christianity to other religions — Hinduism in particular — Adam’s interest was piqued.

Going through Priestley’s writings, Adams became riveted by Hindu thought, as he launched into a five-year exploration of Eastern philosophy. As his knowledge of Hinduism and ancient Indian civilization grew, so did his respect for it. This legacy took shape in the 1830s as Transcendentalism, a philosophical, social, and literary movement that emphasized the spiritual goodness inherent in all people despite the corruption imposed on an individual by society and its institutions. Espousing that divinity pervades all of nature and humanity, Transcendentalists believed divine experience existed in the everyday, and held progressive views on women’s rights, abolition, and education. At the heart of this movement were three of America’s most influential authors: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, and Henry David Thoreau.

How Hinduism Influenced Some of Americans Greatest Thinkers

10/27/22The Hindu Diaspora in Afghanistan

Before becoming an Islamic state, Afghanistan was once home to a medley of religious practices, the oldest being Hinduism. A long time ago, much of Afghanistan was part of an ancient kingdom known as Gandhara, which also covered parts of northern Pakistan.Today, many of Afghanistan’s province names, though slightly altered, are clearly Sanskrit in origin, hinting at the region’s ancient past. To cite a few examples, Balkh comes from the Sanskrit Bhalika, Nangarhar from Nagarahara, and Kabul from Kubha. Though Gandhara’s earliest mention can be found in the Vedas, it is better known for its connections to the Hindu epics the Mahabharata and Ramayana. There is also the historic Asamai temple in Kabul located on a hill named after the Hindu Goddess of hope, Asha. The temple has survived numerous conflicts and attacks but it still stands. The temple is a remnant from Hindu Shahi Kings, who ruled from the Kabul Valley as far back as 850 CE. However, Hindus are indigenous but endangered minorities in Afghanistan, numbering approximately 700 out of a community that recently included over 8,000 members. Many have left for new homes, include in New York which is home to a large Afghani Hindu population.

5 Things to Know about Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan 

Hinduism Beyond India: Afghanistan

10/26/22Dogs and Diwali

According to the 2021-2022 National Pet Owners Survey, 70% of U.S. households (90.5 million homes) owned a pet as of 2022, with 69 million U.S. households having a pet dog. Recognized for their loyalty, service, companionship, and the special relationship they have with humans, Hinduism’s reverence for dogs is expansive, as they are worshiped in festivals and appreciated in connection to a number of Hindu gods and stories. Observed in Nepal, Bhutan, and the Indian states of Sikkim and West Bengal, Kukar Tihar (the 2nd day of Tihar) honors dogs as messengers that help guide spirits of the deceased across the River of Death. In the Mahabharata, Yudhisthira, his brothers, and the queen Draupadi renounced their kingdom to ascend to the heavens. However, Yudhisthira was the only one that survived along with a dog that had joined them. Yudhisthira refused to go to heaven without the dog, who turned out to be Yamaraj, the God of Death. Sarama, the “female dog of the gods,” was famously asked by Indra to retrieve a herd of cows that were stolen. When the thieves were caught, they tried to bribe Sarama but she refused and now represents those who do not wish to possess but instead find what has been lost. The symbolic import of dogs is further driven in connection with Dattatreya, as he is commonly depicted with four of them to represent the Vedas, the Yugas, the stages of sound, and the inner forces of a human being (will, faculty, hope, and desire).

Dogs and Diwali? 5 Things to Know about Hinduism and hu(man)’s Best Friend

10/25/22Black Panther

In 2018, the long-running Marvel comic series Black Panther, was brought to the big screen. A more prominent scene is when M’baku, a character vying for the throne of the fictional country of Wakanda, challenges T’Challa/Black Panther, and yells, “Glory to Hanuman.” However, despite dharma as an unsaid aspect of the characters’ interactions, Black Panther relies slightly more on Hindu symbolism than philosophy. But the significance of Hanuman as a transcendent deity cannot be overlooked, especially at a time when dialogues about global migration, the right to worship, and access to natural resources are becoming more overtly racialized. The film provides more than just an entertainment escape: it reimagines a world in which the current racial and theological paradigms are challenged forcefully. With the film expected to have at least several sequels, there will be more opportunities to reference Hinduism and Hindu iconography.

Why Black Panther’s References to Hinduism are Significant in Hollywood


One of the most celebrated Hindu festivals, Diwali (dee-VAH-lee) or Deepavali (dee-PAH-va-lee) commemorates the victory of good over evil during the course of five days. The word refers to rows of diyas — or clay lamps — which are put all around homes and places of worship. The light from these lamps symbolizes the illumination within all of us, which can overcome ignorance, represented by darkness. Devotees gather in local temples, homes, or community centers, to spend time with loved ones, make positive goals, and appreciate life.

Hindu Holidays & Dharmic Days Calendar 

Diwali Toolkit


On this day, because Diwali is a time for dana (charitable giving) and seva (selfless service), Hindus traditionally perform a deep cleaning of their homes and surroundings, as cleanliness is believed to invoke the presence and blessings of Goddess Lakshmi who, as mentioned earlier, is the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. Many will also make rangoli or kolum (colored patterns of flowers, powder, rice, or sand made on the floor), which are also said to invite auspiciousness. Observers thus begin Diwali by cultivating a spirit of generosity, doing things like giving money to charities, feeding the hungry, and endeavoring to help those in need.

5 Things to Know About Diwali

10/22/22The Hindu Diaspora in Bali

The spread of Hinduism to Southeast Asia established powerful Hindu kingdoms in the region, most notably the Khmer Empire that encompassed modern Cambodia and Thailand, and influential kingdoms in the Indonesia archipelago. Though Buddhism and Hinduism co-existed in the region for several centuries, Buddhism (and Islam in Indonesia) eventually replaced Hinduism as a primary religion. Today, there are approximately five million Hindus in Indonesia, primarily in Bali. As Bali is roughly 90 percent Hindu, this makes it a religious enclave in a country that contains the world’s largest Muslim population. There are also roughly 60,000 Cham Hindus in Vietnam, and smaller numbers in Thailand. Hinduism in Fiji, Malaysia, and Singapore is a much more recent phenomenon, with Hindus arriving in the 19th and early 20th centuries as indentured laborers. Today, Hindus are prominent in politics and business in all three countries, though they continue to experience discrimination as religious minorities.

Hinduism Beyond India: Bali

Hinduism Around the World

10/21/22Smithsonian/American History Exhibit - American Indian experience

In 2014, the first Smithsonian exhibition chronicling the experiences of Indian Americans, many of whom are Hindus,  in the US was unveiled at their National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC. This exhibit was one of the largest ever produced by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, occupying 5,000 square feet and reaching millions of visitors. The message behind “Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation,” aimed to dispel stereotypes and myths that have followed Indian immigrants since they first arrived in the U.S. in 1790. The exhibit explored the heritage, daily experiences, and the many diverse contributions that immigrants and Indian Americans have made to the United States. The exhibition at the Museum of Natural History includes historical and contemporary images and artifacts, including those that document histories of discrimination and resistance, convey daily experiences, and symbolize achievements across the professions. Music and visual artworks provide commentary on the Indian American experience and form an important component of the exhibition. In 2017, this exhibit went on the road, traveling from city to city so that all could see the impact of Indians on American culture.

All About Hindu Heritage Month

10/20/22Swami Yogananda

Paramahansa Yogananda was a Hindu monk and yogi who came to the United States in 1920 and lived here for the last 32 years of his life. He is considered to be the first major Hindu Guru to settle in the United States. When Swami Yogananda arrived in the US, he made his first speech, made to the International Congress of Religious Liberals, on “The Science of Religion,” and was enthusiastically received. It was soon after that he founded the Self-Realization Fellowship (also known as Yogoda Satsanga Society (YSS) of India) and introduced millions of Americans to the ancient science and philosophy of meditation and Kriya yoga (path of attainment). In 1927, he was invited to the White House by President Calvin Coolidge, making Swami Yogananda the first prominent Indian and Hindu to be hosted in the White House.

Hinduism: Short Answers to Real Questions

Countless Americans Have Been Influenced by Swami Viveknanda


For those of us who are Hindu, we have noticed that some of the biggest Hollywood films produced in the last several decades have mirrored many of Hinduism's most fundamental philosophical ideas. One example is Avatar, a film named for the Sanskrit word avatāra (‘descent’), in which the protagonist, Jake Sully, enters and explores an alien world called Pandora by inhabiting the body of an indigenous 10-foot, blue-skinned being, an idea taken from Hinduism’s depictions of the various avatars of the blue god Vishnu, who are said to descend into our world for upholding dharma. Instead of aligning with the interests of the humans, who merely want to mine Pandora for the valuable mineral unobtanium, Sully fights alongside the alien humanoids native to the world, called Na’vi, who live in harmony with nature, believe all life is sacred, and that all life is connected by a divine force — teachings synonymous with Hinduism. Thus, similar to the avatars of Vishnu, Sully defends and preserves a spiritual culture by defeating those who would destroy it for materialistic pursuit. While this film doesn’t indicate in any direct way that they have anything to do with Hinduism, it’s clear they are communicating Hindu ideas that everyone relates to and understands on a profound level.

What do the Matrix, Avatar, Groundhog Day, and Star Wars have to do with Hinduism?

10/18/22Swami Prabhupada

The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), also known as the Hare Krishna movement, was founded in 1966 by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, a highly respected Vaishnava  (devotion to the god Vishnu and his incarnations avatars) scholar and monk. At the age of 70, Swami Prabhupada traveled from India to New York City to bring the Bhakti tradition, or Krishna Consciousness, to the west. In the 11 years before his passing in 1977, Srila Prabhupada translated, with elaborate commentaries, 60 volumes of Vaishnava literature; established more than 100 temples on six continents; and initiated 5,000 disciples. Today, his writings are studied in universities around the globe and are translated into nearly 100 languages. To date, ISKCON has over 400 temples,  dozens of rural communities and eco-sustainable projects, and nearly 100 vegetarian restaurants world-wide with 56 of them in the US. 

Statement Against Caste Based Discrimination: ISKCON

Who was that Hare Krishna at the start of “Get Back”?

10/17/22The Hindu Diaspora in Africa

Hinduism came in waves to Africa, with Southern Africa getting Hindu workers during the early years of British colonization, while East and West Africa experienced Hindu migration during the 20th century. Hinduism’s roughly 0.2% presence in Africa is seen as so inconsequential, most data organizations don’t even bother explicitly mentioning it in their census reports. But Hinduism is Ghana's fastest growing religion and one in which there are steady populations in both Northern and Southern African states. Durban is now home to most of South Africa’s 1.3 million Indians, making it, according to some sources, the largest Indian city outside of India, and thus a most powerful hub of Hindu practice. In the US, there are both communities of African Hindus who have migrated, as well as Black Hindus, who according to the 2019 Pew Survey, make up 2% of the Hindu population in the US.

Hinduism Beyond Africa

Hinduism Around the World

10/16/22Star Wars

George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, drew much of the inspiration for this major cultural phenomenon from the teachings of his mentor who was a lifelong student of Vedanta. In these films, many aspects of Hinduism are interwoven with the story. Some include Hanuman (Chewbaca and Ewoks), Shakti (force,energy), Yodha (Yoda), Brahman (infinite being). Besides the many philosophical parallels that can be highlighted between Star Wars and Hinduism, Star Wars also exhibits similarities in story structure and character roles to one of India’s famous epics, the Ramayana. Never seen the movie? Now might be the time to see how universally relatable Hindu thought can truly be.

What do the Matrix, Avatar, Groundhog Day, and Star Wars have to do with Hinduism?


The term Ayurveda is derived from the Sanskrit words ayur (life) and veda (science or knowledge), translation to the knowledge of life. Ayurveda is considered to be the oldest healing science, originating in 1000 BCE. Based on the five elements that comprise the universe (space, air, fire, water, and earth), they combine and permutate to create three health principles  that govern the functioning and interplay of a person’s body, mind, and consciousness. These energies are referred to as doshas in Sanskrit. Ayurveda can be used in conjunction with Western medicine and Ayurvedic schools have gained approval as educational institutions in several states.

5 Things to Know About Ayurveda

In Hinduism, What is the Relationship Between Spirituality and Health?


While it’s synonymous to meditation, and seen simply as a doorway to tranquility for yogic practitioners, the true meaning of Om is deeply embedded in Hindu philosophy.

The word Om is defined by Hindu scripture as being the original vibration of the universe, which all other vibrations are able to manifest. Within Hinduism, the meaning and connotations of Om is perceived in a variety of ways. Though heard and often written as “om,” due to the way it sounds when it is repeatedly chanted, the sacred syllable is originally and more accurately spelled as “aum.” Broken down, the three letters of A – U – M represent a number of sacred trinities such as different conditions of consciousness (waking state, dreaming state, and deep sleep state), the deities in charge of the creation, preservation, and destruction of the universe ( Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva), aspects of time (past, present, and future), among many others. 

5 Things to Know About Om

Religious Symbols

10/28/22Dr. Anandibai Joshi

Dr. Anandi Gopal Joshi is credited with being the first woman from India to study medicine in the United States. Born in Bombay in 1865, she was married at the age of ten to an older man who had been her teacher. Dr. Joshi had a child at the age of 13, but the child died when only 10 days old. She believed that with better medical care, the child would have lived, and she frequently cited this as motivation for her desire to attend medical school. Her husband encouraged her in her academic pursuits and in 1883, Joshee joined the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, now known as the Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. She graduated in 1886 with her degree in medicine; her M.D. thesis focused on Hindu obstetrics. Unfortunately,  Dr. Joshi was only able to practice medicine for a few months before passing away from tuberculosis.

Science in Hinduism

10/13/22The Hindu Diaspora in Guyana

Hinduism is the religion of almost 25% of Guyana’s population, making it the country with the highest percentage of Hindus in the Western Hemisphere. But from British professional recruiting agents targeting rural and uneducated Indians, to the aggressiveness of Christian proselytization of Hindus with a promise of a better life, Hinduism has been in a steady decline for many decades with many escaping to the United States for better opportunities and to practice their religion freely. Today, over 80% of Guyanese Americans live in the Northeastern United States with heavy concentrations in New Jersey and in New York, where a “Little Guyana”  helps these immigrants stay connected to their Guyanese roots.

Hinduism beyond India: Guyana

Hinduism Around the World

10/12/22Karwa Chauth

Karwa Chauth or Karva Chauth (kuhr-vah-CHOATH) is a North Indian holiday in which wives fast for the longevity and health of their husbands, however, many unmarried women celebrate in hopes of meeting their ideal life partner. Typically, wives spend the day preparing gifts to exchange, and fasting until the moon is visible. It is believed that its light symbolizes love and blessings of a happy life. While there are varying legends behind this holiday’s traditions and meaning, the message of honoring the relationships women form with their family and community prevails.

Karwa Chauth

Hindu Holidays & Dharmic Days Calendar

10/11/22Hinduism and Music

As sound vibration can affect the most subtle element of creation, it is interpreted in Hindu scriptures that spiritual sound vibrations can affect the atman (soul) in a particularly potent way. Such spiritual sound vibrations are said to have the ability to awaken our original spiritual consciousness and help us remember that we are beyond the ambivalence of life, and actually originate from the Divine. As such, the main goal of many types of Hindu musical expression is to help stir us out of our spiritual slumber by evoking feelings of love and connection that help us to better perceive the presence of the Divine within all. Some of the more popular examples of musical expressions within Hinduism include shlokas (verse, or poem), mantras (sacred syllables repeated in prayer), kirtans (congregational singing of mantras), and bhajans (devotional songs). You can find musical spiritual expressions through the US in temples,  Mandirs, and community centers.

The Power of Music According to Hinduism

What is Kirtan?


Yoga is considered Hinduism’s gift to humanity. At its broadest, yoga, from the root word “yuj” in Sanskrit, means to unite. Most Hindu texts discuss yoga as a practice to control the senses and ultimately, the mind. The most famous is the Bhagavad Gita (dating back to 6th-3rd Century BCE), in which Krishna speaks of four types of yoga – bhakti, or devotion; jnana, or knowledge; karma, or action; and dhyana, or concentration (often referred to as raja yoga, though not all sources agree on the term) – as paths to achieve moksha (enlightenment), the ultimate goal according to Hindu understanding. According to a 2016 study,  in the United States there are an estimated 36.7 million people currently practicing yoga in the United States.


The Hindu Roots of Yoga

10/9/22Swami Vivekananda

According to Vedic cosmology, 108 is the basis of creation, representing the universe and all our existence. As the soul is encased in two types of bodies: the physical body (made of earth, water, fire, air, and ether) and the subtle body (composed of intelligence, mind and ego), Swami Viveknanda is often attributed with bringing Hindu teachings and practices — such as yoga and transcendental meditation — to Western audiences. In 1893, he was officially introduced to the United States at the World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago, where in his speech he called for religious tolerance and described Hinduism as “a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance.” The day that Swami Vivekananda delivered his speech at the Parliament of Religions is now known as ‘World Brotherhood Day.’ And his birthday, known as Swami Vivekananda Jayanti, is honored on January 12th each year. On this day he is commemorated and recognized for his contributions as a modern Hindu monk and respected guru of the Vedanta philosophy of Hinduism. In 1900, Swami Viveknanda founded the Vedanta Society in California and to date there are 36 Vedanta Society Centers in the United States.

Swami Vivekananda Influenced Countless Americans

Hindu Holidays & Dharmic Days Calendar


According to Vedic cosmology, 108 is the basis of creation, representing the universe and all our existence. As the soul is encased in two types of bodies: the physical body (made of earth, water, fire, air, and ether) and the subtle body (composed of intelligence, mind and ego), 108 plays a significant role in keeping these two bodies healthily connected. Hindus believe the body holds seven chakras, or pools of energy, which begin at the bottom of the spine and go all the way down to the top of the head and it is believed there are 108 energy lines that converge to form the heart chakra. Ayurveda says there are 108 hidden spots in the body called marma points, where various tissues like muscles, veins, and ligaments meet. These are vital points of life force, and when they are out of balance, energy cannot properly flow throughout the body. Sun salutations, yogic asanas that honor the sun god Surya, are generally completed in nine rounds of 12 postures, totaling 108. Mantra meditation is usually chanted on a set of 108 beads.   In Hinduism there are 108 Upanishads, the sacred texts of wisdom from ancient sages. Additionally, in the Sanskrit alphabet, there are 54 letters. Each letter has a feminine, or Shakti, and masculine, or Shiva, quality. 54 multiplied by 2 equals 108. Ultimately, breathwork, chanting, studying scripture, and asana’s help harmonize one’s energy with the energy of the supreme spiritual source. These processes become especially effective when they are performed in connection with the number 108. Hindu scriptures strive to remind people of this divine commonality by continuously highlighting the innumerable threads connecting everything in existence. One of these threads is the number 108.

5 Things to know about 108

Here's How the Number 108 Binds Us to the Universe

10/7/22The Hindu Diaspora in Trinidad/Tobago

A decade after slavery was abolished in 1834, the British government began importing indentured labor from India to work on their estates in other countries such as Trinidad and Tobago.  From 1845 to 1917, the ships would continue to arrive, carrying over 140,000 Indians to the island, facilitating Trinidad's population growth from Indian laborers. Today, there are roughly 240,000 declared Hindus in Trinidad and Tobago, comprising about 18% of the island’s population. There are a total of about 300 temples on the island, welcoming all who wish to enter and where many beloved Hindu festivals take place. But for some, the migration journey doesn’t end as New York and Florida have seen the development of large Indo-Caribbean communities.

Hinduism beyond India: Trinidad and Tobago


From ancient tribes to present-day devotees, tattoos have held a special place in Hinduism for centuries. In the Indian states of Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, the Ramnaami community invoked Rama’s protection with tattoos of the name “Rama” in Sanskrit on every inch of their skin, including the tongue and inside the lips.The Mahabharata tells the story of the Pandavas that were exiled to the Kutch district of Gujarat. Today, their descendants - members of the Ribari tribe - live as their ancestors did, with women covered in tattoos that symbolize their people’s strong spirit for survival. Some Hindus consider tattoos as protective emblems,such as tattoos of Hanuman are often used to relieve physical or mental pain. People will often get tattoos of other deities to invoke their blessings. Mehndi, a plant-based temporary tattoo, is commonly done at weddings and religious ceremonies as a form of celebration of love and spirituality. While tattoos have been in Hindu communities for centuries, tattoos as symbols of honor, devotion, and even fashion are incredibly popular today. Hindus and non Hindus alike adorn themselves with Hindu emblems and tattoos that reflect Hindu teachings.

Guidelines for Commercial Use of Hindu Images


Navaratri (nuhv-uh-RA-three) is a nine night celebration of the feminine divine that occurs four times a year — the spring and fall celebrations being amongst the more widely celebrated. Some traditions honor the nine manifestations of Goddess Durga, while others celebrate the three goddesses (Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswati) with three days dedicated to each. This is a time to recognize the role in which the loving, compassionate, and gentle — yet sometimes powerful and fierce — feminine energy plays in our lives.

Nine Things to Know About Navaratri

Hindu Holidays & Dharmic Days Calendar


Dussehra (duh-sheh-RAH) or Vijayadashmi (vi-juhyuh-dushuh-mee) celebrates the victory of Lord Rama over the ten-headed demon King Ravana. This also marks the end of Ramalila — a brief retelling of the Ramayana and the story of Rama, Sita, and Lakshman in the form of dramatic reading or dance. It also signifies the end of negativity and evil within us (vices, biases, prejudices) for a fresh new beginning. Dussehra often coincides with the end of Navratri and Duga Puja, and celebrations can last ten days, with huge figures of Ravana set ablaze as a reminder that good always prevails over evil.

Hindu Holidays & Dharmic Days Calendar

Hinduism 101 & Women

10/3/22Ahimsa + Cow sanctuaries

Many Hindus hold reverence for the cow as a representation of mother earth, fertility, and Hindu values of selfless service, strength, dignity, and non-harming. Though not all Hindus are vegetarian, for this reason many traditionally abstain from eating beef. This is often linked with the concept of ahimsa (non-violence), which can be applied to diet choices and our interactions with the environment, and potentially determine our next birth, according to the doctrine of karma. This is part of the reason that some Hindus may choose a vegetarian lifestyle as an expression of ahimsa as well as explains the growing number of cow protection projects that are led by individuals who have felt compelled to put their Hindu values into practice. The US is home to several cow protection projects and sanctuaries

Dairy Is Traditionally Sattvic Food, but the Way We Treat Cows Today Can Be Tamasic

Cultured Meat and Animal-Free Dairy Upends the Plant-Based Food Discussion

10/1/2022First Hindu temple in US

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 facilitated the journey of many Indian immigrants to the United States. In this new land, many created home shrines and community temples to practice and hold pujas (services). As Hindu American populations grew in metropolitan and rural areas, so did the need to find a permanent temple site for worship. In 1906, the Vedanta Society built the Old Temple in San Francisco, California but as this was not considered a formal temple, many don’t credit this with being the first. Others believe it is the Shiva Murugan Temple built in 1957 in Concord, California, whereas others believe it is the Maha Vallabha Ganapati Devanstanam in New York that should be considered the first. Today, there are nearly 1,000 temples in the United States . Regardless of where you live, you have the right to practice your faith.

A Guide To Temple Safety and Security

5 Things to Know About Visiting a Hindu Temple