Many centuries ago, Hinduism, or Sanatana Hindu Dharma, took birth in the Ganga-Saraswati Civilization, also known as Bharatvarsh. From this epicentre, it spread far and wide, to the rest of the world. The last two millennia saw Bharat tormented with external invaders and colonizers, but Dharma, which was rooted in Bharat, remained.

But, at the same time, Hindu Dharma, which sits in the hearts of people, and spreads through the beauty of its soft power, continued to spread to almost every country in the world. The hold of Dharma in Bharat weakened, due to invasions and distancing of Indians from their own culture, but it found roots elsewhere, wherever people who loved Hindu Dharma went. Unlike evangelism, Hinduism spread purely by its inspiration, and giving people real life solutions.

Yet, there is a certain implicit connotation of Indian when the word “Hindus” is used. A lot of times people swap the words “Hindu” and “Indian” when it comes to culture. Hindu culture is referred to as Indian culture. Hindu history is referred to as “Indology.” Hindu perspective is referred to as “Indic view.” There is a certain idea of nationality which has been woven into the idea of being a Hindu, which persists everywhere. Even Indian Americans, who are Hindu, continue with this language and connotation, inspite of half of them carrying an American nationality, and being only “Indian origin.” They attribute their cultural roots to India, rather than Hinduism.

Semantics matter when they affect the place of people in the society. It was not for nothing that words like “master” and “slave” were removed from the programming vocabulary of prominent technology companies. They were removed because they perpetrated a certain social evil which needs to be done away with. The violation of the place of Global Hindus in the world of Hinduism may not be as terrible, but it is as significant.

Image via Keshav Fulbrook. Copyright S V Ramanan.

The Hindu culture and heritage is carried by people of all nationalities, not just Indians. The continuation of Dharma is due to the contribution and practice of Dharma by people all over the world. In fact, Hindus of India are barely even Hindus. Many of them are Hindus in name only! Whereas the Global Hindu carries his/her cultural heritage with pride and does not shy away from declaring him/herself to be a Hindu. This is a marked difference between Indian Hindus and Global Hindus, a) because Indian Hindus often take their cultural roots for granted, and b) because they feel ashamed of their culture. This is most evident in the unchecked hatred for Hindu culture by Hindus in media, entertainment and academia of India. Hindus remain, at best, the part of a political ploy in India, not the original inheritors of the rich inheritance of Sanatana Dharma that they ought to have been on better days. Indian Hindus, even after immigrating to other countries, carry the same Hinduphobic attitude around the world. These are general statements, but they do, atleast in part, explain why Hinduism is defamed in India and on a global stage. Many international journalists who write Hinduphobic content are, in fact, of Indian origin. Whereas Hindus of other nationalities are rarely seen spewing hate on their own culture and religion. It would be fair to say that the responsibility of upholding and protecting Dharma that belongs to every practicing Hindu was not done justice to by Hindus of India. There are many ardent Hindus in India even today, no doubt, but the net effect of the entire country as far as preserving Dharma goes, is appalling. I say this with a heavy heart, being an Indian Hindu myself.

Hinduism in Cambodia
Photo by Vincent Gerbouin from Pexels

Hindu Temples Exist All Over the World

Some of the most magnificent Hindu temples exist all over the world. Many of these temples and holy sites are ancient. Many others are recent but are thronged by Hindus in other countries. Asia is dotted with Hindu temples all over their cities and towns. The main tourism of countries like Cambodia and Thailand depends on visitors flocking to sacred Hindu sites. These sites are popular as well as sacred, in ambiance as well as culturally. Yet, when we speak of preserving Hindu heritage, we forget about Hindu temples outside India. Hindu temples outside play a much bigger, almost pivotal role in giving Hindus a place and safe space to live their lifestyle. They are centers of celebration, learning and community building. They are hosts to eminent people in other countries, and for the promotion of Hindu Dharma in other countries. They put Hinduism on the global map. But, whenever Hindus bring up the issues of Hindu temples, the limelight is invariably, only on Indian temples. No doubt that the temples of India are the oldest and most sacred, but there is a need for discussion and assessment of where Hindu temples outside India stand, what their challenges are, how they solve them, and what they do well and not so well. There is a lot to learn and do.

Hindu Festivals are Celebrated All Over the World

Hindu festivals have been under a cloud in India for some time, and the situation is only getting worse. Diwali 2020 was a silent Diwali. There was a blanket fireworks ban in India for the entire duration of Diwali. On the contrary, Hindu festivals are celebrated with great zeal in other countries. Hindus usually procure permissions and safe space for celebration in other countries on prominent Hindu festivals. Even the construction of Ram Mandir, one of the most important and awaited event of the last 500 years, was not celebrated with gusto in India. The directive from the government was to not take out any processions or public gatherings for the event. Hindus celebrated silently in their homes, with tears in their eyes, but there was no massive celebration for bringing Ram Lala home after more than 500 years of exile.

On the other hand, there was a public celebration on the Times Square in New York, with the image of Bhagvan Ram projected on the Times Square billboard. Even Sikhs in the USA celebrated the event at the Times Square with great joy. Can Hindus in India still continue to ignore global Hindus?

Hindus are Persecuted Outside India as well

Hindus have historically been persecuted, and continue to be so. But, it is not Hindus in India alone who have been persecuted or who face attacks of some sort. Hindu temples in other countries have also faced numerous attacks of vandalism. Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh and many other countries, perpetually live in fear, as their numbers continue to dwindle.

What is even worse, is that information or news about any violation of human rights in other countries does not get media attention. Protests in Nepal, demanding a Hindu state, were largely ignored by all mainstream media. No Hindu influencer or leader even touched on the matter, even though if Nepal does become a Hindu country, it will be the only Hindu state in the entire world. Yet, there is no trending hashtag on the issue, no discussion in the Indian Parliament, no statement from prominent political leaders or prominent Hindu personalities.

Global Hindus Must Lead From the Front

I think the time is ripe when global Hindus step forward and take up more responsibility for some of the issues faced by Hindus in other countries—countries other than their own. Although Hinduism has spread far and wide, the general approach of each Hindu taking up responsibility for protection and practice of Hindu culture still needs work. This is not contradictory to the previous discussion. Yes, global Hindus have been more active in spreading Hinduism, but they also need to take more interest in Hindu Dharma outside their own country. This will help in cases where Hindus are a small community in some country or where they are not sure of what to do. There is a lot to learn and imbibe as a global community.

Indian Hindus must appreciate and reflect the pride evinced by global Hindus for their culture. At the same time, many new converts to Hinduism need an introduction to the Hindu lifestyle, and they are often clueless about the persecution faced by Hindus in India and neighbouring countries. This is an important aspect of our history which everyone must know. For eg, a Jew anywhere in the world would know about the Holocaust and crimes against Jews. Similarly, Hindus anywhere in the world should know about the Hindu Genocide/ Holocaust and think and act accordingly when their culture or survival is threatened. They must not be sheep moonwalking to the slaughterhouse.

Hindus truly represent the expression “Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam” since they live in every corner of the world. This by itself is the greatest victory of Hindu Dharma, which has spread inspite of attacks of every kind. We just need to go one step further in raising the bar even higher and taking responsibility as a global community, rather than silos of every country.

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Last modified: December 16, 2020