18 Nov 2011

Hinduism–Unity in Diversity


Hinduism is one of the most diverse religions in the world. As a matter of fact, it may be more proper to speak of ‘Hinduisms’ or the ‘Hindu religious and philosophical complex’, for no single doctrine or set of beliefs can represent all of the numerous traditions, philosophies and practices that fall under the heading. Even to use the term ‘religion’ may be too limiting, because there are strands of Hinduism that are atheistic. Yet there is a unity in this diversity. Despite differences, there is a bond among those who variously follow the path of Sanātana Dharma.

Hindus, themselves, are also an incredibly diverse people. Outside India, there is a simplistic view that since over 80% of the people in India are Hindus, that this eighty per cent are somehow homogenous. Nothing could be further from the truth. In India today, there are about 80,000 ethnic subcultures, over 325 languages, innumerable dialects, and 25 written scripts. Yet more than eighty per cent of this enormous diversity of people have found enough in common in their philosophical and religious systems, lifestyle and practices to fall under the generally unifying term ‘Hindu’ (yes, there is a good deal of discussion on the efficacy of the term ‘Hindu’, as opposed to other terms, which is something for another blog post. Very fascinating in its own right).

Added to the diversity in India, there is a good deal of diversity among Hindus outside of India that is rarely spoken of, rarely in the public eye or part of the general public conception of what Hinduism is and who Hindus are. Whether by conversion, marriage or being born into a Hindu family, there are a good deal of Hindus now who are not Indian, who are adding to the profile of the diversity of the Hindu community.

In my first post, I said wanted to address the issue of being a black Hindu. Or, to put it better, I wanted to add to what is already a vibrant online conversation among Western Hindus, being fostered from blog to blog, about what it is like to be a Hindu convert or a non-Indian Hindu in the world today. Usually, the conversation is structured along the lines of white Hindu converts addressing varying levels of acceptance and understanding from their natal communities and from the Indian Hindu community. While I had found one blog written by a Western Latino Hindu convert, I had not found one written from the perspective of an African-American, Afro-Caribbean Briton, Afro-European or African, about experiences or perspectives that might be peculiar or particular to being a black Hindu. So, while my own blog will cover pretty much anything about Hinduism that comes across my mind, I will try to dedicate a good amount of space to sharing these unique perspectives and stories, among others.

Just this week, on the blog The Western Hindu, a really eye-opening article was published called Not all Western Hindus are white Hindus…. and not all Hindus from non-Hindu cultures are Western Hindus. I was very excited about it, for what it adds to the discourse of ‘Western Hinduism’ and Hinduism at-large, and it lit a fire under me to get going with a few ideas of my own.

So, in the coming weeks and months, I will be posting feature articles on non-Indian Hindus. My first will be about an African-American who has been a bhakti yogi for four decades now. And while I will also be including profiles of famous converts, I am hoping to be able to do more profiles of just every day people…. So, if you are a black Hindu, African Hindu, Caribbean Hindu, Latino Hindu, Chinese Hindu, Inuit Hindu, a mixed race Hindu, etc., etc., etc., and want to be featured, CONTACT ME!

Consider this an open call to get in touch (using the contact link on my profile or via twitter) with your stories, so I can help you share them. We will all benefit from broadening our understanding of how diverse and interesting the Hindu community worldwide really is.


Another blogger out of the USA is also doing interviews with non-Indian Hindus.
Please have a look at Desh’s blog
. He’s got two interviews up already (one with yours truly!).


  1. Namashkar,
    This is an excellent post and I hope that you get some response. I think you are being too kind in crediting me for getting you fired up, it was your email that got me interested in the diverse ethnic groups that converts to Hinduism come from, and your blog that actually got me moving on writing a post about it!

    Its true that there are many cultures and ethnic groups in India. I hadn't really thought about it until a friend at our Mandir said that it was nice that I was there because it meant that he was not the only person who's English was better than his Hindi (he came from Kolkata).


  2. Well, I suppose part of my kudos to you, Tāṇḍava, is that your blog is basically the hub of this fantastic online, on-going conversation that I am now happy to be part of!

    Your 'Westerners Following Hinduism' page links us together in a way we'd not have just wandering about the web on our own. So very good work there.


  3. Hi,

    I stumbled across your blog and it has made great reading. I am an Indian and from a Hindu background. I too blog on various matters including spirituality at

    Would be great if you can have a look and leave your comment



  4. Hi Nirvana, yes absolutely. I'll pop on over and have a read around your blog. Thanks for finding your way here.


  5. How exciting it is for me to read your blog T.A.H.!!
    I have been feeling a renewed commitment to my own santana dharma practice lately and you have helped to spark a fire in me!

    Om Shanti my fellow Hindu sister _/\_

  6. Oh, Jennifer Renee -- how wonderful to hear from you. I have been lurking over at your blog myself. Just read of your UK trip and Glastonbury this afternoon. So jealous -- I live a spit's throw from Glastonbury and have never been! Can you believe it? You have inspired me to grab the kids and hubby and drive over one weekend soon. And, in general, I have really enjoyed finding your writing and reading of your "Soul's Journey"

    Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti, and thank you for finding my little space here.

    (p.s. -- for those unfamiliar, A Soul's Journey blog can be found at: )

  7. I just wanted to give this link to you to show how the Church is pitting one community against another in India. BTw, awesome blog posts.

  8. Hi Sita -- thanks so much!

    And thanks for the link. Brilliant. I am doing research now towards a blog post looking at the issue of conversion from various angles -- and definitely, these abuses going on in India right now do need to be highlighted.

  9. ... and for anyone who does not know, Sita has a blog called Sita's Tangled Web at

  10. T.A.H. ,Seriously :) I am embarrassed to admit that I've not posted much for a long time.Partly because of distractions.Will reblog soon since you've called even my attention to it! A big Thank you!

  11. Dear friends,
    Namaste. Please see the following link at your earliest convenience and spread the message to as many people as possible by posting at the blogs/websites or by any other means at your disposal:


  12. Thank you for finding my blog and posting, Satyen.

    For my readers: I'd not heard of Agniveer before Satyen shared this link. I've since had a look around their site. I was a bit concerned about the Shuddhi event appearing to be a 'conversion' drive, and I am very much of the mind that one should not be seeking to actively convert anyone away from the faith or path they are comfortably following.

    That said, Agniveer has the right to hold a different view to me, of course, and this is what they say for themselves on their site, in a statement entitled 'What does Agniveer stand for?':

    "14. Yes, we are on a conversion drive. We call it a ‘Shuddhi’ movement. We want to obtain commitment from as many people as possible to adopt Vedic Dharma as enlisted in Vedic Religion in Brief. We have already been doing so and would continue doing that albeit with more concentration. There is no bar of caste, gender or religion for this. Hindus, Muslims, Christians etc – everyone is welcome to embrace this original Vedic Dharma for entire humanity and be herself/himself a messiah of Peace, Equality, Character, Principles and Duties. In in process open doors for limitless success, happiness, charisma, excitement, enthusiasm, prosperity and purpose in life."

    So, while I am not convinced 'conversion' drives are the way to go, I am intrigued to read about what is going on. Also, I plan to do a post soon on the issue of 'Conversion & Hinduism' -- I'm researching the activities of certain fundamentalist/apostolic style Christian organisations engaged in 'forced' or 'mass' conversions in India. And I want to be able to compare and contrast other conversion styles and activities from diverse religions, groups, 'cults' or faiths.

  13. Hi, I take it you will know about Swami Ghanananda from Ghana, a native African man who has established African Hindu communities in Ghana and Togo. I am pretty sure you must have come across him as there has been some media publicity including on the BBC.