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Hinduism Beyond India

There is not one single form of Hinduism practiced outside India. Hindus from all parts of India belonging to various castes have migrated overseas, taking with them the traditions and practices that they were brought up in at home. The social, political, and economic environment of the countries that Hindus have migrated to influence their faith and practices. However, the basic beliefs and practices of Hindus in and outside India do not differ.

Outside India, religious movements devoted to the teachings of a particular guru (religious teacher and usually the founder of the movement) have flourished. Gurus have been instrumental in nurturing the faith of Hindus, functioned as mediators of tradition, and offered advice on how the faith is to be practiced in foreign lands. Many of these gurus and their movements have often attracted followers from other ethnic backgrounds. This has altered the traditional definition of Hinduism as a religion whose members are strictly ethnic Indians. Many Hindus of other ethnic backgrounds founded religious movements that promote Hinduism and make it attractive to mostly non-Indian ethnic groups. These movements follow the basic teachings and practice of Hinduism, but do not contain elements of the faith that are influenced by the Hindu social world in India, such as the caste system. Common practices of these groups are the chanting of mantras, meditation, hatha yoga, and belief in reincarnation and vegetarianism. These movements have often successfully filled a spiritual vacuum and offer an alternative to Christian and Western ideas and practices.

Among Hindus outside India, the family continues to be the place where children are nurtured in Hindu dharma. In this context, women particularly are influential in the spiritual lives of children. For diaspora Hindus, a developed Hindu identity becomes a crucial issue for their children because they live among people of numerous faiths; therefore, efforts are made to inculcate the Hindu faith to their children more deliberately. Children often attend classes (similar to Christian Sunday school) on the Hindu faith at temples and religious centers, where the Hindu community gathers on Sundays and religious holidays. However, Hindu children outside India do not share the same experience as those in India who are surrounded by the Hindu social world, and where Hinduism is the largest religious group. Hindus outside India are always part of a religious minority, which alters some of the dynamics of the social beliefs and practices in which children are brought up. Thus, it is common for families to visit India during vacations to expose their children to Hinduism as family relatives living in India practice it. During such trips, families make pilgrimages to holy sites and make special vows and offerings to the deities.


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Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaMarriage: Cultural AspectsHinduism - Basic Beliefs Of Hindus, Caste System, Hinduism And The Family, Household Religious Practice, Major Hindu Family Rituals