West now turns to Hinduism

via http://www.deccanchronicle.com/tabloids/west-now-turns-hinduism-341 published on August 12, 2010

Decades ago photographs of the kurta-clad Beatles wearing marigold garlands at a Rishikesh ashram were splashed across the world’s press. And now, Julia Roberts’ recent statement that she’s a practising Hindu has refocussed the limelight on the ancient religion. The Hollywood sweetheart said that she goes to the temple to “chant, pray and celebrate.” Many westerners on a soul search are now looking beyond joss sticks, Om tattoos and the stereotypical image of a pantheon of a thousand gods to discover the spiritual core of Hinduism.

The Orient always wore the crown of mysticism. But Hinduism is now finding takers in the West as a religion that can provide solutions to contemporary problems of a stressed and distressed life.

Alexander Perevervev, a research scholar at the Dept of Sanskrit in Delhi University, who came to India from post-cold war Russia, after developing an interest in the religion, says that Hinduism provides a totally new world view for people who fail to find answers within their own culture. “The modern experience of the Western world is very fragmented and people find a need to reconnect. They feel uprooted and are looking for something grounding, that would perhaps make their lives more meaningful,” he says.

Shamick Chakraborty, who is currently completing his thesis on rewriting the Gita for children from JNU, agrees. “After having lived in a stagnant, consumerist society for so long, people realise that there is no end to desire and Hinduism is among the few religions that addresses that thirst. Not only that, the Gita which forms the basis of the religion provides solutions about how to put an end to the desire for materialistic things,” he says. He thinks Hinduism provides precise answers to the problems being faced by the Western society.

The freedom that the religion offers, without imposing any oppressive restriction on its followers, is another major draw. Danseuse Sharon Lowen, who has been in the country for more than a decade and remains a Judaist while being a practising Hindu, observes that it is its secular nature that attracts people. “The religion has evolved over a million years and there are as many ways to practice it as its many followers. There is no right or wrong way to follow Hinduism and this individual freedom makes it appealing,” she notes.

Eliode Maria-Sube, a French national who is visiting the country, says she has always been drawn to it as an aspect of Indian culture. “I have visited some temples and have been extremely curious about it. All images of Hinduism really fascinate me, be it the colourful Krishna or the various other deities, and I am eager to learn more,” she says.

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