MOST REPORTS ON THE LONG-DELAYED RELEASE OF INDIA’S national census conducted in 2011 focused on the drop of Hindus to 79.8%. At independence, in 1947, Hindus were 84.1% of India’s population. The Muslim community grew to 14.2% in 2011 from 13.4% in 2001, but their rate of growth slowed. Christians stayed at 2.3%, while Sikhs dropped to 1.7% from 1.9%. Overall, India will become the world’s most populous country by 2022.
But all that isn’t what caught our attention at HINDUISM TODAY. The 2011 census was the first to include a “non-faith” category, which numbered 2.87 million, 0.24% of the population. It includes atheists, rationalists and those not interested in religion but who believe in some “unknown force.” Uttar Pradesh accounts for the most people registered as “non-faith” with 582,000. Bihar, Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu all have more than 100,000 people in the category. Worldwide, a series of Gallup International polls found that 11% of Earth’s citizens are “convinced atheists.” The US comes in at 3.1%, while in France 40% don’t believe in “any sort of spirit, God or life force.” At just 0.24% in its non-faith category, India may well be the world’s most God-believing nation.
ON SEPTEMBER 11, 2015, THE HINDU STUDENTS COUNCIL PUT ON A three-day conference for dharma and world harmony in Edison, New Jersey. Over 60 speakers addressed 1,000 attendees from 13 countries on topics including women’s empowerment, interfaith relations and human rights. Speakers included Swami Dayananda Saraswati, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar—both speaking by Skype from India—H.R. Nagendra, chairman of the Indian government’s committee for the International Day of Yoga, scientists Subhash Kak and Alok Kumar, as well as Rajiv Malhotra, Swamini Svatmavidyananda, Shambhavi Chopra and Dr. Indrani Rampersad. An evening concert hosted by former Miss America Nina Davuluri featured Indian and Balinese dance, flutist Rakesh Chaurasia and ghatam player Giridhar Udupa.
IRELAND IS NOW THE HOME OF nine Ganeshas and dozens of other statues, all beautifully carved in Mahabalipuram, India. They are in a garden called Victoria’s Way, located in the small village of Roundwood in Wicklow county. Victor Langheld, the owner-creator, intends the 20-year project to take visitors on an artistic—and occasionally bizarre—journey representing one’s spiritual progression toward enlightenment.
MARK ZUCKERBERG AND Steve Jobs both visited a particular temple—possibly the Hanumanji temple in Kainchi Dham, Nainital—in India to gain inspiration for building their companies.
“India is personally very important to the history of Facebook. This is a story that I have not told publicly and few people know,” stated Zuckerberg.
“Early on in our history, before things were really going well, we hit a tough patch. A lot of people wanted to buy Facebook and thought we should sell the company. So I went and saw one of my mentors, Steve Jobs. He told me that in order to reconnect with what I believed is the mission of the company, I should visit this temple that he had gone to in India early in his evolution of thinking about what he wanted Apple and his vision of the future to be.
“So I went and I traveled for almost a month. Seeing the people and how they connected, having the opportunity to feel how much better the world could be if everyone had a stronger ability to connect, reinforced the importance of what we were doing. That is something I have always remembered over the last ten years as we built Facebook.”
Zuckerberg recently bought 357 acres on Kauai, the Hawaiian island also home to the headquarters of HINDUISM TODAY.
A 120-DAY VARUNA YAGAM CAME TO A CLOSE ON SEPTEMBER 21, 2015, at the Sangameswaram Temple in Andhra Pradesh. The temple, usually flooded by the impounded waters of Srisailam dam on the Krishna River, has been temporarily accessible during the last seven months. The priests conducted worship with prayers timed to end just before the temple was again submerged.
ON APRIL 16, 2015, THE HARvard South Asia Institute launched Kumbh Mela: Mapping the Ephemeral Megacity. The 449-page book consolidates research from Harvard students who studied the religious festival in 2013—an event involving some 100 million people. The book focuses on its distinctive management and organization.
During the Kumbha Mela, the Harvard teams explored various aspects of the megacity, from religious practices to public health to environmental impacts. Since then, they have been analyzing and publishing results.
The book states: “For a country notorious for its ‘lethargic’ bureaucracy, the success of the Kumbha Mela is truly noteworthy.”
In contrast, the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil and the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi had major problems. Both events were in the news for scandals, along with poor management and preparations, despite having sufficient funds and government involvement.
THE SOUTH ASIA INSTITUTE, University of Heidelberg, Germany, is struggling to meet demand as their Sanskrit summer course grows ever more popular. The institute’s department of Cultural and Religious History of South Asia has inspired students from around the world with its creative programs. One is pictured above, a field trip to India for hands-on puja training.
The most popular program is a yearly one-month immersive Sanskrit course taught using real life, day-to-day topics. Held in August, the course draws applicants from across the globe, mostly students already pursuing classical Indology and Sanskrit who seek to deepen their studies and meet their peers. Professor Axel Michaels, head of the department and founder of the program, said, “When it started 15 years ago, we were almost ready to shut the program down after a couple of years. Now every year we have to reject many applications.”
Sanskrit studies began in the 18th century in Germany; today 16 of its top universities teach Sanskrit, along with classical and modern Indology, compared to just ten teaching Sanskrit in the US and four in the UK.
ON OCTOBER 8, 2015, A US FED
eral court ruled against copyrighting yoga poses. The founder of “hot yoga,” Bikram Choudhury, sued several yoga studios for teaching yoga routines that he has published. His actions prompted the US Copyright Office to issue a new policy clarifying that individual yoga poses are not subject to copyright laws, just as a choreographer cannot lay claim to a ballet sequence.
THE WORLD’S SECOND MOST
expensive tropical hardwood, sandalwood, is becoming big business to an Australian company called TFS. With an annual production capacity of 2,000 metric tons, TFS claims to be the world’s leading grower, producer and seller of Indian sandalwood.
IN JULY, 2015, ALOK KUMAR SET
the record straight with his newest publication, A History of Science in World Cultures: Voices of Knowledge, published by Routledge. The book focuses on how Europe’s scientific revolution depended profoundly on ideas and innovations passed down from ancient cultures. It traces the origins of European “discoveries,” demonstrating that many derived, at least in part, from much earlier work in China, India, Persia, Babylonia and elsewhere.