America fast adapting to “things Indian”

Various cultural, culinary, and other concepts of India are speedily becoming part of mainstream America.

Many mainstream grocery stores, including healthy/natural food stores, in USA and Canada now carry various food items of India like basmati rice, chutneys, frozen microwavable foods, etc. Almost every town has exclusive Indian grocery store/stores now and bigger cities boast of stores specializing in regional Indian groceries like South Indian, Punjabi, Gujarati, Bengali, etc.

Indian food is taking North America by storm. Most of the towns (even the small ones) have Indian restaurants now and their numbers are increasing every year. About 90 percent of their customers are of non-India background and many are flocking to these for healthy ingredients. Classes in “cooking of India” are being offered almost all over the continent.

Yoga has already made huge inroads into the American psyche. Image conscious entertainment celebrities (and even athletes) and others appear to be flocking to yoga studios (which have popped up even in small towns) to obtain svelte figures, sleek physiques, etc. According to an estimate, about 15 million Americans now do yoga.

Welcoming the interest in things Indian, acclaimed Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, urged Americans and Canadians to go beyond the surface and indulge in serious study of rich philosophical thought provided by Hinduism, which is the oldest and third largest religion of the world with about one billion adherents.

Reacting to the recent adventures of Hollywood luminaries flirting with Hinduism, Hindu concepts and terminology, Zed, who is president of Universal Society of Hinduism, said that Hollywood celebrities needed to have more patience and go beyond the superficial because Hinduism concepts evolved over thousands of years and needed deeper study.

Bollywood dance craze is also spreading across USA and Canada. Bollywood dance classes/workshops are hot, fun, energetic and contagious and Bollywood dance studios/companies/centers/schools are showing up almost everywhere to teach its hip-shaking moves. Many night clubs are having “Bollywood nights”.

Americans have become familiar with many Sanskrit and other Indian language words, like avatar, namaste, Om, etc., and these appear in the usage frequently. Recently, there has been a surge in interest in Sanskrit tattoo designs and symbols among Hollywood and other celebrities and common people. Om, the mystical syllable containing the universe, seems to be the most popular of Sanskrit tattoos, Rajan Zed points out.

Henna, which has been playing a vital role in Hindu weddings since ancient times, is also becoming popular with Americans, celebrities as well commoners. Also known as mehndi, it is turning into an in-thing as a trendy alternative to traditional tattoos.

Kirtan (also referred as call-and-response chanting session, ecstatic chanting, participatory music experience, devotional singing, sacred chant) is attracting large audiences in USA and Canada, resulting in various new albums and creation of star kirtan artists. Rajan Zed says that according to Kirtan participants, the powerful healing and transformational energies of these ancient chants in a living room style music experience helps calming and focusing the mind, uplift, provide a soothing melody, inspire, bring peace and connectedness, etc.

“We Are All Hindus Now”, headlined an article in the recent edition of prestigious newsmagazine “Newsweek”, saying “U.S. Views on God and Life Are Turning Hindu”. Roughly 24 percent American adults believe in reincarnation and a similar number believe in yoga as a spiritual practice, according to a new poll by the well-respected Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life.

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