America’s Many Religions

Hinduism in America

1780s CE Trade between India and America

Trade started between India and America in the late 1700s. In 1784, a ship called United States arrived in Pondicherry from Salem, Massachusetts. In the decades that followed Indian goods became available in Salem, Boston, and Providence.

1801 CE First Writings on “Hindoos”

New England writer Hannah Adams first published Alphabetical Compendium of the Various Sects (later issued as A View of Religions and A Dictionary of All Religions). It has a chapter describing the “Hindoos,” as best she could understand from the Boston countryside.

1810-20 CE Unitarian Interest in Hindu Reform Movements

The American Unitarians became interested in Hindu thought through the work of the Bengali reformer Rammohun Roy (1772-1833). Roy founded the Brahmo Samaj which affirmed Hindu monotheism and rejected idolatry. The Brahmo Samaj with its universalist ideas attracted the attention of Unitarians in England and America.

1820-70s CE Emerson’s Discovery of India

Ralph Waldo Emerson discovered Indian thought as an undergraduate at Harvard, in part through the Unitarian connection with Rammohun Roy. In the 1830s, Emerson had copies of the Rig Veda, the Upanishads, the Laws of Manu, the Bhagavata Purana, and his favorite Indian text, the Bhagavad Gita. 

1838 CE Thoreau at Walden with the Bhagavad Gita

Henry David Thoreau was introduced to Indian thought through Emerson. During the year 1838-39, he retreated to “confront the essential facts of life” at Walden Pond, which he called “God’s drop” and compared to the holy Ganges. His classic, Walden, makes clear that the Bhagavad Gita accompanied him there. In a sense, he embraced Indian thought more fully in his own life and thought than did Emerson. 

1842 CE The American Oriental Society

The A.O.S. was inaugurated in 1842 to advance scholarship on Asian topics. Its publication, the Journal of the American Oriental Society, which still exists today, was instrumental in establishing scholarly work on Asian thought in America. 

1840s CE New England Transcendentalists 

The Transcendentalist movement inspired by Emerson and Thoreau included philosopher Bronson Alcott and learned preacher Theodore Parker. They took Hindu thought seriously, and viewed the many historic religions as local variants of a universal religious impulse toward the Transcendent. Hindu ideas are disseminated in books written by Transcendentalists James Freeman Clarke (Ten Great Religions) and Samuel Johnson (The Religion of Asia).

1851 CE Salem’s Fourth of July

Trade with India increased slowly, but steadily. In 1851, a half dozen Asian Indians marched in the East India Marine Society contingent of the Fourth of July parade in Salem.

1867 CE The Free Religious Association

The Free Religionists split with more conservative Unitarians and gave Eastern thought an important role in the 1870s and 1880s. They drew upon the work of the great Orientalist Max Müller who was translating Indian scriptures and making them available in the West.

1880-90s CE Theosophy emerges in America

Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and Henry Steel Olcott, while pursuing their own agenda in creating a universal religion based on ancient scriptures, helped disseminate Hindu thought. They believed that the Oriental religions contained the purest kernels of their universal religion. Blavatsky and Olcott went to India and the movement grew considerably, in both India and the West.

1893 CE Hindus at the World’s Parliament of Religions

At the Parliament, Hindus, for the first time, presented their teachings to American audiences. Hindus at the Parliament were Protap Chundar Mozoomdar and B. B. Nagarkar (both of the Brahmo Samaj), Narasima Chari and S. Parthacarathy Arjangar (both Vaishnavites), Mohun Dev, Manilal N. Dvivedi, and Swami Vivekananda. The powerful oratory of Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) eclipsed the others and he drew a phenomenal response from the audience, preaching the tolerance of Hinduism.

1893 CE Swami Vivekananda Tours America

Immediately following the Parliament, Swami Vivekandanda’s speaking tour took him to such places as Madison, Minneapolis, Des Moines, Detroit, and Memphis. Everywhere he challenged audiences with a positive, universal Hindu message.

1894 CE Vivekananda Founds Vedanta Society

Swami Vivekananda founded the first Vedanta Society in New York. His teachings focused on three main themes: the essentials of Vedanta philosophy, the unjust criticism of Hinduism by Christian missionaries in India, and the need for understanding between East and West. Vivekananda returned to India in 1897.

1899 CE Vedanta Society in San Francisco

After two years in India, Swami Vivekananda returned to America and established a Vedanta center in San Francisco. He installed Swami Trigunatita in San Francisco and Swami Abhedananda in New York—both monks from the Ramakrishna Mission in Calcutta. These were the first two of what would eventually become nearly twenty Vedanta society and retreat centers in the U.S.

1902 CE Swami Rama Tirtha to U.S. 

Swami Rama Tirtha (1873-1906), also a Vedantin, arrived in America in 1902. He toured and lectured for two years. Swami Rama was a poet, intellectual and itinerant teacher. Preferring a quiet, simple life, he had no wish to found a movement as did Vivekananda. While in America, he spent most of his time as a guest of a Dr. Hiller in Shasta Springs, California and giving lectures in and around San Francisco. Swami Rama returned to India in 1904 and died by an accidental drowning in the Ganges, but not before inspiring considerable admiration and devotion from American followers.

1902 CE Baba Premanand Bharati, Krishna Devotee

This Bengali follower of Krishna-devotee and saint, Sri Caitanya, came to the U.S. in 1902 and founded the Krishna Samaj. He lectured in New York, Boston, and Los Angeles, where he is said to have built a Hindu temple. The Krishna Samaj was the first bhakti-oriented form of Hinduism to reach American soil, a precursor to the Hare Krishnas of the 1960s. Bharati returned to India in 1907.

1903 CE A. K. Mozumdar: Messianic World Message

Mozumdar’s Messianic World Message was an eclectic blend of Hinduism and Christianity. Mozumdar (1864-1953) also published a series of pamphlets called The Life and the Way Series. In 1911, A. K. Mozumdar was the first East Indian to receive American citizenship.

1906 CE First Major Hindu Temple

The first Hindu temple in North America was erected in San Francisco in 1906 by the San Francisco Vedanta Society, and quickly became a San Francisco landmark. It is a remarkably eclectic building, incorporating elements from a Hindu temple, a Christian church, a Muslim mosque, and an American residence.

1910 CE Split in New York Vedanta Society 

The Vedanta center in New York collapsed due to a split between Swami Abhedananda and the New York members. This was a blow to the fledgling Vedanta movement in America.

1911 CE Attacks on Hinduism

In 1911, a sensational article by Mabel Potter Daggett, “The Heathen Invasion” was published. Shortly thereafter in 1912, a Mrs. Gross Alexander published her “American Women Going After Heathen Gods”. These articles expressed concern about the large percentage of women in Vedanta Centers, presenting them as duped by the charms of Asian teachers.

1912 CE Tagore to America 

Bengali poet, Rabindranath Tagore, came to the U.S. for the first time in 1912-13. He returned in 1916-17. His son went to agricultural school at the University of Illinois, Urbana. He lived briefly in Urbana, lectured at Harvard and elsewhere. Tagore won the Nobel prize for literature in 1917.

1912-15 CE Vedanta Centers, Boston and Los Angeles

Swami Paramananda started the Vedanta Center of Boston in about 1912 and began publishing “The Message of the East” journal which continued for 50 years. In 1915, he opened a center in Los Angeles. He divided his time equally between Boston and L.A.

1917 CE Asian Exclusion extended to Indians

The Asian Exclusion Act of 1917 cut off almost all immigration from India. Until 1965 when the immigration laws changed, the transmission of Hinduism to America was reduced to a trickle.

1920s CE Krishnamurti to California

The Theosophists contributed to the dissemination of Hindu thought through their promotion of Jiddu Krishnamurti as the predicted world savior. Krishnamurti developed a center in Ojai, California, where the Krishnamurti Foundation continues to circulate his writings to this day. In 1929, he renounced his messianic role and broke with the Theosophists, rejecting the impulse to clamor for a savior as another form of spiritual bondage.

1920 CE Paramahamsa Yogananda to America

Yogananda (1893-1952) founded Yogoda-Satsang in India in 1917 and brought it to America in 1920 when he came to Boston to attend the Pilgrim Tercentenary Anniversary International Congress of Religious Liberals, sponsored by the Unitarian Church. After the conference, Swami Yogananda stayed on, becoming the first Hindu Vedanta and Yoga teacher to settle in the United States. By 1930, he had established twelve Yogoda centers in cities across America. His movement continues to the present as the Self Realization Fellowship. Until 1965 when significant numbers of immigrants from India began to arrive, this movement was the largest and most extensive Hindu organization in the U.S. 

1923 CE Ananda Ashram in California

Swami Paramananda founded the Ananda Ashram, a Vedanta hermitage in the foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountains in California.

1923 CE Swami Omkar Founds Ashram in Philadelphia

Swami Omkar had founded Santi Asrama in Madras in 1917 in memory of Swami Rama Tirtha. In 1923, he began an American branch of Santi Asrama in Philadelphia, Sri Nariya Asrama. 

1925 CE Self-Realization Fellowship 

Swami Yogananda opened the International Headquarters of the Self-Realization Fellowship in Los Angeles. By 1930 he had established twelve centers of the Self-Realization Fellowship in cities across America, and SRF claimed 25,000 members. Until the 1960s, this was the largest and most extensive Hindu organization in the U.S.

1927 CE Katherine Mayo’s Mother India

Hinduism was viciously attacked by Mayo’s best-seller Mother India, a book which sharply critiqued the most sensational practices—“idol worship,” animal sacrifices, child marriage, and widow burning. Left entirely untouched were the higher ideals of the tradition expressed by the Hindu reformers of the day. The book set off considerable controversy. Swami Omkar, among others, responded vehemently to the book. 

1928 CE Dharma Mandal in New York City

A Bengali dramatist, Kedarnath Das Gupta, founded the Dharma Mandal in New York City and also published a magazine, Dharma, in an effort to “present India from India’s point of view.”

1930 CE Hinduism Invades America

This book by Wendell Thomas chronicles the early history of Hinduism in America and the varied responses of Americans to this religious tradition.

1930s CE New Vedanta Centers

The Vedanta Society experienced a growth spurt in the 1930s and 1940s. New centers opened in Portland, Hollywood, Providence, Chicago, New York, St. Louis, and Seattle. Membership tripled in the 1930s and grew steadily until the 1950s when it leveled off again.

1930s CE Growth of Self Realization Fellowship

The Self Realization Fellowship also flourished during this time. A November 14, 1936 Literary Digest article, “Oriental Solace: Hindu Ritual of Peace and Tolerance Gains U.S. Devotees," estimated that Swami Yogananda's followers numbered over 25,000 during this time. 

1932 CE Meher Baba to America

This spiritual teacher was born a Parsi, but became a mystic who transcended the confines of any tradition. He was seen by his followers in India and the West to be an avatara or divine “descent” of God. During his first visit to America he stayed at Harmon-on-the-Hudson and, later, visited Hollywood.

1937 CE World Spiritual University in New York City 

Dada Lekh Raj, also called Sri Prajapita Brahma, spiritual leader of the Brahma Kumari movement in India, founded the Brahma Kumari’s World Spiritual University in New York. Leadership passed to the Brahma Kumaris, his female disciples.

1941 CE Centers Split from Vedanta Society

The Vedanta movement experienced a blow when the Ananda Ashram in California and the Vedanta retreat center in Boston split away from the Vedanta Society and continued under the name of the Order of Ramakrishna Brahmavadin, which they carry to this day. These communities both had women lieutenants of Paramananda as their leaders, including Gayatri Devi and Sister Daya. Upon Paramananda’s death, the Ramakrishna Mission in India refused to name them as the new leaders of their respective centers, insisting that the leaders of Vedanta centers be monks trained in Calcutta. 

1941 CE Christopher Isherwood Becomes Vedantin

The writer Christopher Isherwood joined the Hollywood Ramakrishna Vedanta Society at the age of 35 and became a lifelong student of Swami Prabhavananda. They collaborated on an English translation of the Bhagavad Gita published in 1943.

1949 CE Saiva Siddhanta Church Founded 

The Saiva Siddhanta Church was founded in 1949 when Siva Yogaswami (1872-1964) passed the mantle of spiritual succession for his lineage to Gurudeva Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, an American disciple. Subramuniyaswami returned to the U.S., practiced intense meditation, and began his active teaching in 1957. The first headquarters of the Saiva Siddhanta Church was in Kauai, Hawaii.

1950 CE Lake Shrine Opened in Los Angeles

On August 20, 1950 the Self-Realization Fellowship of Swami Yogananda formally opened its new international headquarters, “The Lake Shrine”, in Pacific Palisades, California. This 13-acre center has grown over the years to house life-size statues of Jesus and the Buddha, an artificial lake and windmill, and a gilded brass chest said to contain some of Gandhi’s ashes.

1950s CE Popularization of Yoga

Hatha Yoga, the physical yoga of breathing and postures, became popular in this decade. Yoga teachers demonstrated postures on television and bookstores carried books on yoga techniques. They were taken up by many people who had little interest or knowledge about their religious underpinnings. 

1952 CE Swami Yogananda Dies, Body Incorruptible

The death of Swami Yogananda attracted considerable media attention due to the attested incorruptibility of his physical body for twenty days after he died. After Yogananda’s death, several of his followers founded new organizations including the Self-Revelation Church of Absolute Monism in Washington D.C., the Prema Dharmasala in Virginia, the Temple of Kriya Yoga in Chicago, and the Ananda Church of God-Realization.

1952 CE Meher Baba Center in Myrtle Beach

American members of Baba’s circle established the Meher Spiritual Center, a large retreat center at Myrtle Beach, to host Baba and his companions in America. Baba visited the center in 1952, 1956, and 1958. 

1957 CE Saiva Siddhanta in San Francisco

Subramuniyaswami founded the Saiva Siddhanta Yoga Order in San Francisco. He established the Palaniswami Temple which was the first Hindu temple in North America performing traditional deity worship. The temple moved to Concord, California in 1989. 

1957 CE Nityananda Institute

The Institute was founded by an American master named Swami Chetananda, of the lineage of the Indian sage, Swami Nityananda. By the early seventies it had centers in Portland, Oregon; Cambridge, Massachusetts; Santa Monica, California; and Ann Arbor, Michigan providing yoga classes, study groups, retreats and a daily practice of chanting. 

1958 CE Divine Life Society 

The American branch of the Divine Life Society of India, the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center, was founded by Swami Vishnu Devananda in 1958. The Indian society was founded in 1936 by Swami Sivananda Saraswati. In North America, the Divine Life Society established three large yoga camps in Quebec, New York state, and the Bahamas.

1959 CE Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi arrived in America with a simple technique of yoga meditation for popular use called Transcendental Meditation (TM). During the next ten years, he established the Spiritual Regeneration Movement (SRM) in Los Angeles and branches of the Students International Meditation Society (SIMS) on hundreds of college campuses. The Beatles and Mia Farrow attracted popular attention to TM.

1965 CE Immigration Act of 1965 

The act gave preference to visa applicants whose skills were needed in the U.S. and those with professional qualifications. Immigration from India rose dramatically and a highly educated and affluent Hindu immigrant population began to grow in the U.S.

1965 CE Bhaktivedanta to the U.S.

A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1896-1977) arrived in America and founded the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), otherwise known as the Hare Krishna movement. Bhaktivedanta was seventy years old when he arrived in New York City. His movement of devotion to Lord Krishna grew within a few years to include dozens of ISKCON centers .

1966 CE Swami Satchidananda to the U.S.

Swami Satchidananda, a disciple of Swami Sivananda in India, attracted many seekers to the discipline of yoga. He spoke to the multitudes at Woodstock in August of 1969. Satchidananda later founded the headquarters of the Integral Yoga Institute in the U.S., at Yogaville in Virginia.

1968 CE New Vrindavan

ISKCON established the rural New Vrindavan community in the hills of West Virginia. Named after the popular childhood home of Krishna in India, New Vrindavan became a popular place of pilgrimage for American Hindus.

1968 CE Ananda Meditation Retreat

This center was founded by Swami Kriyananda (J. Donald Walters), disciple of Swami Paramahansa Yogananda and former board member of the Self-Realization Fellowship. Kriyananda parted ways with SRF in 1962.

1969 CE The Ananda Marga Yoga Society

The American headquarters of this group, founded in India in 1955 by Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar, was established in New York.

1969 CE Rukmini Dwarakadish Temple

Established by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada, this Center in Los Angeles became the North American headquarters and flagship temple for the ISKCON movement.

1970s CE The “Secularization” of TM

Transcendental Meditation (TM) began moving away from its ‘pop’ appeal and toward a scientifically verifiable means to creativity and peace of mind attractive to professionals. TM was billed as a technique of practice not necessarily linked to Hinduism or any other religion. The governing body in the United States became the World Plan Executive Council (WPEC) in 1972.

1970s CE Satya Sai Baba 

Centers of Satya Sai Baba began to appear in America. This guru, born in 1926, is said to be the incarnation of the previous South Indian saint, Sai Baba, who died in 1918. His largest American centers are in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. By 1984, the Satya Sai Baba Council of America listed seventy-six Satya Sai Baba Centers. 

1970 CE Kauai Aadheenam Monastery, Hawaii

Gurudeva Sivaya Subramuniyaswami established the monastery and the Kadavul Hindu Temple on the island of Kauai, Hawaii, a center which has now become the nucleus of the Saiva Siddhanta Church. The monastery now publishes educational materials of the Himalayan Academy and the monthly newspaper Hinduism Today.

1970 CE Swami Muktananda and Siddha Yoga Meditation

Siddha Yoga Meditation was brought to America by Swami Muktananda Paramahamsa (1908-1982). His ashram in Ganeshpuri, India drew many American devotees. With this two-month visit to the U.S., the movement began to grow here as well.

1970 CE Sri Chinmoy at UN

Sri Chinmoy, a disciple of Sri Aurobindo, and an athlete and artist as well as a spiritual teacher, began to lead meditations for world peace at the United Nations. Sri Chinmoy has continued to be known in the U.S. and throughout the world for his many initiatives for world peace.

1970 CE Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America

The VHP began at a World Hindu Conference in 1966 in India, with a mission to arouse Hindu consciousness and strengthen Hindu society. Its first American meeting was October 19, 1970 in New York. It has sponsored conferences, youth camps, and a national student movement.

1970 CE Hindu Temple Society of North America

The temple society was incorporated in Flushing, Queens, the first of a new wave of American Hindu associations. It worked toward the building of a temple for Lord Ganesha in Queens, which was consecrated in 1977.

1971 CE Guru Maharaj-ji

A teenage guru, Maharaj-Ji, introduced the Divine Light Mission to America. He was 13 years old when he arrived in Colorado and made Denver his international headquarters. By the end of 1973, 50,000 people had received his teaching, but most did not stay with the movement. Members were called “premies,” lovers of God.

1971 CE Swami Rama Founds Himalayan Institute

The Himalayan International Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy was founded by Swami Rama, an Indian born yogi who became a spiritual leader in India, taught philosophy and psychology, and then came to the U.S. in 1969.

1973 CE Guru Maharaj-ji in Astrodome 

The Divine Light Mission rented the Houston Astrodome for what it billed as Millennium 1973, “the most significant event in human history.” Attendance fell far below anticipated and left DLM deeply in debt. The movement was struck by a further blow in 1974 when Guru Maharaj-ji married his American secretary.

1974 CE The Maharishi International University

MIU was established in Fairfield, Iowa in 1974 as a degree-granting university under the auspices of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It offers bachelors and masters degrees and enrolls about 700 undergraduate and graduate students.

1974 CE Siddha Yoga Dham Associates

During a two year stay in the U.S., Swami Muktananda established SYDA centers in Oakland, California and in the Catskill mountains of New York. The South Fallsburg, NY center eventually became the international headquarters of the organization. By 1976, there were some eighty meditation groups and five ashrams, claiming 20,000 followers. Muktananda taught that each individual has an internal transformative energy, shakti, that can be awakened by the guru.

1975 CE Chinmaya Mission West Founded

Swami Chinmayananda, another disciple of Swami Sivananda, brought his Chinmaya Mission to America. Swami Chinmayanada traveled widely, gave lectures, and sponsored summer youth camps and family camps in America until his death in 1993. There are Chinmaya Mission centers in many American cities.

1977 CE Consecration of America’s First Temples

The Sri Venkateswara Temple in Penn Hills outside of Pittsburgh was consecrated with rites of Kumbhabhisekam on June 8, 1977. Its presiding deity is the form of Vishnu known as Venkatesvara, whose shrine at Tirupati in south India is a popular place of pilgrimage. Similarly the “S.V.” temple in Pittsburgh has become an American pilgrimage place for Hindus.

The Hindu Temple Society of North America in Flushing, Queens was formally established on January 26, 1970--India’s Republic Day. After years of work, the Ganesha temple was consecrated with the rites of Kumbhabhishekam on July 4, 1977. Ganesha is the “remover of obstacles” and the guardian of the doorway or threshold.

1975-79 CE Hindu Temples in the Making

Hindu Temple Societies are formed in many cities: the Bharatiya Temple (Troy, Michigan), the Capital District Hindu Temple (Albany, New York), the Sri Meenakshi Temple (Houston), the Hindu Temple Society of Southern California (Calabasas), the Hindu Temple of Greater Chicago, the New England Hindu Temple Incorporated (Boston), and the Connecticut Valley Hindu Temple Society (Middletown). All incorporated between 1975 and 1979 and began working toward temple construction.

1976 CE Kashi Ashram in Roseland, Florida

Kashi Ashram was established by Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati, a Brooklyn-born guru whose spiritual journey was guided by Christ, Swami Nityananda, and her guru Neem Karoli Baba. The ashram, named for the sacred city of Kashi (Banaras or Varanasi) in India, has grown into an interfaith religious community of service built around its own “Ganges” in Florida.

1977 CE First Swaminarayan Temple

The first Swaminarayan temple in America was consecrated on August 3, 1977 in Flushing, New York, also on Bowne Street. This movement of Gujarati immigrant Hindus follows the teacher Pramukh Swami, considered to be embodiment of the perfect devotee of Krishna. The movement grew rapidly with new Gujarati immigration and within twenty-five years had over 50 centers and 8 temples.

1977 CE New Jagannath Puri Temple

The Berkeley, California ISKCON community consecrated an elaborate temple for Krishna, modeled on the Indian temple of Jagannath in Puri, Orissa.

1977 CE A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Dies

Following Bhaktivedanta’s death, the Governing Body Commission of eleven senior disciples took over the spiritual and organizational management of the ISKCON movement. Each of the eleven had a regional jurisdiction. In the next decade, tensions, infighting, and legal charges against some of the gurus considerably weakened ISKCON.

1979 CE Vedic Heritage, Inc.

Vedic Heritage Inc. was formed by the teacher Guru Maa, who began teaching in Forest Hills, New York. By the mid-1980s she and her community had created America’s largest Hanuman Temple, located in Hempstead, Long Island.

1980s CE Rapid Growth of Asian Indian population

In 1980 the U.S. Census first used the category “Asian Indian” and in that year 361,544 chose that designation. Asian Indian immigration continued at a steady rate in the 1980s.

1980s CE Hindu Temple Societies Formed

New Hindu Temple Societies were formed to begin building temples in many cities: Lanham, Maryland (Siva-Vishnu Temple, 1980); Nashville, Tennessee (Sri Ganesha Temple, 1980); Liberty, Ohio (Sri Lakshmi Narayan Temple, 1981); Flint, Michigan (Paschimakasi Sri Viswanatha Temple, 1982); San Antonio, Texas (Hindu Temple, 1984); Aurora, Illinois (Sri Venkateswara Swami Temple of Greater Chicago, 1985); Casselberry, Florida (Hindu Society of Central Florida, 1987). Building and rites of consecration followed in these and many other cities.

1981 CE Bharatiya Temple of Troy, Michigan

This temple typifies the many built in this period: the Hindu community in Detroit purchased 18 acres of wooded land in suburban Troy in 1976. The “Bhoomi Puja” or ground-breaking took place on July 4, 1976. Following its dedication in 1981, the consecration of its white marble images of the deities, typical of those of north India, took place in November, 1983. The temple brings north and south Indian communities together.

1981 CE International Society of Divine Love

Swami Prakashananda Saraswati founded the International Society of Divine Love, a bhakti movement devoted to Lord Krishna. He came to the U.S. in 1981 and established his first ashram in Philadelphia in 1984. The movement now has nine centers in America and dedicated a large temple complex in Austin, Texas in 1994 to serve as its home base.

1981 CE Arrival of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh

Rajneesh established a new ashram on 100 square acres of land near Antelope, Oregon. By 1984 the community was thriving with largely European and American followers. It is estimated that Rajneesh had some 20,000 followers worldwide. The ashram disintegrated amidst internal dissent and legal controversy in l985.

1982 CE Swami Muktananda Dies

The spiritual master of the Siddha Yoga movement, Swami Muktananda, died in October 1982. His chosen successors were two young gurus--a young man, Nityananda, and his sister, Chidvilasananda. After three years, Nityananda stepped down as guru. Swami Chidvilasananda, called Gurumayi, is now the head of the Siddha Yoga movement.

1984 CE Badarikashrama Temple

Followers of Swami Omkarananda purchased facilities for a spiritual and cultural Hindu center in San Leandro, California. The temple was dedicated on Mother’s Day, 1984.

1985 CE Hindu Federation of America

This organization was launched by Swami Premananda in the San Francisco Bay area, with its headquarters in Fremont. Its mission was to educate non-Hindus about Hinduism and promote peace among religions.

1985 CE Arsha Vidya Gurukulam

Swami Dayananda Saraswati founded the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam in the Pocono mountains in Pennsylvania. The traditional Hindu retreat and study center enables students to live in a contemplative setting and study Vedanta. The Arsha Vidya Pitham split away from the Chinmaya Mission in 1982.

1986 CE LOTUS Temple in Virginia

LOTUS, the Light of Truth Universal Shrine, opened at Yogaville in Buckingham, Virginia, under the spiritual leadership of Swami Satchidananda. The pink-glass lotus-shaped shrine upholds light as the universal symbol of Reality for all faiths.

1987 CE The Mahabharata on Stage and Screen

Director Peter Brook’s nine hour rendition of the Mahabharata was staged in Brooklyn and later made into a film.

1987 CE The Path of Grace Comes to America

Pushti Margya Samaj of North America started temples in New York, Pennsylvania, and Houston. The Pushti Marga is a devotional movement, emphasizing the grace and love of Lord Krishna and especially honoring Krishna as the divine child.

1987 CE Saiva Siddhanta Church

The Saiva Siddhanta Church opened in Concord, California, under the leadership of Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, an American-born teacher initiated into the Saiva Siddhanta lineage of Sri Lanka.

1990 CE Census of Asian Indians

The 1990 census reported 815,447 “Asian Indians” in America.

1990s CE New Hindu Temple Societies

In the 1990s, new Hindu Temple Societies have formed to build temples. For example, the Hindu Temple and Cultural Society of USA was established in central New Jersey and bought a large former church building in Bridgewater. The temple community grew quickly and broke ground in 1995 for a new Sri Venkateswara Temple on the site.

1991 CE Cultural Festival of India

The Cultural Festival of India, a thirty day celebration of Indian culture, organized by the Bochasanwasi Swaminarayan Sanstha (BSS) took place in the summer on the grounds of Middlesex County College in Edison, New Jersey. The festival attracted some 40,000 people every weekend for a month.

1993 CE Ashwamedha Yajna in Los Angeles

In August, the Gayatri Pariwar in India sponsored a three-day “1008 Kundi Ashwamedha Yagna” in a huge parking lot of Cerritos College in Norwalk, California. 1008 sacred fires were kindled as the individuals, couples, and families sponsoring the event made offerings into the fire pits or kundis.

1993 CE Global Vision 2000

As many as 10,000 American Hindus gathered in Washington D.C. to celebrate the centennial of Swami Vivekananda’s coming to the U.S. The gala convention hosted by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHP) took as its vision from the Sanskrit Vasudhaiva kutumbakam, “the entire creation is one family.”

1993 CE Parliament of the World’s Religions

The Chicago-based Hindu host committee for the Parliament was active in preparations for the centennial. Hindus teachers and speakers at the Parliament included many with U.S. centers: Swami Chidananda of the Divine Life Mission; Swami Satchidananda of Yogaville, Virginia; Satguru Sivaya Subramuniswami of Hawaii; Sadguru Keshavdas of the Temple of Cosmic Religion, California; and Mother Amritanandamayi of Castro Valley, California.

1993 CE Navaratri in New Jersey

Fall Navaratri celebrations of the “Nine Nights” of the Goddess have grown too large for any building. 10,000 come each weekend of the event for Ras Garba dances in a huge tent in Edison, New Jersey. The temporary image of the Goddess is 18 feet high.

1994 CE Sayreville, New Jersey Krishna Temple

The Dwarakadish Temple of the Pushti Marga movement opened in a former YMCA building. The community had struggled with the city council and zoning board to win permission to convert the YMCA into a Krishna temple.

1995 CE Murugan Temple of North America

Construction of a large South Indian temple dedicated to Murugan, also known as Karttikeya, began on Princess Garden Parkway in Lanham, Maryland, not far from the already thriving Siva-Vishnu Temple.

1995 CE Ashwamedha Yajna at Soldier’s Field, Chicago

On a steamy weekend in the summer, more than 3000 Hindus participated in the ritual event with hundreds of fire-altars, kindled to honor the gods through the Gayatri, the most sacred of Hindu ritual mantras. The huge event was sponsored by the Gayatri Pariwar in India.

1996 CE Hinduism Today Magazine

Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami upgraded the popular newspaper Hinduism Today, which he had launched in 1979, to a quarterly magazine. The magazine was published from Hawaii, where Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami operated his ashram. Five years after the launch of Hinduism Today magazine, Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami passed away.

1997 CE American Hindus Against Defamation

The American Hindus Against Defamation organization is founded. Over the years the group would go on to protest about of number of things they found desecrated the Hindu tradition such as sandals with the image of the Hindu deity Ganesha on them in 2003.

1999 CE Southern Baptist Church Prayer Guide Controversy

Right before the Hindu festival of lights, Diwali, thirty thousand copies of a prayer guide for converting Hindus, were distributed by members of the Southern Baptist Church, eliciting national controversy and protest. In protest on November 7th in Houston, Texas at Second Baptist Church more than one hundred people participated in a rally that was organized by the Hindus of Greater Houston.

2000 CE Hindu Prayer in Congress

Venkatachalapathi Samuldrala, a priest belonging to the Shiva Vishnu Hindu Temple in Parma, Ohio, became the first Hindu to open a session to a joint session of the US Congress with a Hindu invocation prayer on September 14th. Following the prayer India's Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee gave addressed the congress.

2000 CE Hindu University of America Campus

Seven years after its founding, the Hindu University of America received its very own campus in Orlando, Florida, which consisted of a 9.7 acre property with two academic buildings.

2001 CE Ramayana Recitation in Pomona

Every day for over a week in June, hundreds of Hindu came to the Fairplex in Pomona, California to listen to Ramesh Oza tell the story of the ancient Hindu epic, the Ramayana.

2001 CE Aftermath of 9/11

After the tragic events of September 11th, Hindus across America found themselves the victims of hate crimes. For example during the week following the attacks, two Hindu temples, one in Medinah, Illinois and the other in Matawan, New Jersey, and a convenience store owned by a Hindu man from Gujarat, India in Somerset, Massachusetts, were all firebombed.

2002 CE McDonald’s Fries Settlement

McDonald’s apologized to Hindus for having failed to inform them that their French fries contained beef flavoring. McDonalds also stated that they would pay ten million dollars to Hindus, vegetarian and other groups. In a similar case three years earlier in 1999, Taco Bell settled a lawsuit with Hindu, Mukesh K. Rai, after they served him a beef burrito instead of a vegetarian bean burrito.

2003 CE The Hindu American Foundation

The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) an advocacy group for Hindu Americans is founded. The group stated that, “HAF seeks to serve Hindu Americans across all sampradayas (Hindu religious traditions) regardless of race, color, national origin, citizenship, caste, gender, sexual orientation, age and/or disability.” The group in 2004 went on to spearhead a brief with the United States Supreme Court in a case asking for the removal of a Ten Commandments monument from Texas State Capitol grounds.

2003 CE First White House Diwali Celebration

The White House hosted the Hindu festival of lights, Diwali, for the first time with political advisor Karl Rove standing in for President George W Bush. Seventy members of the USA’s Indian community attended including Dr Sudhir M Parikh, vice-president of Indian American Forum for Political Education (IAFPE) and Gopal Khanna, CIO of Peace Corps. The event included an elaborate Indian feast and a classical Indian dance performance. The event took place in the Indian Treaty Room of the East Wing of the Old Executive Office Building, adjacent to the White House.

2005 CE California Textbook Controversy

The Texas based Vedic Foundation (VF) and the American Hindu Education Foundation (HEF) approached California's Curriculum Commission, saying that the depictions of Indian history and the Hindu tradition in the sixth grade textbooks were biased against Hindus and proposed various edits. At the same time some scholars of South Asia opposed the edits as inaccurate representations of Indian history. Later that year more Hindu organizations voiced their opposition to these textbooks. In 2006, at the California Department of Education a five-member Board of Education subcommittee all voted to recommend adoption of staff recommendations for edits and corrections proposed by VF and HEF for the textbooks.

2007 CE Hindu Prayer at Nevada State Senate

On May 7th, Rajan Zed opened a session of the Nevada State Senate with a prayer from the Hindu text, the Rig-Veda. This was the first time a Hindu prayer was delivered in the Nevada State Senate. Earlier that year in March Rajan Zed had read an opening prayer to the Nevada State Assembly. He went on to give historic first Hindu opening prayers in California, Arizona, Washington, Utah, and New Mexico Senates and the Arizona and Oregon House of Representatives.

2007 CE Hindu Prayer at Senate

After offering the opening prayers at a number of state senate sessions, on July 12th Rajan Zed gave the first Hindu morning prayer ever in the United States Senate. At the start of the prayer three Christian protestors who had positioned themselves in the visitor’s gallery began to protest the prayer. They were quickly removed by police officers and the protestors were arrested and charged with disrupting Congress, a misdemeanor.

2009 CE Inauguration of President Barack Obama

During his inaugural address on January 20th, President Barack Obama stated, “We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers”, thus being the first president to address America’s Hindu community in his inaugural address. The next day at the customary National prayer service at the Washington National Cathedral, Uma Mysorekar, the president of the Hindu Temple Society of North America, participated in the ceremony.

2009 CE President Obama Lights Diwali Lamp in White House

President Barack Obama became the first president to attend the White House’s Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, celebration on October 15th. He lit a ceremonial Diwali diya lamp during the half-hour event, which included a Hindi a cappella performance and a Sanskrit invocation by a local Hindu priest.

2009 CE Friendly’s Converted to Hindu Temple

Braj Mandir in Holbrook, Massachusetts was dedicated on October 25th. Braj Mandir is affiliated with the Vrindavana Preservation Society (VPS), and serves eighteen hundred VPS members in the Quincy area. After four years of fruitless searching for a space that could accommodate its growing number of members, VPS came across a closing Friendly’s restaurant in 2006. During the next three years the old restaurant was renovated and Braj Mandir emerged, a temple devoted to the Hindu female deity Radha.

2012 CE First Hindu American Elected to Congress

Representative Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat, was sworn in as the first Hindu member of Congress in January 2013, following her election in November, taking her oath on the Bhagavad Gita.