On September 11, 2019, following an overtly Hinduphobic tweet by NPR’s Furkan Khan, I started a petition appealing to NPR to demonstrate greater journalistic integrity in their reportage on Hindus, Hinduism, and India. The petition quickly gained support, reaching nearly 10,000 signatures within a few weeks.

Carved granite Nandi. Vijayanagara Empire. Circa 16th Century CE. From Deccan, India. Currently “housed” in the British Museum in London. From their website: “The white, humped bull Nandi (‘rejoicing’) symbolizes strength, virility and fertility as well as religious and moral duties. His crouching image, often housed in a small pavilion, is at the entrance of every Shiva temple.” Visit their website to read their “Acquisition Notes.”

A Critical Reading of Recent Findings on Indian American Hindus by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Survey Studies: It’s Complicated…

I am generally skeptical of survey studies, given how easy it is for findings to simply extend researchers’ existing ideas. These studies tend to captivate the public imagination; they make us feel informed, like we’re getting a birds’-eye view of aggregated, empirical data handed to us in juicy, authoritative bullet points. Biased, ideologically-heavy studies can masquerade as “neutral, empirical, generalizable data,” neatly aggregating numbers into percentages and colorful graphs, which we like and trust because they feel science-y and we can share them easily.

Thinking critically about survey studies before we consume them is less thrilling, but it is incredibly…

Trimurti from the Elephanta Caves on Elephanta Island in Mumbai Harbour. The sculptures were created during the late Gupta Empire, probably completed by about 550 CE. The islands were named Elefante (which morphed to Elephanta) by the colonial Portuguese when they found elephant statues on it. They established a base on the island; soldiers damaged the sculpture and caves. Elephanta Island was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 and is currently maintained by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI).

This reflection is the first in a series, exploring how U.S. K-12 schools and their surrounding institutions are complicit in the continued distortion, theft, erasure, and exploitation of Dharmic traditions and societies. By mapping out the mechanisms of this phenomena, I hope to illuminate some of the spaces and tangible possibilities for authentic Dharmic voices to begin reclaiming stewardship of our traditions.

We cannot afford to continue being complicit in measuring, validating, and conceptualizing indigenous practices using non-indigenous values, paradigms, and metrics.

We belong in the conversation. We have to change the conversation.

For several years, I was entrenched in the world of research on meditation and yoga in K-12 schools. I served as the Director of Research & Evaluation for a push-in school-based social emotional learning (SEL)+ yoga (asana, pranayama…

Academic Ethics & Hinduism

नमस्ते शारदे देवी काश्मीरपुरवासिनि Namaste Sharade Devi Kashmira Pura Vasini
Salutations to Devi Sharada, Who abides in the abode of Kashmira, To You, O Devi, I always pray for Knowledge. Please bestow on me the gift of that Knowledge which illuminates everything from within. (Photo credit: Sumita Ambasta)

The Video

I keep going back to that moment in the now-viral 2019 video, where Audrey Truschke, a history professor at Rutgers University, “responds” to Dr. Murali, an audience member while giving a talk in India. (I unpacked the moment here.) Murali questions Truschke about her right to do research on Aurangzeb. He situates this question very clearly in the context of the history of genocide of Native Americans in the United States.

[Can a] descendant of a genocidal people sit as a judge? Is that moral or fair? [crowd shouts more] Yes, that nation stands on the dead bodies of Native…

Ornate lintel at entrance of Chennakeshava Temple, Belur, Karnataka, India. Narasimha is seen above Garuda. All of these are typical of Hoysala architecture.

My intention here is to investigate indigenous encounters with colonial agendas in the context of Bharat (India) through the lens of coloniality. As indigeneity is often a contentious topic when it comes to Bharat, I will first establish a working definition. For the purpose of this piece, “indigenous” does not reference the genetic lineage of Indian people; this is not an exercise in what is often assumed to be xenophobia. Rather, indigenous refers to the diverse body of pre-colonial knowledge traditions that emerged from Bharatavarsha and the material and non-material stewards of those traditions. Embedded within this is the decision…

Shree Sharada Devi Temple, Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (More information about the temple here)

On May 20, 2020, St. Paul’s City Council passed a resolution condemning the Indian government’s Citizenship Amendment Act. St. Paul followed in the footsteps of Seattle and Cambridge, which had passed similar resolutions in February. Of course, St. Paul’s resolution emerged after Coronavirus had hit the United States, which begged the question: Why, in the midst of a global pandemic in which our nation was the epicenter, was a local city council in the United States putting time and energy into passing a resolution about a separate, sovereign nation?

Four days later, George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police officers was…

Vishnu as Vaikuntha-natha seated on the coils of the serpent Sesha between his two shaktis, Shri and Bhumi Devi; a third, Nila Devi, supports his right foot. From a series of 100 drawings of Hindu deities created in South India. (Trichinopoly, ca. 1825)

As I write, sirens are wailing down the street. For the past two months, ambulances have been transporting COVID patients to nearby hospitals. Now they are joined by police cars who are rushing towards protests. I am weary from the infinite loops of emotions this year has extracted. We are all drained from the normalcy of vigilance. I keep thinking about the intergenerational exhaustion held by the African American community that has led us to this moment.

Draupadi in Virata’s Palace, Raja Ravi Varma (1848–1906), Sri Chitra Art Gallery, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India

(WARNING: This article contains screenshots with strong language. It may be unsuitable for younger readers and triggering for others.)

What is Wokeness, anyway?

Originating in early twentieth century black music, “staying woke” meant being aware of the injustices faced by the black community. Erykah Badu used “woke” in her 2008 song “Master Teacher”, reinvigorating its use in the black community. After the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, it was then adopted by the Black Lives Matter movement. Soon after, wokeness was appropriated by mainstream American society, which chronically appropriates from black culture. This new pop culture version connoted a broader critical consciousness…

Scene from the sixth part(Yuddha kanda) of the Ramayana. Ravana’s son Indrajit is attacking Rama and Lakshmana with arrows that transform into snakes. Rama’s bear and monkey allies are trying to repel the attack. Artist unknown. (circa 1820)

“When you’re eight in America and your parents grew up in a different country, it’s not exactly the same as it is for other eight year olds. Sometimes, when you’re around eight, you start thinking that you need to protect your parents from the truth of what this place is.

Sure, you’re still a kid, and they still watch out for you. But you need to watch out for them, too, because around the time that you’re eight (or six or ten) you realize that even though they’re brave (braver than you realize then) for leaving everything they know and…

This letter is an aggregate of emails sent by the President of South Asian American Voices for Impact (SAAVI), Mr. Chandru Acharya, in response to a call by Equality Lab for a Twitterstorm campaign for today, Wednesday, April 8 “to call attention to the rise of Islamophobia during a global pandemic in India.” Equality Labs reached out to various organizations, including SAAVI, through an email that was sent to a distribution list called South Asian Coalition.

[Note: I am publishing this letter in my capacity as a friend of SAAVI with the permission of its author and President, Mr. Chandru…

Indu Viswanathan

Mother, scholar, educator, community member, friend, meditator, musician, and writer.

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