Pop Hinduism permeates global culture. Yoga practitioners worldwide can access it to lower their blood pressures. The transcendentally disgruntled can "find" themselves by reading the New Age musings of Deepak Chopra. Seekers can find cultivate true peace by chanting the primordial "om". And the really frisky few can check out the codified set of ancient acrobatics inspired by Kama, the divine embodiment of love.
Sacred geography has been responsible for one of modern India’s worst atrocities. In 1992 militant Hindu activists demolished a 16th-century mosque in Ayodhya, claiming that it was the birthplace of the man-god Ram. Sponsored by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which successfully used it as a political platform, this act sparked some of India’s most brutal riots since partition. The BJP has since toned down its Hindu chauvinism, but it still sends its leaders on Hindu-themed campaigning tours.
Devotees carry an idol of Hindu elephant god Ganesh, the deity of prosperity, into the water from Girgaum Chowpatty beach before immersing it in the waters of the Arabian Sea on the last day of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival in Mumbai... Idols are taken through the streets in a procession accompanied by dancing and singing, to be immersed in a river or the sea symbolizing a ritual send-off of his journey towards his abode in "Kailash", while taking away with him the misfortunes of all mankind.
[India]’s landscape is crowded with holy places [of Hinduism]. There are seven sacred rivers, including the Ganges. On its banks is Varanasi, one of seven holy cities, which itself is guarded by 56 shrines to Ganesha, the popular elephant-headed god. The body of Sati, a goddess, is said to be scattered at 108 sites throughout India. And 12 places across the country claim to have one of Shiva’s jyotirlingas—an immeasurable column of the Hindu god’s light. The numbers and combinations are endless.
In a recent article, in the U.S. News and World Report, physicist Roger Penrose theorized that the Big Bang might be one in a cycle of such events, suggesting that the universe has had multiple existences. This is common knowledge to one familiar with [the Hindu fields of] Vedic philosophy and cosmology, which very clearly indicates that the universe has had many births and deaths. The centuries-old wisdom of the Vedic texts doesn't stop there. They claim that our universe is just one of many universes, a concept entertained by modern science and referred to as "the multiverse theory."
There is a wonderful synergy between science and spirituality within the Vedic tradition [of Hinduism], and I don't believe there is a real border dividing them. It's all just wisdom and knowledge, which is what the term Veda means. These are all truths that are meant to inform us of the world and universe we inhabit so that we can understand our place in it. These truths help us to ultimately transcend the realm of matter, shed the material body we inhabit and endeavor to re-enter the spiritual realm.
Hinduism makes no dogmatic declaration on how humans appeared on earth or on whether the sun is stationary or not. In India, our gods have never been challenged by science as they are not concerned about matters of creation. This is why Hinduism has never felt the need to take on Newton, Galileo, Humphry Davy or Darwin, nor even Aryabhat or the Charvakyas.
As Hinduism is an idol-centric religion, its core principles are of no consequence to science. Christianity is a creation-centric religion. This is why it had to oppose modern science which, too, is creation-centric. The latter has taken strong positions on how life began, how day became night, and how our beings are energised. This is what compelled science and religion to go on a collision course in the western world. From the 16th century onwards, they were like two monster trucks driving in opposite directions on a one-way street. Hinduism was spared all this.
Hindus around the world -- from South Asia to Britain and beyond -- observe many colorful holidays throughout the year. Recent festivals include the Ganesh Chaturthi, celebrating the birth of the elephant-headed deity, and Janamashtami, the birth anniversary of the god Krishna. The range of experiences at these celebrations runs from joyfully loud and spectacular to solemn and contemplative.
Hinduism, as it is understood by laymen and cocktail-party goers, usually involves liberation from rebirth and a merging with the divine. This approach has a prominent and rich tradition within Vedanta. Known as the Advaita philosophy, it was refined by the scholar Adi Shankara, and it dominated Hindu spiritual life for at least three centuries by Madhva's time.