Tuesday, July 22, 2014


Murali Balaji Headshot


History of Hindu India a Valuable Resource for Teachers and Parents

Teaching history continues to be one of the biggest challenges in school districts across America, as schools must often grapple with outdated standards and old and inaccurate textbooks. In addition, teachers can sometimes struggle transitioning to the most current pedagogical approaches.
History can also be highly politicized, as we continue to see in states such as Texas, where small but vocal groups envisage instructional materials and curriculum shaped solely by their own worldviews. Teachers I've trained complain that they're often caught in the middle between angry parents and school district or even state-level mandates. Moreover, there aren't many vetted multimedia resources that can engage students across grade levels.
Teaching about Hinduism and ancient Indian history is especially problematic because Hinduism and India aren't one and the same. However, the Himalayan Academy's nuanced approach in their newly released "History of Hindu India" videoprovides a great template of explaining the overlaps by highlighting the development of Hindu culture in what is now India over thousands of years. The video, narrated by Roger (Raj) Narayan, supplements Himalayan Academy's textbook of the same name.
Himalayan Academy, which publishes the acclaimed Hinduism Today magazine, produced the video and the textbook in "response to the problem of negative portrayal of Hinduism and India in school textbooks," and their approach relied on academic expertise and vetting. The primary author was Shiva Bajpai, professor emeritus of history at California State University-Northridge, while noted religion scholars such as Anantanand Rambachan, Jefferey Long, T.S. Rukmani, and Klaus Klostermaier were consulted for accuracy.
The video provides a compelling look at underrepresented aspects of India's history, as well as the development of Hinduism from both a cultural and philosophical standpoint. Developed primarily for sixth graders, the video can be used at almost all grade levels through high school. While its tone is positive, the content isn't preachy and aligns to meet state and local standards on teaching about religion.
Perhaps the most valuable aspect of the video is that it can also be used by parents (Hindu and non-Hindu alike) for cultural education. It has already been released in Tamil, with plans to release in several more languages in the near future. The video's distribution can be an important tool to help expand understandings about Hinduism in classrooms across the country.
New York Times' Hinduphobia
by Raman Khanna, M.D. 
Member of HAF's Executive Council

The New York Times ran a story on the crisis in India of open defecation on the front pages of its online portal on July 13, 2014. The issue tackled is an important one-according to the World Health Organization, half of the Indian population lacks access to functioning toilets, and at least in several India states, many relieve themselves outdoors despite having such toilets. This reality, in turn, exposes children to such a large load of infectious agents, from bacteria to worms, that they literally never grow to their full potential-even with adequate nutrition. It is inexcusable and humiliating for India that access to mobile phones, televisions and refrigerators has not been accompanied by better sanitation. The story could have been left at this. Yet to Gardiner Harris, the South Asia correspondent for the Times, open defecation alone wasn't enough-religion and culture had to be dragged into the story in as inflammatory a manner as possible. Witness these passages in the story: 
Open defecation has long been an issue in India. Some ancient Hindu texts advised people to relieve themselves far from home, a practice that Gandhi sought to curb
And then: 
In a little-discussed but surprising finding, Muslim children in India are 17 percent more likely to survive infancy than Hindus, even though Muslims are generally poorer and less educated. This enormous difference in infant mortality is explained by the fact that Muslims are far more likely to use latrines and live next to others also using latrines, a recent analysis found. So widespread housing discrimination that confines many Muslims to separate slums may protect their children from increased exposure to the higher levels of waste in Hindu communities and, as a result, save thousands of Indian Muslim babies from death each year. 
The first has just enough truth to it to hide significant distortions. The latter soft-pedals Hinduphobia as poetic justice. To the casual reader, the New York Times's South Asian correspondent has just asserted that India's Hindus are bigots with absurd beliefs about sanitation who are only getting what they deserve when their children die more often than the Muslims they oppress. Harris thus transports a sanitation issue onto a religious conflict frame with heroes and villains, in the process slandering a belief system and incorrectly identifying which challenges truly prevent moving from open defecation to indoor toilets in the Indian context. 
Click here to continue reading. 
by Aseem Shukla, M.D. 
HAF Co-Founder and Board Director 
The New York Times ran a story on the crisis in India of open defecation on the front pages of its online portal on July 13, 2014. The issue tackled is critical -- that according to some studies, up to half of the Indian population lacks access to functioning toilets and continues to relieve itself outdoors. This, the story reported, may be causing chronic gastrointestinal disease that causes children to suffer stunted growth despite access to adequate nutrition. It's yet another paradox in the India Rising story -- launching Mars orbiters and ranking second in the world for mobile phone users on the one hand and lagging embarrassingly behind in dealing with a most basic bodily necessity on the other. 
But Gardiner Harris, the South Asia correspondent for the Times, authored the story, and as is his wont, he provoked. So was Harris' story on Indian stooling habits an important story? No doubt. A tragic story? Indeed. Outrageous? Absolutely. But check out these passages in the story: 
Open defecation has long been an issue in India. Some ancient Hindu texts advised people to relieve themselves far from home, a practice that Gandhi sought to curb.
Click here to continue reading.
by Vamsee Juluri, Ph.D.
Friend of HAF
What might have been an excellent piece of reporting on an important public-health concern in India has turned out instead to be one of the most absurd, far-fetched, and ugly pieces of Hinduphobic racism in journalism ever. 
After being told for several years now that Hinduism is to blame for everything in India from the gang rape of women to the mere questioning of Wendy Doniger's strange claims, The New York Times now reveals to us that it is "some ancient Hindu texts" that are at least partly responsible for unhygienic excretory practices and diseases in modern India. As further proof of this incredible thesis, we are also told that Muslim children have a better survival rate because they are discriminated against and forced to live in separate slums, safe from the Hindus' less-hygienic habitats. Even the opening line of the article evokes a picture of Hindu superstition, spelling out the sad story of a boy whose mother's attempts to ward off the "evil eye" have obviously failed to stop the disease from coming. 
The point of the article seems to be this: Hindus don't use toilets because it's against their religion, and it's spreading disease.
Click here to continue reading. 
by Suneeta Israni 
Former HAF Congressional Intern
As an educator of history, my students and I have made a conscious choice to use a critical and culturally responsive lens when evaluating the subject matter in textbooks and the classroom. I say "my students and I" because I have adopted a teaching philosophy in which I, the teacher, am considered an equal amongst my students and that together we can learn from each other and work together to solve problems. I have adopted this philosophy because this critical and culturally responsive evaluation and reflection will afford my students the knowledge and skills they will need later on in life to persevere through bullying and prevent discrimination.
Click here to continue reading. 
by Sheetal Shah
Senior Director
Last week, I received an inquiry from a Christian theologian interested in showing that "the postures of Yoga" (asana) are directly tied to Hinduism and thus, cannot be easily incorporated into daily life by Christians. While the origin of yoga is undoubtedly tied to the Hindu sacred texts, the Vedas and Upanishads, I struggled with his idea of researching asana divorced from yoga in its entirety.
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