Student 1

Good Student

Professor Dawson


9 October 2020

False, Barbaric, and Savage: Western Stereotypes Against Hinduism

Phineas and Ferb, a popular children’s cartoon, spurred controversy when one character,

Baljeet, took part in a video game in the form of Hanuman, an important Deity revered by many

Hindus. Similarly, in Jessie (a Disney channel show), offensive jokes were made regarding

Hindu rituals and Ravi, the token Indian character. This stereotypical representation of Hinduism

in Western media and ideology is not new nor appreciated. Perhaps initially created to define

Hinduism in western terms, these clichés compartmentalize Hinduism and make it seem like a

savage tradition. Particularly, the differences between the three major Western religions and

Santana Dharma (Hinduism) make it easy to ridicule the ancient religion. For instance, one side

emphasizes Heaven and Hell while the other looks at Moksha or freedom as the ultimate

destination. As a minority in the United States, Hindu Americans face prejudice as if their

religion is inferior to others because of harmful preconceptions. The Western perspective,

particularly, heavily stereotyped and negative connotes Hinduism as a polytheistic, idol-

worshipping, ancient religion which is far from reality.

Stereotyping Hinduism as a polytheistic religion demeans the religion and implies

mythological representation that is more entertainment than truth. Hindus worship different

Deities and seem to have millions of Gods; in this way, the religion could be described as

polytheistic. However, Hinduism can be considered as polytheistic as it can be considered

monotheistic. There can also be atheist Hindus. The central conviction of Brahman or God is that

Student 2

“the nature of Brahman transcends all limited human efforts to fully define and describe it…”

(Rambachan 67). As the restricted human language cannot describe the Entity, it is understood

that human experiences, cultures, and conditions can diversify the form of God. Stated in the

Bhagavad Gita, “Howsoever people approach Me..I welcome them, for the paths people take

from every side is Mine” (Rambachan 68). Recognizing Hinduism as a diverse religion with

many manifestations of One, the harmful stereotype of polytheism can be altered to fit the truth.

However, this definition can seldom be found in Western countries. Monotheism in Abrahamic

religions takes the form of one God. It is defined as the worship of one true God who is all-

knowing, all-powerful, and supremely good. He is the sole Creator of the world and the Judge

responsible for separating Good from Evil. These religions have historically “beaten” the flawed,

polytheistic religions of Greek and Roman gods to stand as the ultimate truth. Hence, the

stereotype that Hinduism is polytheistic persists in the western world as it aids in making it seem

false and inferior to the monotheistic religions.

Another stereotype that persists is that Hindus are idol-worshippers. If a common

American had to define Hinduism, they would probably refer to it as “the religion with an

elephant god.” Perhaps they would mention cow-worshipping or a monkey god. The source of

this information could vary from a funny scene in a movie to a comical article they read on the

internet. In this stereotype, Hindu’s objects of worship are ridiculed as if an unworthy animal

was being called God. In reality, idols are a mere manifestation of deities created to represent

stories, symbols, and rituals of God (HAF). There is a stark difference between a Deity and God.

God is defined as the limitless Divinity that is without beginning or end and the source of all

creation (Rambachan 67). Deities are forms of God that celebrate “qualities, virtues, and aspects

of a manifested representation” of God (HAF). However, in the Western world, idolatry “denotes

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the worship of something other than God” (HAF). Hence, idols used in Hinduism are directly

related to God and seem to represent false gods. Also, the many deities of Hinduism are

misunderstood as ones that fulfill materialistic needs to make the narrative of a self-serving

religion comparable to hedonistic ones. This idea reinforces the wrong belief that Hinduism is

filled with half-minded idol worship in which God is found in inanimate objects and then


The third stereotype labels Hinduism as an outdated religion. The term “ancient” implies

a lack of progressiveness in the religion. It falsely accuses religion as the cause of social issues

that plague Indian society today. In particular, many assume that sexism and homophobia are

encouraged through holy texts such as the Bhagavad Gita. In reality, however, Hinduism is one

of the most progressive religions to exist. The Brahman or Absolute Divinity is depicted with

both feminine and masculine traits (Rambachan 68). One example would be Vishnu, the

protector of the Universe. He appears in Indian mythology clothed in colorful, ornate dresses

which symbolize his feminine qualities as the preserver. Also, popular deities are worshipped as

Goddesses with popular festivals celebrated in their name. Major cities such as Kolkata are

named after their patron Kali Maa or dark mother. Ancient stories portray a third gender that is

resonated in “the gender fluidity of Hindu deities” (Vanita 1). Typically called hijras, they are

prominent in Hindu festivals or important occasions in which they are considered an auspicious

presence. In an ancient hymn, it is proclaimed that “no one is superior, none inferior” (Lucia 1).

This shows how the core belief that every being holds Divinity within themselves proclaims

everyone is worth equally. The lack of equality and respect for women and the LGBT+

community emphasizes how religion can differ from culture. Understanding this concept helps to

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debunk the stereotypes surrounding religion and separate extremists in religion from God to

cultural differences.

Hinduism struggles to be understood in the Western world amidst countless

misconceptions. Common stereotypes label it as a polytheistic, idol-worshipping, ancient

religion. The effect of such labels separates the Western world from Hindu ideals by “defaming

and demonizing the faith” Hindu-inspired trends such as Yoga, meditation, and manifestation are

enclosed in a blanket of “spirituality” to separate them from the religion. Debunking these

stereotypes could open the Western public to Eastern teachings and ideals to clear

misunderstandings and bring greater conversations.

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Works Cited

HAF. “Learn All about the World’s Oldest Faith.” Hindu American Foundation: HAF, 29 July

2020, www.hinduamerican.org/about-hinduism/.

Lucia, Amanda. “Hinduism in America.” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion, 25 Jan.

2017, oxfordre.com/religion/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780199340378.001.0001/acrefore-


Rambachan, Anantanand. “Hinduism and the Encounter with Other Faiths.” Global Dialogue,

vol. 2, no. 1, 2000, pp. 65-73. ProQuest,



Vanita, Ruth. “Same-Sex Weddings, Hindu Traditions and Modern India.” Feminist Review, no.

91, 2009, pp. 47-60. ProQuest, https://ezproxy.pgcc.edu/login?url=https://www-



Student 6


I believe this is the hardest essay I have written to date. It required a great deal of

research and thought. A topic such as religion needs more sensitivity to ensure a thoughtful

conversation is taking place. I struggled a whole lot on how to structure this paper. After our

meetings, it was clear to me what I wanted in the paper and had a general sense of what it should

look like. The strongest part of my essay is the concept. I believe Hinduism is seen in poor

lighting cast by ignorance and stereotypes. However, my passion may be my weakness as I may

have come across as too defensive or caring. This entire topic was a risk as it requires a lot of

thought and sensitivity. I gave myself a lot of time to write this paper. The first paper was a

simple process of reviewing materials given and basing the paper on that. This one required a lot

more work which forced me to think creatively of different ways to find unbiased information.

I will work on my time management for the next assignment. As I found this topic and

essay to be frustrating, I needed to take a lot of breaks. However, for the next essay, I will try to

power through to ensure I do not burn out. Thank you so much for your help Professor! This is

the first time I have given so much thought and work into an essay. It makes me proud of my

work and allowed me to cultivate my thoughts into words. I chose this topic particularly because

of videos that popped into my TikTok feed that degraded Hinduism. It was an ironic moment as

there were a lot of parts of my religion such as meditation and manifestation that were trending

during that moment. Before, I felt as if I needed to take a stance against the ignorance by

educating myself and writing this paper on how Hinduism is tainted by Western light. Now, I

realize those videos are part of a small percent of ignorant people. Most people know to practice

tolerance and respect in regard to religion.

Student 7

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