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The White Hindu has moved! This blog is no longer updated, but Ambaa is still writing The White Hindu every weekday at

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


There was a comment yesterday on one of my older posts that I wanted to address. Here is the comment and my response to it:

Svaha said...
Why call yourself a "white" Hindu? Why is skin color so important as a means of identifying yourself? Sanatana Dharma is about unity, not separateness. Its not about the externalization of God, but the recognition of universal and internalized divinity. Its great that you want to identify yourself as a "Hindu" (whatever that means), but please do not insult our core religious beliefs by bringing confused notions of race and skin color into the mix.
December 27, 2010 1:32 AM

Aamba said...
Well, Svaha, the reason I named the blog White Hindu is because at the time I felt that it was my skin color that was keeping me from being accepted as fully Hindu. It was extremely frustrating to me, so this was a way of taking back that word, taking control over how people see me.

However, in the year since I've kept the blog, I have become more and more entrenched in Hinduism and have found the acceptance I was looking for. I now rarely feel kept back and taken less seriously because of my skin color, though it does still sometimes happen.

The other reason to put race into it is that this is not a blog about the definition of Hinduism, it is a blog about the intersection of culture and religion and ethnicity. That is the issue I am interested in exploring.

How are religion and ethnicity related? How do people perceive them? How does one move into a religion that was not given to him or her by ethnicity?
December 28, 2010 2:45 PM

The thing is, this blog is about race. I'm not interested in pretending that we don't somewhat judge each other based on ethnicity. It happens, it is part of our world.

Yes, Hinduism is universal and accepts all people as equally a part of God, but that is not always how it is practiced. People are still imperfect and do judge one another and make assumptions about one another.

I am confident and sure of my religion. It has been part of me all of my life. What I came to the Internet to explore is the cultural aspect of Hinduism and how I might fit in there.

I think my skin color is relevant to this discussion and I don't think that it is a confused notion of race. Different races exist and we are all still trying to figure out what that means and how it effects our lives.

There are many who are uncomfortable when we label ourselves by ethnicity. I do not label myself as white in order to keep others back or to separate myself. I would rather not be separate, but many times I still am. I felt that my skin color was an elephant in the room, as the expression goes. No one wants to mention it or acknowledge it, and yet it has an effect on how I am perceived.

People wonder about me and question me in ways that I don't think they would if I were Indian.

They think, "Who does she think she is?" They think the same things they think when they see a white rapper with cornrows!

That is what fascinates me. Expectation v.s. reality.

I'm sorry to people who are made uncomfortable by my direct reference to race, but that is exactly what this blog is about: what it means to be a non-Indian Hindu.


  1. I admire you a lot for putting it out there, and being honest about how you feel. I get where you're coming from, and I think a lot of the time the strongest reactions come from other non-Indians.

    I, for one, hope you never feel like you have to whitewash your feelings here on your blog. It's nice to hear someone being open and honest about the process, because it's often difficult to be both Western American (Westen being non-Indian in this case) and coming into Hinduism as an adult.

    I think you've made a good attempt to be diplomatic when you refer to race, and thanks for doing so - it makes your blog a whole lot easier to find!

  2. There is nothing wrong in mentioning your race. I got interested in your blog because it is named "The White Hindu'.

  3. Differences exist in EVERY religion. There are still in 2010 black churches and white churches. You don't see people talking about going to white churches, "because their choirs have rhythm". If you look at 99.99% of the cardinals at the Vatican they are still lily white despite the fact that most of the Catholics are now from Africa, Asia and non-white countries. Also, even into the 1960s black churches in the South were bombed on a frequent basis.

    I do admire your honesty and in approaching this issue but I must tell you that most Hindus apart from some very narrow-minded fools will accept you with absolute open arms. I find that Westerners who adopt Hinduism bring a fresh and objective perspective to our faith. I must also add that European women who wear traditional Indian clothing look incredibly attractive. Just my opinion.

  4. I see nothing wrong in calling amba herself a white hindu, if a brown hindu meets a white person, he will take it for granted that the white is not a hindu. Just by naming the blog as a white hindu, amba is drawing attention to the difficulties faced by whites as hindus. Certainly not because the brown born ones want the whites to suffer but by the fact that the whites have to go an extra mile to PROVE that they are hindus. Till suchtime the browns, who are the overwhelming majority, openly embrace the whites without any real or perceived reservation, whites have an obligation to express their anxieties. As racial minority ideally the whites must develop the comfort level to walk into an hindu mandir or other gathering and feel like anybody else. Fortunately all of such places in west do provide them with that. Sadly in the Indian context some mandirs pose some unforeseen restrictions to the whites, thankfully changes are happening rapidly there as well. Lack of familiarity is the common reason for this discrimination. Clearly, it is the responsibility of the majority to make this happen, to create an atmosphere wherein a feeling of uplifting brotherhood and a sense equality is imparted to whites. On their part whites must turn increasingly vocal demanding equality.-Surya.

  5. Thanks for all the opinions! The part about the churches is very interesting, it's true that there is still a lot of segregation there.

    Surya, I think you hit the nail on the head with the part about proving that we are Hindus. I think that's been the most challenging thing for me, the sense that I need to know some kind of secret handshake! I might be imagining it.

    In fact, I think the Indians I know had reservations about me at first, but given time I hope that it has become clear how serious I am about it!

    I don't think it is the fault of Indians for non-Indians feeling uncomfortable. It's just that as a white person, I am not used to being a minority! I've spent my whole life being in the majority and it is very challenging to put oneself into a new context.

    I hope that this blog helps to inspire other non-Indians to feel comfortable expressing themselves as Hindus and going to mandirs and the more they are willing to do that, the more it will become commonplace for Hinduism to reach across all ethnicities.

  6. As I white woman who lived among South Asians for many years in Dubai, I found that I made people uncomfortable sometimes when I said I was white. Then a friend explained it to me: In Hindi/Urdu if you call yourself "gori" it sounds like you are showing off and calling yourself haseen or beautiful. White and beautiful are synonymous (you can hear in songs sometimes the female love interest is called a gori for her beauty). That aside, in the structure of American racial dynamics, you are white, so there is nothing wrong with identifying yourself as such since much of your blog is about the intercultural life, and your experience as a Hindu as it intersects with your being a white woman.

  7. The guy who posted that is clueless. He wants to erase the race differences completely like we are all burnt charcoal Grey like Chinese communists like to do... wear Bluish grey flannel clothes to make everyone be the same like that is somehow equitable.

    No. We are all not the same. We are all different. It's not sameness that is beautiful. It's the rich garland of diversity of race and other things that makes this world wonderful. celebrate this diversity.

    And yes.. I was curious about your blog precisely because you mentioned race. Being different is not the issue...its when someone use that difference to discriminate that is the issue. People need to have some perspective. sheesh!

  8. I think that perhaps "White Hindu" is the only totally unambiguous way. Most people understand what I mean by "Western Hindu", but I have seen someone write "I am now a Western Hindu, having moved from India five years ago". I suppose you could say "Hindu from an ethnic background not normally associated with Hinduism" but it isn't exactly a catch title.

    In English we too are guilty of associating paleness with good qualities, "fair maiden" is as ambiguous in meaning as it seems that "gori" is in Hindi/Urdu. If you go back a bit things get even worse. I cringe when I hear people of my parent's generation say "I decided to play the white man and told them they had undercharged me". I understand that Americans have an equally cringe-worthy phrase "That's mighty white of you", meaning, "Thank you for being fair".

  9. Interesting point, Tandava, I had not even thought of that other definition of Western Hindu.

    Yeah, I don't think I'll be changing my blog title to Hindu From An Ethnic Background Not Normally Associated With Hinduism!

    I have never heard those phrases about pale skin! How awful. I know that history has given me an unfair advantage and I wish I could even the playing field and take it back somehow, but I don't see my skin color as good or bad or anything, it just is. However, I know that I get advantage from it without even realizing.

  10. "but please do not insult our core religious beliefs by bringing confused notions of race and skin color into the mix."

    - well, he himself seems to be saying since you are not indian , you are not hindu . and it is not your religion but "our".

    anyway, there is a recent news in india. a white woman was handed over to the police by the temple authority because she entered in puri mandir. later the mandir had to be "purified".

    in orissa , all hindu temples (atleast those which i have visited) are out of bounds for non-hindus.

    i have no idea why - it doesn't happen to other regions of india to the best of my knowledge.

    now you can't look at an indian and tell whether he is hindu or muslim or something else. as a result this rule has boiled down to the fact that non-indians are not allowed.

    this led to bizarre situations. i remember puri mandir denied a germen man despite his claim that he is hindu. there was also an incident where they denied a group from bali because they don't look hindu (or indian).

    ps: puri mandir even denied entry to indira gandhi at the height of her power.