Growing up, Nikita Agarwal was actively engaged in her local Hindu community and had a strong connection with her culture. Wanting others to feel the same, she created Hindu Students Council at Temple University.
“This will be a place where they can enjoy and also learn about their culture without hesitation,” said Agarwal, a freshman finance and entrepreneurship major and president of HSC.
Inspired by her brother, who organized summits for the national HSC branch, Agarwal started the Temple chapter of HSC on Oct. 21, and strives to bring the Hindu community at Temple together through events, like their Diwali celebration on Nov. 12. HSC will also host discussions during club meetings to educate Hindu and non-Hindu students about Hinduism.
Agarwal plans to host discussions about LGBTQ representation in Hindu culture, discrimination and current events, she said. HSC will also do a Garba, a traditional Indian dance, for Chaitra Navratri, a nine-day Hindu festival in the spring that celebrates the goddess Durga.
Shrenik Patel grew up in a devout Hindu household where his family worshipped at a shrine daily and sent him to Sunday classes to learn more about Hinduism, wrote Patel, a freshman biochemistry major and vice president of HSC, in an email to the Temple News. Being part of HSC helps keep him connected to his faith and culture while he is at Temple.
Bringing HSC to Temple will give Hindu students a greater voice on campus, which is important because Hindu people are often ignored in diversity efforts in the United States, Patel wrote.
“It feels like the start of something big, something great, you know, I like being a part of, kind of, a bigger picture and to contribute to something,” Patel said.
Education about Hindu culture will make it easier for everyone to understand each other, and that understanding is the first step to creating a better world, he added.
Agarwal, Patel and Pragya Gupta reached out to people they already knew and connected with others on social media sites like Facebook, to recruit members, said Gupta, a freshman neuroscience major and HSC’s secretary.
The International HSC’s national board helped them set up a chapter at Temple and determine what they want their mission to be and how to best fulfill it, Gupta added.
Teerthan Patel noticed that many people joined the council to push back against stereotypical assumptions people make about Hindu people. For him, HSC’s goal to educate people about Hinduism is a way to counter ignorance, he said.
“If we can raise awareness for that, then we’ll be able to decrease the Hinduphobia that’s going around right now,” said Teerthan Patel, a freshman biology major and HSC treasurer.
People have crossed the street to avoid Teerthan Patel before, and family members and friends have been asked ignorant questions about Hinduism, like if they worship cows, he added. He tries not to let it bother him but that doesn’t mean bigotry should go unchallenged.
Hindu culture is composed of festivals and holidays, like Diwali, while the Hindu faith focuses on the meaning behind the festivals and holidays with the deities and reincarnation, Shrenik Patel said.
“The culture is the front to it, the religion can explain the meaning behind a lot of these festivals,” Shrenik Patel said.
Gupta wants HSC to be ready to support Hindu students who may face discrimination and hopes that, through education, HSC will be able to counter stereotypes about Hindu culture in general, she said.
“A lot of the propaganda that comes from stereotypes of the caste system or discrimination or gender roles and things like that, and a lot of it comes down to like not being able to understand what it actually is in Hinduism,” Gupta added.
While there are other Indian and Hindu organizations at Temple, HSC’s connection to an international organization will give them a lot of influence due to the organization’s resources, Shrenik Patel said.
HSC is open to working with other Indian student organizations in the future, Shrenik Patel added.
Bringing HSC to Temple is a great opportunity for everyone, Agarwal said. Hindu students will be able to connect with their culture and non-Hindu students will have the chance to learn about the culture and religion.
“Having this organization can open many more opportunities and things that people can enjoy on campus,” Agarwal said.