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Hinduism in South America

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Hindu communities are found in several countries of South America, but they are strongest in Guyana and Suriname.There are about 400,000 Hindus in South America, chiefly the descendants of Indian indentured labourers in the Guianas. There are about 270,000 Hindus in Guyana, 120,000 in Suriname, and some others in French Guiana. In Guyana, Hindus form 35% of the population.


Hinduism in Argentina

Hare Krishnas has an extensive presence in Argentina with centers across the country, including six rural farm communities in Buenos Aires (520), Santa Fe (258), Córdoba (122) and Mendoza (117) provinces. ISKCON has Krishna temple in Buenos Aires.

Satya Sai Baba Movement has an extensive presence in Buenos Aires and Cordoba. It is also active in Cuyo, Bariloche, Northeast, and Sante Fe.In Argentina, there are currently 80 to 90 Satya Sai Baba Centers and groups.Education in Human Values has become a major activity of the Argentinian Sai movement.

Ananda Marga has Ananda Mayadiipa Master Unit in Cordaba, Argentina.

Transcendental Meditation has 6 Centres in Argentina.

Vedanta Society or Ramakrishna Mission has Ramakrishna Ashrama at Gaspar Campos 1149, 1661 Bella Vista, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Brahma Kumaris has the below 7 Centres in Argentina

Centre 1- Main Centre Av. Santa Fe, 1863, 3rd Floor, Buenos Aires, C1123AAA

Centre 2- El Carpintero 6947, (Rivadavia 11.200), Buenos Aires, C1408DZC.

Centre 3- Boulevar Gálvez 1933 - Dto. 3,Santa Fe - (S3000AAK), Ciudad de Santa Fe.

Centre 4- Boedo 188, 1st Floor A, Lomas de Zamora - Provincia de Buenos Aires, B1832HRD.

Centre 5- Matheu 2045,Mar del Plata - Provincia de Buenos Aires, B7602GAO.

Centre 6- Lamadrid 782 - PB D,San Miguel de Tucumán - (T4000BEP), Provincia de Tucumán.

Centre 7- Brahma Kumaris Retreat Centre For Spiritual Learning, Villa Elisa - Provincia de Buenos Aires.

Indians in ArgentinaArgentina has 1,200 People of Indian Origin and 400 Non Residential Indians.

Many of the PIOs in Argentina have remained attached to their Indian culture and traditions. They have constructed a gurudwara at Rosarion de la .rontera in Salta province.

Some of them are actively involved in propagating ayurveda, yoga, Indian classical music and the Hindi language.

They have established an Indian Association [2] in the northern provinces and organise social and cultural events to celebrate Indian festivals. Unfortunately, there is little interaction between them and those who have settled down in other parts of this extensive country.

A large number of the Indian Diaspora living in Buenos Aires are businessmen, doctors, financialor business executives, and employees of multinational corporations. Most of them have retainedtheir Indian citizenship [3]

Hinduism in Bolivia

Hinduism spread to Bolivia by ISKCON Missionaries.ISKCON devotees where working in Bolivia since 1975.

Now the International Society for Krishna Counciousness is lead by Ranga Puri das in Cochabamba, and Hari Sankirtan das in La Paz, both disciples of HDG Jayapataka Swami.

The history of the Hare Krishna movement in this country has been quite extraordinary, including police assaults to the temples, and deportations and arrests of devotees. Nevertheless, the resistance of the Bolivian devotees has been stronger than the government attacks, and the movement of Srila Prabhupada is still present.

ISKCON Centres in Bolivia

Cochabamba, Bolivia, Av. Heroinas E-435 Apt. 3 (mail: P. O. Box 2070)

La Paz, Bolivia, Calle Pedro Salazar No. 607, Sopocachi (A cuadra y media de Plaza Avaroa)

Santa Cruz, Calle 27 de Mayo No. 99 esq. Justo Bazan

Cochabamba, Bolivia, Restaurant Gopal, calle España N-250 (Galeria Olimpia)

Cochabamba, Bolivia, Restaurant Govinda, calle Mexico #E0303

Cochabamba, Bolivia, Restaurant Tulasi, Av. Heroinas E-262

La Paz, Bolivia, Restaurant Imperial, Calle Sagarnaga No. 213

Oruro, Bolivia, Restaurant Govinda, Calle 6 de Octubre No. 6071

Santa Cruz, Bolivia, Snack Govinda, Calle Bolivar esq. Av. Argomosa (primer anillo)

Sucre, Bolivia, Restaurant Sat Sanga, Calle Tarapacá No. 161


Hinduism in Brazil

Most of the Brazilian Hindus are ethnic East Indians. Significant numbers of White Brazilians have converted to Hinduism in the past few decades.[citation needed] 2000 census recorded 2,979 Hindus in Brazil.

There are 1,500 PIOs (People of Indian origin) and about 400 NRIs (Non Resident Indian) in Brazil.

First wave of Immigration-A small number of Sindhis had arrived here from Suriname and Central America in 1960 to set up shop as traders in the city of Manaus.

Second wave of Immigration Consisted of university professors who arrived in the 1960s and also in the 1970s.

Other PIOs migrated to this country from various African countries, mainly from former Portuguese colonies (especially Mozambique), soon after their independence in the 1970s. The number of PIOs in Brazil has been augmented in recent years by the arrival of nuclear scientists and computer professionals.

There are as many as 1,500 PIOs among the Indian community in Brazil, and only 400 NRIs, since foreign nationals can acquire local citizenship without any discrimination after 15 years of domicile in this country. Brazil has also no bar against dual citizenship. But in recent years, it has been granting immigration visas only in high technology fields. The only exceptions are the Sindhis in Manaus (who have formed an Indian Association with about a hundred members) and the Goans in São Paulo.

Besides its dispersal over this continental sized country, many of those that arrived in the earlier years have acquired Brazilian brides and are totally assimilated in the local society. The children born to such couples are Brazilians by birth. Other non ethnic Hindu include Hare Krishna followers of Prabhupada, many of whom are not living in the farms or in ashramas but constitute a congregation of this branch of Hinduism.[1]

There is enormous interest in Brazil in India's culture, religion, performing arts and philosophy. There are numerous organisations teaching Yoga and they invite yoga teachers from India for instructions and learning. ISKCON, Satya Sai Baba, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Bhakti Vedanta Foundation and other Indian spiritual gurus and organisations have their chapters in Brazil. ISKCON in particular has extensive presence in Brazil. It as 16 Centres, 3 Rural Communities and 4 Restaurants. Nando Reis, a famous Brazilian singer inspired by George Harrison, has taken Krishna consciousness ISKCON and the chanting of Hare Krishna to a level never heard before in Brazil.

Satya Sai Baba Organization in Brazil has a Central Council overseeing 9 Regions. There are also 7 Coordinating Committees, 2 Regional Coordinators, 32 Sai Centers and 38 Sai Groups. The Sai Foundation established in 1992 is the management agent of the property of the Sai Organization in Brazil. Besides other functions, it publishes Sai Baba books in Portuguese and produces CDs, DVDs and VCDs. The Brazil Organization maintains a website – [4] – with information about Sri Sathya Sai Baba, a calendar of events, available books, Swami’s discourses, and seva projects in progress.

In 1992, the first Sathya Sai School was established in a very poor community in Vila Isabel, in Rio de Janeiro. It has served as an inspiration and a model for the founding of other Sai Schools in the country, such as the Sai Schools in Recife, Goiania, Ribeirão Preto, and Minas Gerais.

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Hinduism in Chile

A few Indians had gone to Chile in the 1920s. The others migrated there about 30 years ago - notonly from India, but also from Hong Kong, Indonesia, Nigeria, Panama, the Philippines andSingapore.

The total number of PIOs today does not exceed 650 persons in a country of almost16 million people.

Belonging mostly to the Sindhi community, they are usually engaged in tradeand are reasonably prosperous.

Many of them have married Chilean women and acquired Chileannationality, and yet they have largely remained out of the Chilean mainstream. Some members ofthe younger generation, being Chilean citizens by birth, have however ventured into professions.

A Hindu Temple exists in Punta Arenas.

Besides Punta Arenas, the Indian business community is also present in Santiago, the Capital of Chile, and Iquique. The activities of businessmen in Santiago are mainly confined to imports and retail stores.


Hinduism in French Guiana

Most of the Hindus in French Guiana are of Surinamese origin. According to the 2000 census 1.6% of the total population (3,200 out of 202,000) were Hindu. [5]

Hinduism in Guyana

About 84% of the East Indian immigrants were Hindus, and their dominant sect was the Vaishnavite Hinduism of Bihar and North India. Some 30 percent of the East Indians were from agricultural castes and 31 percent were labourers. Brahmins, the highest caste, constituted 14 percent of the East Indian immigrants. Vaishnavite Hinduism remains the predominant religion of the Indo-Guyanese, though it was considerably modified.

During the indenture period, the East Indian caste system broke down. Hinduism was redefined, and caste-distinguishing practices were eliminated. Christian missionaries attempted to convert East Indians during the indenture period, beginning in 1852, but met with little success. The missionaries blamed the Brahmins for their failure: the Brahmins began administering spiritual rites to all Hindus regardless of caste once the Christian missionaries started proselytizing in the villages, hastening the breakdown of the caste system. After the 1930s, Hindu conversions to Christianity slowed because the status of Hinduism improved and the discrimination against Hindus diminished.

In areas where there are large percentage of Indo Guyanese residing together — Mandirs (Hindu temple) of various sizes can be found, according to the population. All main Hindu occasions are observed — Basant Panchami in January to Geeta Jayanti in December.

Since the late 1940s, reform movements caught the attention of many Guyanese Hindus. The most important, the Arya Samaj movement, arrived in Guyana in 1910. Arya Samaj doctrine rejects the idea of caste and the exclusive role of Brahmins as religious leaders. The movement preaches monotheism and opposition to the use of images in worship as well as many traditional Hindu rituals.Caste distinctions are all but forgotten among Guyanese Hindus. Currently the number of Guyanese Hindus is steeply declining because of emigration and conversion to other religions. Only 216,000 identified themselves as Hindus in the 2000 census.

Hinduism in Panama

The majority of Indians in Panama are Hindus and they live in Panama City.

Hinduism in Paraguay

In the 2002 census, it was estimated that about 151 Hindus live in Paraguay. They also make up 0.01% of Paraguay's population. Paraguay's ambassador to India (Mr Pappalardo) gave Punjab farmers a high opportunity to invest the country.[2] Most of the Hindus live in Asunción.

Hinduism in Peru

The first ‘Indian Indians’ to have arrived in this country were businessmen who had gone there in the early 1960s. Later on, the community grew in number marginally until the early 80s, after which many of its members left due to the severe local economic crises and the prevailing terrorism. Those with relatives in other Latin countries joined them.

In the recent past, the size of the community has remained stable. There is a small remnant of the original ‘native Indians’ in this country who still maintain their traditional culture and religious beliefs.

Most members of the local Indian community are Sindhis. They are reasonably well-off, but very few can be regarded as prosperous. Their general level of education is low. Most of them speak only their mother tongue and Spanish, with a smattering of English.

There is also here a small number of professionals from other parts of India. Residence permits are not difficult to obtain in Peru. But citizenship is more complicated and only a small number of Indians have obtained it –not more than 10 out of a total number of almost forty persons. While a few cultural activities are organised by the more enterprising PIOs, in general they maintain a low profile. Considering the vast distance that separates the community from India, its interest in its country of origin is limited to major events, mainly derived from occasional browsing on the internet. But being invariably first generation migrants, many of them do occasionally visit India.

ISKCON has 3 Centres, 1 Rural community and a Restaurant in Peru.


Hinduism in Suriname

The story of Hinduism in Suriname is broadly parallel to that in Guyana. Indian indentured labourers were sent to colonial Dutch Guiana by special arrangement between the Dutch and British. Hindus today comprise some 27-33% of the Surinamese population, or about 118,000 people. The difference is that the Netherlands' more liberal policy toward Hinduism allowed the culture to develop stronger. Examples are the lack of a rigid caste system and the almost universal reading of Gita and Ramayan

Hinduism in Uruguay

There are a few Yoga organizations in Uruguay, which spread Indian thoughtand philosophy-prominent among them are, Sivapremananda Ashram of the DivineSociety. A portion of the beach in Montevideo has been named after MahatmaGandhi and a bust of Gandhiji installed in one of the parks along the beach. Thereis a school named after him in Montevideo, a street and another school named afterRepublic of India.[3] There is a small Indian community in Uruguay consisting of a fewbusinessmen, Indian employees of TCS and some Catholic nuns.[3]

Hinduism in Venezuela

During the oil-related high-income years of the 1970s, there were around 400 NRIs in this country.

The Indian community consisted of personnel from the petroleum and petrochemical sectors, aswell as a large number of traders. Many of them had taken their families with them to Venezuela,whether from India or elsewhere. Most of the traders belonged to the Sindhi community butthere were also some persons from Gujarat, Punjab and the southern Indian States.

When the oil boom ended in 1982, followed by devaluation of the local currency, many of the NRIs decided to seek their fortunes elsewhere. Currently, the Diaspora has been whittled down to half its former size. There are now only about 45 Indian families in Venezuela who are mainly engaged in retail trade. There are also a small number of experts in high tech. industries such as telecommunications.

All of them have adapted themselves very well to their country of residence and are generallyheld in high regard by the local people on account of their hard work, expertise and non-politicalnature.

The Venezuelan Constitution guarantees equal rights without discrimination to all expatriatepersonnel. This has facilitated the Indian community’s life.

Another interesting feature is that many local persons are interested in Indian religions and spirituality.

There are several Satya Sai Baba, Radha Soami and Hare Krishna ISKCON Centres, as well as Rama Krishna Missions in this country.

Some members of the Indian community also attend their functions. Most of the NRIs are well educated. However, given their small numbers, they have not formed themselves into an active representative body. But they remain in touch with one another and with the Indian Embassy in Caracas. Even though they have little time to engage in numerous cultural activities, they doget together to celebrate Indian festivals like Diwali.

On the whole, the Indian community in Venezuela is quite prosperous and has a per capita incomethat is above the national average that is itself as high as US$ 8,300 in terms of PPP. They take an active part in mobilising donations to help in alleviating distress at times of national calamities in India.


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