- This exhibition has already been showcased in 165 cities. The locations also include Capitol Hill (Washington, D.C.), the state capitols of North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Kansas.
Beginning from the early 1800s Americans have been exposed to Hinduism through the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson as well as Henry David Thoreau. Later, beginning in the 1890s and the early 1900s with Swami Vivekananda, Swami Rama Tirtha, and Baba Premananda Bharati, a long stellar string of teachers graced the American soil sharing the universal humanistic message of Hindu Dharma. However, the knowledge of the Hindu philosophy and the cultural richness of the Hindus is known to only a sliver of the American population. On the contrary, misinformation, and disinformation are widespread, some due to innocent negligence of media while a significant amount due to purposeful besmirching by individuals and groups with a vested interest.
Hindus make up approximately 1% of the population of the United States contributing to all aspects of American life in a very positive manner. Unfortunately, Hindus are still bracketed within four walls made of curry (all Hindu cuisine is curry), cow (cow worshippers), caste (discrimination against people based on their birth in certain communities), and cash (materialistic community). Unfortunately, this is true even for the educated segments of the American population.
In an attempt to remedy this situation, the Hindu community has launched a traveling exhibition titled “Darshana – A Glimpse into Hindu Civilization” in 2022. Volunteers of several Hindu organizations including Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh USA (HSS) developed this traveling exhibition, consisting of 24 descriptive and informative posters. Hindu-American youth and young adults researched, designed, and developed this poster exhibition. As part of this ongoing effort, the Hindu community in Illinois held an exhibition at the Illinois State Capitol Building in Springfield, Illinois, on November 15, 2022.
This exhibition has already been showcased in 165 cities. The locations also include Capitol Hill (Washington, D.C.), the state capitols of North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Kansas. A large number of city halls, universities, public libraries, schools, and inter-faith groups have been hosts to this exhibition to date, and many more are planned in the near future.
On the day of the Springfield exhibition, Darshana was introduced in the Illinois State House by State Representative Daniel Didech and on the State Senate floor by State Senators Laura Murphy, Ram Villivalam, and Adriane Johnson. Over 40 state legislators attended the exhibition and provided positive feedback. State Representative Rita Mayfield said, “the exhibition should have been launched years ago. We should all share and learn from each other.” She also invited the organizers to come to her district and hold the exhibition for her constituents.
State Senator Darren Bailey who was recently the Republican candidate for governor in Illinois said that he and his wife have fallen in love with the Hindu culture. He opined that exhibitions like this will bring down walls of misunderstanding. Senator Adrian Johnson shared about the exhibition on their social platform thus spreading awareness to her followers. State minority leader, Representative Jim Durkin, while thanking the HSS for spending time at the Capitol, mentioned that such interactions create a stronger Illinois.
Pranathi Ganti, a high school student volunteer from Bloomington was very apt when she shared with the TV reporter, her difficulty in staying true to her cultural Hindu roots while growing up and developing as an American in this country. This exhibition materialized her solution of allowing other people to learn about where she comes from. A large number of visitors to the Capitol also enjoyed the exhibition and were very thankful to HSS for organizing Darshana. Many staffers visited the exhibition and expressed their happiness in learning about the rich culture of Hinduism. One of the younger staffers expressed that if this exhibition was there at his college, many of the misconceptions they had developed in school would have been prevented. He urged that the exhibition be hosted at many other sites.
One of the organizers, Prof. Dharmendra Nimavat said, “I am very excited about this opportunity to share information about Hindu values and contributions with our elected officials. I hope that this will go a long way in creating awareness about the Hindu community in their districts and in fostering greater understanding, knowledge, and partnerships for the future.”
The spirit of the exhibition was nicely summarized by one attendee who said, “these jewels of Hindu culture should not be hidden, and it behooves every Hindu in America to be a cultural ambassador and widely share their inheritance with the entire humanity”.
The partnering Hindu organizations continue to welcome future opportunities to exhibit Darshana in colleges, schools, offices, business establishments, and public spaces.
Mandar Pattekar is a radiologist by profession. His service interest is in the education of children in underserved urban areas of America as well as improving urban food deserts. He likes to share the universally applicable Hindu Dharma prin