Vishva Hindu Parishad
   The Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP or World Hindu Council) is one of the most visible of several K 492 Vishnudevananda, Swami
   Hindu nationalist groups. It arose as the religious wing of the militant RASHTRIYA SVAYA M SEVAK SANGH (RSS).
   The VHP was founded in 1964, in order to redefine Hindutva, or Hinduism, in a simplified but rigorous form that could compete with other world religions. It is an attempt to create a single, unified Hindu culture. Two leaders of the SHANKA-RACHARYA ORDER were present at its formation.
   The VHP devised a uniform religious practice, which it publicized in the 1980s. All Hindus were expected to worship SURYA (the Sun) at dawn and dusk, wear the OM symbol around their neck, keep a copy of the BHAGAVAD GITA in their home, main-tain a shrine to their personal deity, and attend temple services.
   The VHP’s writings give no importance to the four VEDAS, which have always been considered the most sacred Hindu scripture. Instead, they exalt the military ethos of the BHAGAVAD GITA and RAMAYANA. The focus of worship for the VHP has been on BHAKTI (devotional) practices, com-bined with sacrifices and PILGRIMAGES, with little attention to SELF-REALIZATION or renunciation. A unique practice introduced during the 1980s was the worship of bricks with the name of RAMA inscribed upon them. Bricks like these were used as weapons against Muslims in the murderous riots of 1992 and 2002 (see HINDU NATIONALISM). Though the VHP courts the lower castes, it exalts the KSHATRIYA or warrior caste.
   In North America the VHP operates secretly. Its visual presence is best seen through the affili-ated Hindu Student Congress.
   Further reading: Gwilym Beckerlegge and Anthony Copley, eds., Saffron and Seva (Hinduism in Public and Private) (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003); Chetan Bhatt, Hindu Nationalism: Origins, Ideologies, and Modern Myth (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001); Gerrie ter Haar and James J. Busuttil, eds., The Freedom to Do God’s Will: Religious Fundamentalism and Social Change (London: Routledge, 2003); Martin E. Mary and R. Scott Appleby, eds., Religion, Ethnicity, and Self Identity: Nations in Turmoil (Hanover, N.H.: Univer-sity Press of New England, 1997); Raheem Quraishi, The Assam Bloodbath: Who Is Responsible? (Indianapolis: Trust, 1984); Santosh C. Saha, ed., Religious Fundamen-talism in the Contemporary World: Critical Social and Political Issues (Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 2004); Santosh C. Saha and Thomas K. Carr, eds., Religious Fundamentalism in Developing Countries (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2001); Peter van der Veer, Religious Nationalism, Hindus and Muslims in India (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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