Faith in Tuscaloosa series: Hindu student talks beliefs, misconceptions

Faith in Tuscaloosa series: Hindu student talks beliefs, misconceptions

Photo courtesy of Sudarsan Murali

History, heritage and Hinduism are always on Sudarsan Murali's mind. 

“There is no place on earth as colorful, religious or eccentric as India,” Murali said.

Murali was born in Chennai, India, but now lives in New Albany, Ohio, with his parents when he is not attending The University of Alabama. He is a sophomore majoring in psychology and one of the students at the University who practices Hinduism.

Murali describes the principles of his faith as very personal. 

“It essentially believes in doing the right thing, doing good and not hurting others,” Murali said.

Hinduism focuses on treating other people well and respecting everyone and everything around you.

The India-born student believes that there is only one god, but under him exists many different messengers, and there are different ways to reach the overall god. Murali admits that at first glance it sounds confusing, but he compares his faith to Christianity because both religions share a key point.

“[Both religions] believe in doing the right thing and helping others," Murali said. "Both believe in a unified god that everyone prays to. There are just different ways of reaching him.” 

Like many people's, Murali’s faith influences his everyday life by giving him hope in difficult times. When life happens and everything seems to be going wrong, he knows there is a reason for it. 

“I know that everything is going to be okay,” Murali said. 

Murali’s faith is his stronghold in everyday life, and just knowing someone is watching over him and his life provides him great comfort.

Being Hindu in the Bible Belt might make him feel outnumbered, but Murali has found the opposite here in Tuscaloosa. He said he feels closer to the community and his religion because everyone understands and agrees that religion is a large part of someone’s everyday life. He has found that people have been open to his religion and many find it interesting. 

“We are all connected because we all share the same basic foundation and ideas,” Murali said.

Hinduism has always been a large part of Murali’s life. From a very young age, he recalls his favorite Hindu holiday, Diwali –the five-day Indian festival of lights– that he celebrated with his family. 

“It is really cool getting to be around your family. Everyone takes off work and just enjoys being together,” Murali said. “The hardest thing about being away at school is that most of the holidays happen in the middle of the school year.” 

However, it makes being at home with his family that much more special.

There are many misconceptions surrounding Hinduism, one being that all Hindus are vegetarians. While Murali does not eat meat, he also explained that the decision surrounding eating meat depends on what region you are from. 

“Northern India isn’t vegetarian because it is by the ocean where it is harder to grow crops, therefore, they have to rely on meat to survive,” Murali said. 

Back in India, Murali is walking down the street noticing the cultural divide fading away. Scanning the store names, he notices they are all named after different gods, and everyone is busy praying to gods in their stores. Murali said that while people in America try their best to understand Hinduism, being in India surrounded by his religion makes India his home.

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