Christianity is the largest religion in every American state, but a look at the second-largest religion in every state reveals a more diverse picture. Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism are the second-largest religions in twenty, fifteen, and thirteen states respectively. Hinduism is the second-largest faith in two states, and the Baha’i faith in just one.
So where are America’s Hindus? Arizona and Delaware are the two states where Hinduism is the second most-practiced faith, based on a 2010 U.S. Religion Census: Religious Congregations and Membership Study.
There are thirty-five Hindu congregations in Arizona, which serve 32,887 adherents, according to AZ Central. Though that number of observant people is larger than any other minority religion in the state, it still pales in comparison to the 2,291,026 Christians that live in Arizona.
Caleb Simmons, an associate professor of religious studies at the University of Arizona, attributes the strong concentration of Hindus to the influx of Indian immigrants in the past fifteen years, spurred by jobs in the medical, technology, and engineering sectors. He told AZ Central, “It’s important with a group like Indian-Americans, who are such a small minority, that when they immigrate they can be together with other South Asians. The temples are cultural centers as well as places for people to worship.”
The story is similar in Delaware, reports NBC News, where the number of residents of Indian origin grew by 116 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to Census data. They now make up the largest Asian group in the state.
In Arizona, the Asian population is one of the fastest growing demographic groups in the state. The 2010 census reported that 176,695 people identified as Asian, and a 2012 American Community Survey reported that 45,682 respondents identified themselves as Asian Indian.
That’s not to say that American Hindus are exclusively of Indian and Indo-Caribbean descent. In 2008, the Hindu American Foundation estimated that there may be as many as 1,000,000 practicing Hindus not of Indian origin in the United States, in addition to the 2,290,000 Hindus of Indian descent. A prominent example is Samoan-born Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), who was sworn in on a copy of the Bhagavad Gita.
However, most of the congregations in America have been established by immigrants from India. Interfaith activist Padma Kuppa wrote, “The generation above mine—mostly immigrants from India—could not imagine raising children without a temple; thus, several hundred temples have been built in the United States over the last several decades, serving as learning centers and places of worship for a community that includes immigrants and ‘Americans’ who have adopted the faith as way of life that embraces pluralism.”
America’s religious landscape continues to shift. It’s possible that in the future, Arizona and Delaware will not be the only states where Hinduism has the second strongest presence.