Indian American doctor Mihir Meghani commits USD 4 million for awareness of Hinduism in US

Hinduism is not just a religion, it’s a way of life, says well-known Indian American physician Mihir Meghani, who has committed a total of USD 4 million for Hindu advocacy and awareness causes in the United States.

Dr Mihir Meghani and three of his friends co-founded the Hindu American Foundation in September 2003. Photo courtesy:

Emergency care physician Dr Meghani, who founded the Hindu American Foundation along with his friends two decades ago, pledged at the organisation’s annual Silicon Valley gala this month that he would donate USD 1.5 million more — taking his total contribution to USD 4 million — to the Hindu cause over the next eight years.

The announcement by Dr Meghani makes him, perhaps, the biggest individual Indian American donor for the Hindu cause in the United States of America. His contributions to this specific cause are made jointly with his wife.

“My wife Tanvi and I have contributed USD 1.5 million to the Hindu American Foundation thus far. We’ve also contributed USD 1 million more over the past 15 years to other Hindu and Indian organisations and causes. Over the next eight years, we’re making a pledge of USD 1.5 million to pro-India and Hindu organisations,” said Dr Meghani in an interview with the Press Trust of India.

Clarifying his position as a duty-driven donor, the doctor said, “I don’t have a startup company. I don’t have any side businesses. I’m an emergency doctor on a salary. My wife is a fitness instructor and a jewellery designer. We’re not making millions of dollars a year. We don’t have stock options. We’re doing this because it’s our dharma; it’s our duty.”

One of the early successes of the Hindu American Foundation in Washington DC was to get Diwali recognised in the US. Photo courtesy:

Just out of university, Dr Meghani and three of his friends — Aseem Shukla, an associate professor in urologic surgery; Suhag Shukla, an attorney; and Nikhil Joshi, a labour law attorney — co-founded the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) in September 2003, the first of its kind Hindu advocacy group in the US.

Responding to a question, Dr Meghani said that Hinduism was not easily understood by most Americans as most Americans were Christian. “They come from an Abrahamic background. When they look at different religions, they can’t understand that Hinduism is not just a religion, it’s a way of life. It’s a way of thinking about life,” he said.

Hindus who were coming to the America from India did not quite understand that they had a Hindu identity and an Indian national identity, he said, adding, “We need to talk about that.”

The Hindu American Foundation website raises awareness of lesser known Hindu festivals, such as the “dog festival”, which celebrates man’s best friend and the animal that has a special place in the Hindu epic Mahabharat. Photo courtesy:

The doctor said, “What we need is [for] Hindus to be strong in the Bharatiya or Indian identity, which is the political identity for our civilisation, but also they should be very proud and open about their Hindu identity. And when they have that, their coworkers, their friends, and neighbours will understand us better.”

One of the early successes of HAF in Washington DC, he said, was to get Diwali recognised in the US. “Now you can see that Diwali is celebrated at the White House, with the Vice-President, in the US Congress, and all across different state and local governments [in] the country. But it took time to get there.”

The Hindu American Foundation, which in its initial years was based entirely on volunteerism, now has an annual budget of USD 2.5 million and has several full-time staffers. The HAF goal was to increase its budget to USD 5 million next year and to USD 20 million by the end of the decade, said Dr Meghani.