Starting the Research: Building Hinduism in England

Hinduism: a growing tradition

The most recent census data indicates that the Hindu population in England and Wales is increasing, having grown from 558,342 in 2001 to 816,633 in 2011. This highlights the importance of understanding how Hindus in England engage with religious buildings as well as highlighting the variety of different types of temples and Hindu traditions present in England today.

The emigration of Hindus to Britain began in the 19th century as Indian workers were sent to all corners of the Empire by the British colonial regime with a few Hindu families settling in Britain before 1914.[1] Following this, the majority of the Hindu population migrated after the Second World War, at which point men from the Indian sub-Continent, many of whom were Hindu, were encouraged to migrate in response to the labour shortage in Britain’s industrial cities.[2] The early 1960s saw these migrants being joined by women and children from India along with Hindus who were forced to migrate from East Africa following the process of Africanisation in Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya in the early 1970s. From the 1990s Hindus also came to Britain from Sri Lanka to escape the civil war there, and more recently there has been a wave of migration of highly skilled IT workers to the UK.

According to a website from one of the main Hindu organisations in Britain today, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, most Hindus in Britain today are of

‘Gujarati origin (70%), and a significant number also come from Punjab (15%). Others are from Bengal, South India, Sri Lanka, Guyana, Fiji, Mauritius, and parts of Africa. There are significant Hindu communities to be found in Leicester, London (Wembley, Southall, and Harrow), Coventry, the West Midlands, Bradford, Preston, and Greater Manchester, with smaller communities in many other towns and cities.’

How many Hindu temples are there in Britain today?

Different estimates for the number of Hindu temples in the UK can be found. A key output from our project will be a database documenting all Hindu temples in England.

The International Society for Krishna Consciousness website (cited above) tells us that there are  ‘about 135’, whereas the National Council for Hindu Temples (NCHT) established in 1978 ‘primarily as an advisory body for groups hoping to set up temples, and also as a resource on Hinduism and Hindu worship for temples and educational institutions.’[3]) tells us there are 152 temples in the  UK, with 139 of those in England.

In addition to the NCHT, there are other ‘representative bodies’ for Hindus in Britain. The Hindu Council UK (est. 1994) and the Hindu Forum of Britain (est. 2004) each list their affiliates or members on their websites, which includes temples as well as Hindu organisations. Many of these organisations are based in temples whereas others rent rooms for meetings or are based in people’s houses. These include:

  • Regional Hindu representative groups (e.g. Bolton Hindu Forum)
  • Branches of Hindu organisations that have their roots in India (e.g. Brahm Samaj or Arya Samaj)
  • Social service organisations (e.g. Barnet Asian Old People Association)
  • Organisations linked to professions (e.g. Metropolitan Police Hindu Association)
  • Women’s and youth groups (e.g. Tamil Women’s Organisation or OM Youth)
  • Hindu cultural organisations (e.g. Angel Dancers Cultural Group)
  • Caste based organisations (e.g. Shree Sorathia Prajapati Community or the Lohana Community North  London)

Notes

[1] U. King (1984) A Report on Hinduism in Britain. Community Religions Project Research Paper 2, University of Leeds.

[2] R. Burghart (Ed.) (1987) Hinduism in Great Britain: The Perpetuation of Religion in an Alien Milieu. London: Tavistock.

[3] J. Zavos (2013) Representing British Hindus, Public Spirit.

 

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