Hinduism in the United Kingdom

Hinduism in the United Kingdom

In the 2001 UK census there were 558,342 Hindus in the United Kingdom [ [http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=954 UK 2001 census] ] . The Hindu Forum of Britain has extrapolated this in 2006 to a figure of 750,000 Hindus based on the levels of immigration since 2001, and the number of Hindus who did not declare their faith in the 2001 Census. Many stakeholders in Government and media believe this figure to be more reflective of the Hindu population in the UK. A recent article in the British press reported the Hindu population within Britain to be close to 1.5 Million. [ [http://education.guardian.co.uk/faithschools/story/0,,2218801,00.html Hindu school is first to make vegetarianism a condition of entry | Schools special reports | EducationGuardian.co.uk ] ]


Hinduism has been in the United Kingdom since the early 19th century.There were Hindu visitors to the UK from the princely states of India. Occasionally some Hindu social reformers visited the UK. Raja Ram Mohun Roy (born in India in 1773) was founder of a Hindu reform movement in India. He came to England in 1829 to visit his Christian friends. He also had audience with King William the IV. Roy died in Bristol four years later.

Early Hindus in the United Kingdom were invariably students. Hinduism received widespread attention in the Victorian era largely due to the work of Theosophical Society and emergence of the new field, Indology.

There have been three waves of migration of Hindus into the United Kingdom.

The first wave was before India's Independence in 1947, Hindu migration to the United Kingdom was minuscule and largely temporary. But after independence, the economic conditions of 1960s compelled many Indians to immigrate to the United Kingdom in search of greener pastures. The fact that Indians, as Commonwealth citizens, didn't require a visa to enter or live in the United Kingdom also helped.

The second wave of Hindu migration occurred in the 1970s after Idi Amin's expulsion of Gujarati Hindus (who were British Overseas Citizens) from Uganda brought another wave of Hindu immigrants to the United Kingdom. Initially, Hindu immigration into the United Kingdom was limited to Punjabi and Gujarati Hindus, but, by 2000, small Hindu communities of every ethnicity could be found in the UK. The United Kingdom is also host to a large immigrant community of Sri Lankan Hindus who are mostly Tamils.

The last wave of migration of Hindus to the UK began in the 1990s and continues to this day. This phase saw two types of people settling in the UK - refugees from Sri Lanka and Hindu professionals including doctors and software engineers from India.

Gujarati, Punjabi, Hindi and Tamil are the most widely spoken Indian languages in the United Kingdom.

Assimilation and community issues

By and large, Hindus have assimilated into the British culture. They are generally well-off, and are projected as a model minority.

"Connecting British Hindus: An enquiry into the identity and public engagement of Hindus in Britain", a July 2006 Home Office-funded report by the Hindu Forum of Britain and the Runnymede Trust, explored issues in the British Hindu community. Key findings include the need to collaboratively improve: teaching about Hinduism in schools, monitoring of media stereotypes, dialogue with other faith communities (particularly Muslim communities), and inclusion of the British Hindu experience in anti-racist work. Another finding reported on the need for an umbrella organization to assist with establishing new temples and community centres. Other key findings focused on issues within the community: the need to address religious and caste discrimination, women's leadership roles, engagement with disabled Hindus, and outreach to and support for older people. Among 680 self-selected respondents to an online survey on the Hindu Forum of Britain website, about 75% reported that they mostly or completely agreed with the statement "I describe myself as a Hindu, rather than by my ethnicity."

Community infrastructure

In the early 1930s, a group of Hindu professionals including several medical doctors in London formed a Hindu Association of Europe. The first president was a medical doctor in practice in East London. He was awarded an MBE in 1945. The Association became inactive during the second world war. However, some founders and members continued to meet regularly at their residence until the 1960s.

In 1962 a Hindu Centre was formed in NW London to act as a social, cultural, religious and educational body for the Hindus in the UK. Most of the founder trustees (five out of seven) and many supporters of the newly formed Hindu Centre were active in the former Hindu Association of Europe when it was functional. The founder trustees of the newly constituted Hindu Centre London (a registered charity) included a barrister and three medical doctors, one of whom came to England in 1914. Hindu Centre bought its own premises in 1968.

In the 1970s, Hindus in the UK began to organise loose groups to celebrate Hindu festivals including Diwali and Navratri. The events were organised by festival committees in hired halls. As the community grew more affluent and settled, the festival committees mushroomed into community organisations.

Today there are over 400 Hindu organisations in the UK. They fall loosely into the following category:

National umbrella organisations

These include the likes of the Hindu Forum of Britain, the National Council of Hindu Temples and the Hindu Council UK.

The National Council of Hindu Temples is the oldest of these and comprises 80 Hindu temples. It played an active role in the 1980s and 90s, but has now been overtaken by younger and more dynamic organisations.

The Hindu Forum of Britain which is the youngest organisation in the UK has also grown to be its largest and most influentail. It has 275 member organisations and focusses on three ares of work: public policy and community consultation; capacity building and project development; and interfaith relations. It is the most reported British Hindu organisation in the media and is often the first port of call by the UK Government. It has many projects to its credit including internships for young Hindus to shadow British MPs, a security programme for training Hindu volunteers in temples and resources for teaching Hindusim in schools. The Hindu Forum of Britain's Connecting British Hindus research redfined the manner by which the UK Government engages with British Hindus.

The Hindu Council UK, which was set up in the 1997 by the National Council of Hindu Temples, continues to play a role in the national level. However, it's role has been overshadowed by the more dynamic and politically-savvy Hindu Forum which seems to attract more younger stakeholders from the British Hindu community. The Hindu Council UK's membership levels are not formally known.

Regional umbrella organisations

Many regional umbrella organisations have been set up to bring local Hindu organisations in a town or region together to engage with local government. These include the Hindu Council of Brent, Hindu Council of Harrow, Hindu Council of Birmingham and the Hindu Council of the North.

Community organisations

At the local level, British Hindus have many organisations that are based on community or linguistic identities. They usually cater to the cultural and community needs of a partiuclar denomination or sub-community. Examples of such organisations include the Brahmin Society North London, Shree Kutch Leva Patel Community, Great Prajapati Association, International Punjabi Society, South Indian Association, Maharashtra Mandal of London and many others. They usually operate from own or rented premises and arrange large festivals and events, besides providing services to their communities, including weddings, religious discourses, match-making services and others.


There are over 150 Hindu temples in the UK which provide a range of services to different communities in the Hinduy community. Some of the larger and more famous temples include the Swaminarayan Temple in Neasden, the Bhaktivedanta Manor (Hare Krishna) Temple near Watford, the Balaji Temple in Birmingham, the Sanatan Mandir in Leicester, the Vishwa Hindu Mandir in Southall, the Murugan Temple in Manor Park and the Gujarat Hindu Society Krishna Temple in Preston.

The temples of UK are centres of excellence where the community regularly congregates to worship, learn and socialise. In addition to large festivals like the Janmashtami festival at Bhaktivedanta Manor which attracts 80,000 visitors or the Diwali festival at Neasden which attracts 50,000 people, many temples provide services like weddings, Hindu sacraments, language classes, further education, computer classes, yoga, counselling and various other services.

ervice-providing Hindu organisations

There are a number of Hindu organisations that provide vatrious services to different audiences in the fields of education, health care, counselling, advocacy and other areas. These include the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, the Vivekananda Centre, ISKCON Educational Services, SEWA International, Hindu Aid, Sangat Advisory Centre, City Hindus Network, Sai School of Harrow and others.

The first state-funded Hindu school in Britain was approved last year and will be commissioned and run the I-Foundation.

Non South-Asian Hindus

While the majority of British Hindus are of South Asian ancestry, there are also some of other heritage. Some non-South Asian British Hindus are involved with various groups, including the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. According to the 2001 census, around 1000 of the Hindus were whites, 600 were mixed, 150 were Black and 20 were of other racial backgrounds. Asian Hindus accounted for 533,400.

Centres of Hinduism in the United Kingdom

Although small Hindu communities exist in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, British Hindus are largely concentrated in England, particularly the Midlands and South East England. Over half of the UK's Hindu population lives in London [ [http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=956 Minority religions mainly in London] . National Statistics. Accessed 5 Jun 2006.] , particularly in Brent and Harrow where they make up a fifth of the population, and in Southall in West London. The Hindu temple at Neasden is the largest temple of Hinduism in Europe [ [http://www.bbc.co.uk/london/content/articles/2005/05/19/hindu_london_feature.shtml Hindu London] , BBC, 6 June 2005. URL accessed on 5 June 2006.] . London suburbs of Hounslow, Hendon, and Wembley boast of a large Hindu population in particular. Recently the largest Hindu Mandir in the North of England [ [http://www.thetelegraphandargus.co.uk/search/display.var.760410.0.3m_hindu_temple_soon_to_take_shape.php largest mandir in the North to open in Bradford] ] , the Bradford Lakshmi Narayan Hindu Temple opened in Bradford [ [http://www.bradfordmandir.org/ details of opening ceremony] ] , West Yorkshire.
Leicester was touted to be the first Hindu-Sikh majority city in the United Kingdom by 2010, but the prediction now seems very unlikely to be fulfilled.

ee also

*Neasden Temple
*Hinduism by country
*Desi, British Asian
*Scotland Hindus
*Detailed population by Local authority boundaries for Hindus

External links

* [http://www.asiantribune.com/index.php?q=node/1173 British Asians: Hindus, ‘Desis’ or What] Atul Cowshish


External links

* [http://www.hinducounciluk.org/ Hindu Council UK]
* [http://www.hfb.org.uk/ Hindu Forum of Britain]
* [http://www.nchtuk.org/content.php?id=79 List of Major Hindu Temples in Britain]
* [http://www.hfb.org.uk/FileServer.aspx?oID=307&lID=0 "Connecting British Hindus: An enquiry into the identity and public engagement of Hindus in Britain"]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/5167332.stm UK Hindus appeal for recognition]
* [http://www.nhsf.org.uk/ National Hindu Students Forum UK]
* [http://www.hinduyouthuk.org/ Hindu Youth UK]
* [http://www.cuhcs.org.uk/ Cambridge University Hindu Cultural Society]
* [http://www.indiacentre.co.uk/ India Centre Temple Hindu Cultural Association of Wales UK]
* [http://www.swaminarayan.info/ Shri Swaminarayan Site]
* [http://www.iskcon.org.uk/ ISKCON UK]
* [http://www.rathayatra.co.uk/ Rathayatra] (chariot festival) Site
* [http://www.krishnatemple.com/index.htm Bhaktivedanta Manor's official website]
* [http://www.nchtuk.org/content.php?id=368 The National Council of Hindu Temples (UK)]
* [http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/English/Collections/Onlineresources/RWWC/themes/1301/1141 Reassessing what we collect website – Hindu London] History of Hindu London with objects and images

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