Hinduism


Hinduism
   Ever since the British colonized the Indian subcontinent, Hindus have in their turn travelled to Britain, bringing with them the traditions and customs of a religion much older than Christianity. Hinduism, with its many gods and varied procedures of worship, is a religion of tremendous complexity, and in the process of its transplantation to Britain it has been adapted and redefined. Although there had been a steady migration of Indians to Britain after the Second World War. most tended to be from the Punjab and were therefore Sikhs.
   In 1974, following General Idi Amin’s order to all South Asian British passport-holders to quit Uganda, many Gujurati-speaking people sought refuge in Britain. The arrival of these Hindu refugees meant that Hindu religious institutions became firmly established in Britain. Hitherto, the religion had been propagated by various visiting holy men seeking British converts. A mission centre had been set up in London during the 1930s by a monk from the Ramakrishna mission, whose central office was in Calcutta. An English benefactor enabled the mission to purchase a property and establish a monastic community in North London, which provided Britain’s first public place of worship for Hindus. By the late 1980s there were over a hundred Hindu temples in Britain, and the number is still increasing.
   The religions of India caught the imagination of the general public in Britain, particularly that of disaffected youth, with the arrival on the scene of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the 1960s. Interest was greatly enhanced by the devotion shown to the guru by the Beatles, particularly George Harrison, who made much publicized visits to the Indian holy man. The best-known branch of Hinduism in Britain is probably the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), founded by His Divine Grace A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. The movement arrived in Britain via the USA in the wake of the counterculture, bringing with it an appealing message of peace and harmony, and it continues to thrive. The best known ISKCON centre is probably Bhaktivedanta Manor in Letchmore Heath, Watford. Although ‘Krishna Consciousness’ is a modern term, the message it contains is definitely traditional and has its roots in a sixteenthcentury movement associated with a Hindu saint. The regular gatherings at Bhaktivedanta Manor are attended by both Asian and British devotees and demonstrate how the religion has adapted within a Western milieu.
   See also: Buddhism; Hare Krishna; Jainism
   Further reading
    Stutley, M. (1977) A Dictionary of Hinduism, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
   JAN EVANS

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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