United Kingdom

United Kingdom
   The National Census of April 2001 reported 559,000 Hindus living in Britain, approximately 1 percent of the population, making Hinduism Britain’s third largest religion. In 1977, 70 per-cent of Hindu residents were Gujarati, 15 percent Punjabi, and others originating from other Indian locations, such as Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, as well as Sri Lanka.
   The presence of Hinduism in Britain goes back at least to the early 19th century, when Rammohun ROY (1772–1833), founder of the BRAHMO SAMAJ, visited England toward the end of his life and died in Bristol in 1833. In 1870, Keshab Chunder SEN, another representative of the Brahmo Samaj, visited London and initiated the transmission of Hindu thought and practice to the West. Only later, in 1911, was a branch of this Hindu reform-ist organization established in London.
   The substantial presence of Hindu communi-ties in Britain can be traced to the late 1950s and 1960s, often the result of enforced alienation, rather than employment. Hindus now have a noticeable presence in numerous major British cities. At the early stages of settlement, Hindu communities rented premises for PUJA (worship services). A decade later, during the late 1960s and 1970s unused churches and some private houses were converted into Hindu TEMPLES, and a few temples were built dating from the 1990s. There are some 150 mandirs (temples) in Britain: the earliest is the Sri Geeta Bhawan in Birming-ham (1967), and the largest is the Sri Swamina-rayan Mandir in Neasden, completed in 1995.
   Hinduism’s main traditions are reflected in Britain’s religious landscape: Vaishnavite, Shaivite, and SHAKTA, as well as some presence of the NAT H tradition. Within the Vaishnavite tradition, the SWAMINARAYAN sect enjoys some prominence. Although followers speak a variety of languages, the use of SANSKRIT in worship is prevalent. All major Hindu festivals are celebrated.
   Hinduism has inevitably undergone adapta-tion in the DIASPORA. The most notable changes U
   have occurred in worship, as increasing emphasis is placed on congregational activity, scheduled to accommodate Western working hours. Rites of passage have undergone some change. Initially temples were not registered for the solemnization of marriage, thus necessitating a civil ceremony as well as a religious one. Hindu temples, however, are now formally recognized as places of wor-ship, although the ceremony must incorporate elements necessitated by British law. FUNERAL rites have undergone some modification, to make them more compatible with crematorium arrange-ments. The CASTE system continues to prevail and remains relevant to POLLUTION, marriage, and eat-ing prescriptions.
   A number of umbrella organizations have been formed to champion the interests of British Hin-dus. These include the National Hindu Students Forum UK (founded 1993), the Hindu Council of the UK (founded 1994), and the National Council for Hindu Temples. The last of these was set up in the late 1980s, mainly by the INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY FOR KRISHNA CONSCIOUSNESS (ISKCON), to enlist the support of the wider Hindu community for ISKCON’s activities.
   Few indigenous Britons have converted to Hin-duism in its traditional forms. However, a number of Hindu-related movements have emerged within the country and have proved attractive to West-erners. One early example was the RAMAKRISHNA Swaminarayan Temple, completed 1995, in suburban London, England (Institute for the Study of American Religion, Santa Barbara, California)
   VEDANTA CENTRE, founded by Swami Ghanananda in 1948. The MAHARISHI MAHESH YOGI lectured on TRANSCENDENTAL MEDITATION in London in 1960. In 1969 the Beatles hosted Swami A. C. Bhaktive-danta PRABHUPADA in London, and in 1973 George Harrison purchased Bhaktivedanta Manor for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).
   Other more recent Hindu groups include ANANDA MARGA YOGA SOCIETY (founded by P. R. Sarkar), BRAHMA KUMARIS WORLD SPIRITUAL ORGA-NIZATION (founded by Dada Lehraj), Prem RAWAT’s movement (previously known as the Divine Light Mission and now called Elan Vital), Sahaja Yoga (led by Sri Mataji), the SELF-REALIZATION FELLOW-SHIP (brought by YOGANANDA), Siddha Yoga Dham (founded by MUKTANANDA), and Sri CHINMOY cen-ters. SAT YA SAI BABA’s movement remains contro-versial; SHIRDI SAI BABA (1838–1918), his allegedly previous incarnation, is followed in his own right by some of Britain’s Asian community, who regard Satya Sai Baba as an imposter.
   Western interest in Hindu spirituality has given rise to a number of Western GURUS who teach in the Indian tradition. The best known are Baba RAM DASS (born Richard Alpert, 1931), Ava-tar ADI DA SAMRAJ (born Franklin Jones, 1939), See also UNITED STATES.
   Further reading: R. Ballard, Desh Pardesh: The South Asian Presence in Britain (London: Hurst, 1994); G. Parsons, ed., The Growth of Religious Diversity: Britain from 1945, Vo l . 1, Traditions (London: Routledge, 1993); T. Thomas, ed., The British: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices 1800–1986 (London: Routledge, 1988); S. Vertovek, The Hindu Dias-pora: Comparative Patterns (London: Routledge, 2000); P. Weller, Religions in the U.K.: A Multi-Faith Directory (Derby, England: University of Derby, 2003).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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