Hinduism in Scotland
This section is designed to provide a portal to 'Hinduism in action' within Scotland today. The site is under constant development - your assistance is sought and we look forward to entries to enhance this section or those relating to Frost's Who's Who or Frost's Gazette. Please send such by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
a) Principal locations of temples will be found in Frost's Scottish Gazette An index of transition
b) Principal individuals will be found in Frost’s Scottish Who's Who
c) Societies and pressure groups will be found in Frost's Who's Who artificial bodies
For Hindu interest referral is made to the following site links:
a) A summary of Hindu belief for an abbreviated view on Hindu belief.
(Religion section of the Anatomy)
b) A Theological Understanding for a detailed analysis on Hindu belief. (Religion section of the Anatomy)
c) Essays on God - issues and debate (Religion section of the Anatomy)
d) Essays on religious fuelled terrorism (Religion section of the Anatomy)
Below is a selection of articles relating to Hinduism within Scotland
British Asians: Hindus, ‘Desis’ or What
List of Scottish Hindu Temples
Hinduism in the United Kingdom
Thousands heading to city's Hindu celebration
Scotland and the Indian Sub-Continent
A government-aided survey in Britain says that British Indians do not want to be known by the omnibus moniker of ‘Asians’, preferring one of the three options: British Indians, Hindus, or simply ‘desis’ which designates their Indian origin. After all, the Chinese in Britain, also part of the Asian community, are generally called Chinese. In both Britain and India, opinion seems to be divided whether it is good for the Indians living in the UK to de-link themselves from other ‘Asians’. But it is almost certain that the Indians in Britain would not have resented the label ‘Asian’ if they did not have to share the opprobrium from the white British directed towards the ‘troublesome’ section of the ‘brown’ Asians, especially after terrorist attacks in the US and the UK.
It is no secret that certain ‘brown’ Asians in Britain, the Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, have a large segment of extremists and frequently protest loudly and violently over real and imaginary grievances. On the other hand, the Indians as a community are known to be generally a peaceful lot who rarely create trouble in the country, unlike the people from India’s eastern and western neighbourhood. But the ordinary whites in Britain club all brown-skinned people as ‘Asians’ and do not care to know if some of them are ‘good’.
When angry, a white British chooses the term ‘Paki’ for the brown ‘Asian’. ‘Paki’ has been a derogatory term in circulation for 40 years, when Bangladesh was part of Pakistan. But then ‘Paki’ is a four-letter word. It would appear that the white British had somehow formed a different opinion about the Pakistani immigrants and associated them with acts of violence over four decades ago. Had these ‘troublesome’ folks been Indians or from any other parts, the word ‘Paki’ would probably not have been coined and become a four-letter word!
A leading Hindu organisation in the UK had a major role in facilitating the survey on British Indians, arranging contacts with 800 British Hindus physically and getting many more on line. Considering that the ‘Indian’ population in Britain is generally estimated to be at least 600,000 some people will doubt if the survey truly reflects the opinion of the majority of ‘Indians’ or Hindus in Britain.
That, however, does not take away the fact that the Hindus in Britain do have at least some legitimate grievances which need to be addressed by Her Majesty’s government. More over, the scholarly Lord Bhikhu Parekh had a key role in writing the report and, therefore, its conclusions cannot be taken lightly.
Some of the findings of the survey, called Connecting British Hindus, contradict the general image of the Indian immigrants in Britain—one of a well integrated, fairly prosperous and progressive community. The survey, however, says that the Hindu community in Britain feels ‘marginalised, misunderstood and neglected’, and that they are generally kept out of most racial contact programmes of the government.
The Hindus also feel aggrieved because their religious, social and cultural sensitivities are not respected as much as those of the Christians, Muslims and Jews. As proof, it has been mentioned that government hospitals in the UK cater to ‘halal’ meat for Muslims and ‘kosher’ meat for the Jews but pay no heed to the special Hindu diets—vegetarian and without onion and garlic etc.
The British government has ignored the demand for Hindu crematoria in the island. This prevents the Hindu families from performing the full rites and rituals at the time of the cremation of their dead as delineated in their religion. The Hindu in Britain has to share his last resting place with those of the other faith. Perhaps, it is the ultimate testimony to the famous (infamous?) Hindu tolerance!
Whenever ‘minority’ religious group leaders are called for a racial dialogue they would come from the Muslim and the Jewish communities. This, despite the fact that the Hindus outnumber the Jews in Britain. ‘Multi-religious’ gatherings and dialogues are becoming frequent in Britain as the country struggles to win the ‘hearts and minds’ of the Muslims. Presumably, other religious groups have neither the ‘heart’ nor the ‘mind’. Maybe, the Hindus are not represented at such gatherings because they do not take to streets to demand recognition and redress of their ‘grievances’. It would also appear that officials in Britain do not care much about the Hindu (and perhaps also the Buddhist) religion. The more understanding officials may be aware of ‘exotic’ rituals they think the Hindus and the Buddhists follow on certain occasions but do not reckon that they actually follow two different and ancient religions, each with a following of about a billion.
The Hindus in Britain have for long been content to be the followers of a ‘silent’ religion. They have acquiesced in the fact that they will remain politically ‘invisible’ as a result of which they are under-represented in the British parliament—two Hindu members in the lower House which has nearly 600 members. But with other communities from the sub-continent becoming more and more assertive and louder, probably the younger lot among the British Hindus feels the need to establish an identity separate from the other communities, if only to register presence on the political map.
To pursue that goal certain things have to be kept in mind. If the majority of Hindus in India find it perfectly alright to be known as Indians, rather than by their religion, why should the Hindus in Britain seek a communal tag? But can ‘British Indians’ be an acceptable choice? Well, that too may create problems in Britain where a lot of people of Indian origin actually arrived from other lands such as Africa (Kenya and Uganda in particular), the Caribbean islands (Trinidad and Guyana), Fiji, Mauritius and even smaller neighbours like Sri Lanka and Nepal.
Can they all be correctly called ‘British Indians’? Or, should they be called Caribbean Hindus, African Hindus etc? What about their opinion? The people of Indian origin in the Caribbean islands have been out of contact with the ‘mother’ country for generations and as far as knows many of the rigid and orthodox ways of the present-day Hindus are unknown to them.
The choice a nomenclature to distinguish their identity from other ‘browns’ will have to be made by the Indians in Britain very carefully, making sure that it does not become a tool for creating divisions in their community. In any case, the term ‘British Hindus’ cannot be applied to all those who trace their origin to this country. There are Muslims, Sikhs and Parsis, among others, who have gone to Britain before and after India became independent. Secular India respects each of these communities equally. There is no reason why the Hindus in Britain should not show the same sentiments for their fellow citizens of other religions who migrated from Mother India. In any case, a debate on a different label for Indians in Britain should not lead to sowing seeds of divisions in the Diaspora.
Hindu Temple & Cultural Centre, Edinburgh
St. Andrew Place, Leigh, Edinburgh, Scotland. EH6 7ED
Tel: 0131 440 0084 (Home)
Hindu Temple, Glasgow
1 La Belle Place, Glasgow, Scotland. G3 7LH
Tel: 0141 332 0482
Karuna Bhavan (ISKCON), Lasmahagow
Bankhouse Road, Lesmahagow, Lanarkshire. Scotland, ML11 OES.
Tel: 01555 894790
Tayside Hindu Cultural & Community Centre, Dundee
10 – 12 Taylor’s Lane, Dundee DD2 1AQ
Tel: 01382 669652
In the 2001 UK census there were 558,342 Hindus in the United Kingdom.
Assimilation and community issues
Non-South Asian Hindus
Centres of Hinduism in the United Kingdom
Hinduism has been in the United Kingdom since the 19th century. 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. Before India's Independence in 1947, Hindu migration to the United Kingdom was minuscule and largely temporary. But after independence, the economic conditions of 1960's 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. In the 1970s 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.
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."
Non-South Asian Hindus
While the majority of British Hindus are of South Asian ancestry, there are also Hindu Britons of other ancestries. Some non-South Asian British Hindus are involved with groups like the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. According to the 2001 census, around 7200 of the Hindus were whites, 5700 were mixed, 3000 were Black and 3000 were Others. Asian Hindus were 533400.
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, 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. London suburbs of Hounslow, Hendon, and Wembley boast of a large Hindu population in particular. Leicester is touted to be the first Hindu-Sikh majority city in the United Kingdom by 2010.
Thousands heading to city's Hindu celebration
JOANNA VALLELY Sat 7 Oct 2006
Monkeys and demons are set to invade the city centre tomorrow as part of the biggest ever celebration of the Hindu festival of Dusshera in Edinburgh. Horse-drawn chariots, giant puppets and live music will add to the spectacular parade through the city centre, which has been compared to a Bollywood movie premiere.
Afterwards, more than 2500 people are expected to congregate on Calton Hill for the culmination of the festival, which will feature a fireworks display and the burning of three giant effigies. Traditional Indian food, music and dancing will follow a mock battle between student actors dressed to represent good and evil.
The Lothian and Borders Police Band, the Royal Linlithgow Band, and the Stewart Melville College Band, will provide the music as the chariots and floats make their way from Festival Square to Calton Hill.
Mohindra Dhall, president of the Scottish Indian Arts Forum, which is organising the eighth annual parade in the Capital, said the festival was the most important public celebration of the Hindu religion. He said: "Dusshera is the most important festival of the Hindu religion because it symbolises the triumph of good over evil. "I expect this year to be the biggest event we've held. "Every year the numbers increase, from the first year when we began with about 50 to 60 mainly Indian children to the 2500 who attended last year," he added.
Dusshera is a huge festival throughout India, where in Delhi alone around 1500 effigies - some of them 300 feet high - are set alight. The festival is based on the story of the Ramayana, one of the great Hindu epics. The story tells of how Lord Rama and his army try to rescue his wife, Sita, from the evil King Ravana. After a fierce battle, Ravana is beheaded and Sita is freed.
In Edinburgh, for the first time this year the 40ft model of the evil king Ravana and two 20ft models of his henchmen were made by around 20 prisoners at Edinburgh's Saughton Prison. The organisers turned to the prison after a funding shortfall left them unable to order effigies from Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop as they had done in previous years. Mr Dhall said: "The governor of Saughton Prison took up the challenge and gave us a lot of support. We used to spend around £5000 getting them made, but this year they were made for free by prisoners, overseen by the Sculpture Workshop. "They have done a fantastic job."
Dignitaries attending Edinburgh's Dusshera festival will include Lord Provost Lesley Hinds and Indian Consul General Parampreet Singh Randhawa. The provost said: "I am delighted to be able to join Edinburgh's Hindu community in this fantastic celebration of its culture. "The evening's programme promises to be excellent entertainment for all the family and I encourage people to attend this cultural event."
Legend has it that anyone who picks up one of the bones from the effigies and keeps it in their home will then be protected from burglars.
Since ancient times, the exotic mystique of the lands and peoples of the Indian subcontinent has held a fascination for the Western mind. Although physically separated by half a world, Scotland has traditionally enjoyed close ties with the countries of the Indian subcontinent. Long before the population shifts of the 1950s and 1960s brought a generation of new Scots from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, trading and cultural links between the two distant and diverse lands were strong and fruitful, and have continued to go from strength to strength in recent years. In this feature, we assess historical relations between the cultures of Scotland and South Asia; see how ongoing cultural ties are being solidified today; and look forward to a bright future of national friendship across the globe.
Arguably, the most important event in the history of Scotland's relations with the subcontinent was an arrangement reached not with distant India, but with our neighbour, England: the 1707 Act of Union. With the formation of the new Kingdom of Great Britain, the English East India Company became the British East India Company, and Scots merchants gained access to a powerful trading monopoly that dictated the terms of much of the relations between East and West, and would go on to grow into an Empire. Throughout the British presence in India, Scots would have a keen influence on the economy and culture of the subcontinent, such as the introduction of the commercial production of tea by Charles Bruce, which remains to this day one of India's main export crops.
South Asians have been finding their way to Scotland and establishing communities since the 18th century. Indian seamen, known as Lascars, as well as servants and Indian noblemen all came to Scotland's shores during Britain's colonial involvement in India. Following independence and the partition of India, new waves of economic migrants arrived, primarily from Pakistan and Bangladesh, and went on to become Scotland's largest minority ethnic group.
For a people who even today make up just one per cent of Scotland's population, South Asian communities have had a tremendous and positive impact on Scotland's culture. The way we eat, the way we shop, all branches of the arts, education, business and religion have all benefited.
In October of last year, Jaipur-born Edinburgh restaurateur, photographer and lecturer, Herman Rodrigues presented an exhibition of photographs at the British Council's office in Chennai (formerly Madras) documenting the lives of South Asian communities in Scotland, ranging from the large Muslim and Sikh communities of the major cities, to the Gaelic-speaking Pakistani community of Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides. His work shows a vibrant cultural fusion, a two-way street with South Asian communities adapting to embrace Scottish traditions to construct a peculiarly Scottish-Asian way of life, as well as influencing the culture of their adopted home.
As Herman explains, "I came to Scotland from India in 1990 to join my wife, Abha who had won a British Council Scholarship to do a Ph. D at the Department of English Literature, University of Edinburgh. When I first arrived and started meeting the members of the Asian community at social gatherings I was amazed to see such a great mix. Under a blanket banner of 'Asians' there were people from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, East Africa particularly Uganda and Kenya, South Africa, Mauritius and Sri Lanka. They spoke at least a dozen different languages and practised a similar number of religious faiths. There were communities that had never been to India and called themselves Asians. All these facts fascinated me and I decided to document them to show how rich and varied their lives in Scotland were. I decided to document their history, culture, inter-dependence and assimilation with Scotland. I had two aims for this photography project: the first is to express the 'colour and vibrancy of the Asian community' and secondly, to bring different and diverse communities together, seeking to dispel racial stereotypes I also wanted to show how assimilated they were with fellow Scots. I also wanted to explore how much they were influenced by Scotland, its language, its customs and its culture."
Of the photographic project, Herman says, "I find it quite a fascinating thing to be able to photograph South Asians, to show two things: first of all to show that the community of South Asians also know what's happening with their counterparts elsewhere; and secondly it's to educate people that not all Asians are bus drivers or curry-house owners, because stereotyping is commonplace, and we need to demystify all these myths.
"Particularly with the Western Isles, I think that it's the best race relations that exist in all of Scotland, because both of them are very old communities, with a tremendous amount of respect for each other; the Asian community also respects the culture of Stornoway".
Since 1995, Edinburgh has been home to what has become Scotland's largest cross-cultural festival, the Edinburgh Mela, founded by Edinburgh's South Asian communities. The Mela now attracts tens of thousands of visitors to celebrate arts, crafts, music, dance and food from across the continents, and the celebrity drawing power of international superstars of bhangra and Bollywood such as Malkit Singh.
Close to the heart of any traditional culture is religion, and Scotland's Asian communities have brought with them a wealth of traditions. Scots of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin make up the largest section of Scotland's Muslim population, and Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism have also come to Scotland from the Indian subcontinent.
It was partly with the aim of increasing shared understanding between Islamic civilization and the West that the Royal Museum recently hosted the Beyond The Palace Walls exhibition of Islamic art. Dr Ulrike Al-Khamis, the exhibition's curator, said, "Although the exhibition is a comprehensive overview of Islamic culture, the subtle message, I hope, is that it has always had fruitful and positive relationships with other countries and other cultures."
Sufism, an esoteric and mystical school of Islam which emphasises spiritual peace and self-discovery, was represented in Scotland with two major events this year: the World Sufi Festival in Glasgow in August; and the International Association of Sufism's annual symposium, held this year in Edinburgh in September. Both events featured Sufi arts, poetry and music from around the world.
Glasgow was further honoured in May, when the city's Hidden Gardens were presented with a cutting from the world's oldest known tree, believed by Buddhists to be a sapling of the tree the Buddha was sitting under when he achieved enlightenment 2,550 years ago. The cutting was sent from Sri Lanka to mark the Buddhist festival of Vesak. Marking the occasion, Bodhi Ccha, administrator of the Glasgow Buddhist Centre, said, "This will provide a connection for people to the sacred tree. It's a great opportunity for them, especially on this special Vesak."
Returning The Favour
The cultural traffic between the subcontinent and Scotland hasn't been all one way. Scots have left a striking, and sometimes surprising, impression on the countries of South Asia, too.
Sialkot, 125 miles South-East of Islamabad, is home to a thriving manufacturing industry making products not immediately associated with Pakistan. Dozens of small companies in the city continue a century-old tradition making bagpipes and Highland dress, which now sells all over the world. Nadeem Bhatti is the chief executive of one such business, started by his great-grandfather. "He started selling to the British army and the local regiments around 1895," he said. "His business grew, and in 1910 he was the first person in Sialkot to start exporting pipes to Scotland." Not all of the city's bagpipes are made for export, though. The modern Pakistani army retains Scottish uniforms and pipe bands in many regiments, Sialkot itself is home to more than 20 pipe bands that play at weddings and functions, and Lahore's Patiala Pipe Band are regular attendees of the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow.
Scottish artist and sculptor Kenny Munro has been active in promoting ties between Scotland and India, such as his project linking a small school in Kolkota (Calcutta) with rural primary schools in Aberdeenshire. In a quest to explore the value and symbolism of rivers, ecology and sustainable transport, Bengali schoolchildren created and decorated a traditional riverboat as a gift to the people of Aberdeenshire. Addressing the School of Arts and Crafts in Kolkota, Murno said, "We have a history that connects us. The two schools connected, also live beside rivers. Very different kinds of rivers... but we share similarities in many ways: the water is essential for us; there are amazing creatures in each of the rivers; and we also share an interest in boats. The boat is the icon which links both our countries, both in terms of journeys, and also in terms of skills."
The Way Ahead
As our countries step forward into the new century, new challenges and new opportunities continue to arise in an increasingly globalised world. Strong entrepreneurial traditions are continuing to foster productive relations between our distant lands. Charan Gill, one of the most successful Scottish-Asian businessmen, has set up Scotland House in Delhi to help Scottish companies gain access to markets in the rapidly expanding Indian economy. "The number of friends and associates who have been enquiring if I had any business contacts in India has been growing to such an extent over recent months I felt I had to do something to help progressive Scottish companies exploit the massive commercial opportunities available in India."
In November, Glasgow played host to the first Scottish Asian Business Awards, celebrating the commercial success of Asians in Scotland. Restaurateur Satty Singh was named entrepreneur of the year. "Don't confuse me with Vijay Singh," he quipped. "He's the great golfer, I'm just a waiter," but the waiter is also managing director of a family company that owns two successful restaurants and a Golf Academy. Singh also welcomed former US President Bill Clinton to Glasgow earlier in the year, to speak to a specially invited audience; next year, he plans to add Clinton's vice president turned environmental campaigner Al Gore and UN weapons inspector Hans Blix to his guest list.
With the growing success of Scottish Asians in all areas of society, and Scotland's place in the culture and economy of India, as she stands poised to become one of the economic superpowers of the coming century, relations between our cultures are looking healthy at either end of the geographic divide.
Memories are made of...
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