England's Temples Cautiously Proliferate
Hindu Acquisition of Defunct Churches Sets New Trend; Violent Racist Attacks Persist
Britain's 1 million Hindus have arrived in every capacity. There numbers included child slaves in the 17th century, the conquering Swami Vivekananda in the 19th, merchants and professionals in the mid-20th, Ugandan refugees expelled by Idi Amin in 1972 and Sri Lankans fleeing their war-torn country in the 80's. Most of the temple establishing-one can't call it "building" since few of the 52 temples have actually been constructed from the ground up - has taken place only in the last two decades. Building is expensive, so Hindus have opted to purchase old Christian churches for a pittance and convert them into places of worship. The Sanatan Deevya Mandal pictured to the left, was purchased for only US $22,500. The Shree Hindu Samaj Mandal of Darlaston acquired a gargantuan multi-purpose building to use in addition to their temple for $104,000. But not all are built on shoe-string budgets. When the Swaminarayan devotees of London decided to build their temple in 1986, they raised pledges of $800,000 in a single day.
All Hindu activity in Britain is under the shadow of the volatile racial situation. The well-publicized "Dot-Buster" attacks against Hindus in the eastern USA are isolated incidents by comparison. Britain's temples are regular targets of vandalism. Hindus are harassed on the street and often brutally for no reason. All Asians are lumped together in the white Britisher's mind, so that anger at the Muslims over the Salman Rushdie affair, for example, can just as well be taken out on a Hindu Indian as a real Muslim.
Arson has been a particular problem. The Hindu Centre in Grafton Terrace, the Ilford Hindu Centre and the Hindu temple in Sough have all been heavily damaged by fire over the last few years. To avert attacks, temples often have little to identify them on the outside.
The racial climate can be judged by the December remarks of Conservative Member of Parliament Tony Marlowin calling for curtailed immigration. He harangued from the floor of the Parliament, "Vast areas of our inner cities have already been colonized by alien people with little commitment on our society or our way of life." Other MPs shouted him down, but he reflected the feelings of many whites.
Standing in stark contrast to the bigotry of individual Britains is the generosity of local and national government bodies in making substantial grants to religious and cultural organizations. According to parliamentary candidate Vidyasagar Anand, a new temple in Barnick was allotted nearly one million dollars by the local authorities. Many temples have benefited from such governmental munificence. The Sanatan Deevya Mandal, after needing to raise only $22,500 from its members to buy a building, received $12,500 from the Sports Council of London for providing central heating and sports equipment, $10,000 from the Avon Country Council for a community center, $8,900 from the Bristol City Council and $2,400 from religious trusts for general use.
Nearly all the temples have programs to teach regional Indian languages. There is the unchallenged assumption that such linguistic knowledge will help the children maintain traditional Indian culture. It is a touchy subject in general. A temple handout snipishly stated: "This is an attempt to write about [our saint] in English for the benefit of those who probably would prefer to read in English without accepting their inability to read in Gujarati, and those who accept they cannot read Gujarati."
England's temples seem to have been successful at incorporating the youth in their fold, creating special sports programs to draw them in. The Gujarat Hindu Society has taken pains to open its temples to the local schools so non-Hindus can come and see Hinduism first hand. Likewise, the Hindu Centre has maintained cross-cultural teaching as prime objective.
Britain's Hindus are advancing bravely in the face of real obstacles to both ensure the future of Hinduism among the youth and a educate the public on the true nature of our religion.
An England Temple Sampler
1 Newcastle-upon Tyne
A Radha/Krishna temple under the leadership of Sri Panja, established in 1976 and extensively renovated a year later.
Gujarat Hindu Society, established in 1974. Radha/Krishna main deities. Active youth club, community relations and traveling kirtan group.
Parajapti Association's Hindu Temple (Radha/Krishna) and Community Center, opened in 1980.
4 West Midland
Hindu Samaj Mandal, Radha/Krishna temple an above multi-purpose building for education and cultural activities.
Jalaram Prathana Mandir, temple of Gujrati saint who died in 1937 at age of 137. Active edcuation programs.
In 1974, the Sanatan Mandir renovated the entire insides of Baptist church for their Radha/Krishna temple.
Sanatan Deevya Mandal was founded with strong youth support in 1978, active in education and community service.
Vedic Society Hindu Temple for Radha/Krishna, founded in 1971. Above building competed in 1984.
Swaminarayan Temple, a new $800,000 building built in 1986 largely by Gujaratis from East Africa.
Population: 57 Million
There are 52 Hindu temple today is England, half are members of the National council of Hindu Temples (United Kingdom). Above are shown the locations and main buildings of nine temples. In many cases temples are former Christina churches. For a complete temple listing write to the Council c/o Ramesh Acharya, Shree Sanatan Mandir, Weymouth Street, Leicester, LE4 6FP, England.
Article copyright Himalayan Academy.
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