Hinduism in Réunion
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Hindus in Réunion constitute a small part of the island's population. The island of Réunion is said to be host to approximately 250,000 Indian descendants as of 1991. Yet, uncertainty as to the exact number of Hindus in the country results from the fact that many of the members of the Indian population cross-identify with Roman Catholic, Muslim and Hindu faiths.
The history of Hinduism in Réunion stretches back to the mid- and late-nineteenth century. Many early Indian arrivals took on Christian names and had their children baptized in the Catholic Church at the insistence of their employers, owners or the government administration. Even so, they did not abandon Hinduism in the process.
With the exception of the Muslims who came to the island from Gujarat, all Indians were routinely reassigned as Catholics, more or less by force. Many of them appear to have been converted to that faith during the period of indenture.
In recent years, there has been a revival of Hinduism among members of the Tamil community. This has led to the establishment of many temples and ashrams. An interesting feature, likely peculiar to Réunion, is the simultaneous observance by some ethnic Indians of both Catholic and Hindu rites, a practice that has earned them the sobriquet of being "socially Catholic and privately Hindu." A perhaps generous local explanation of this phenomenon is that "it is a manifestation of the Hindu religion, which is tolerant of other religions and has the capacity to co-exist with them."
The island's nascent Hindu revival is presently dealing with very basic matters. The first is how much the thoroughly integrated, educated, and prosperous French- and Creole-speaking Indians of Réunion really want to assert their Hindu identity. The French government gathers no statistics on religious affiliation. Because of this, it is impossible to know accurately how many Hindus there are in Réunion. One estimate, by Religious Intelligence, puts the percentage of Hindus in Réunion at 6.7%.
References and notes
- Himalayan Academy (November 1991). "Reunion Hindus Try For a Revival". Hinduism Today. Retrieved 2007-03-21.
- Singhvi, L. M; R. L. Bhatia, J. R. Hiremath, Baleshwar Agarwal (18 August 2000). "Réunion". High Level Committee on Indian Diaspora. Non Resident Indians and Persons of Indian Origin Division, Ministry of External Affairs. pp. Chapter 6. Retrieved 2007-03-21.
- Religious Intelligence profile on Réunion[dead link]
- Indentured immigration and social accommodation in La Réunion by Christian Ghasarian, University of California-Berkeley