Hinduism in the United Kingdom

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Hinduism has had a presence in the United Kingdom since the early 19th century, as at the time India was ruled by the British. According to 2011 Census of England and Wales, 817,000 residents (1.5%) identified themselves as Hindus.[1]

Hindus was the fourth largest religious group in the 2011 Census of the United Kingdom, after Christianity (59%), No Religion (25%), and Muslims (5%).[1] Among those of South Asian origins, Hindus in the United Kingdom (27%) constituted the second largest group after South Asian Muslims (57%), and exceeded South Asian Sikhs (14%) in the 2011 census of the United Kingdom.[2]

There were 101 Hindu temples in the United Kingdom in 2001, compared to 614 Muslim mosques and 193 Sikh temples in 2001.[3]

British Hindus[edit]

Religion in England and Wales[1]
Religion Percent
No Religion
Others, Not stated

The British Hindu population includes those who came directly from the Indian sub-continent, descendants of those Hindus who had originally migrated to other countries but later resettled in the United Kingdom, and those born and raised in the UK. It is not unusual to find third or fourth generation Hindus in the UK.

There have been three main waves of migration of Hindus in the UK, and most of the Hindu migration has occurred after World War II.[4] The first wave was at the time of British India's independence and partition in 1947. Also, in the early 1960s the Conservative Health Minister the Rt Hon Enoch Powell recruited a large number of doctors from the Indian sub-continent.[citation needed] The second wave occurred in the 1970s mainly from East Africa especially due to Expulsion of Asians from Uganda.[4][5] Later, communities included those from Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Mauritius and Fiji. The last wave of migration began in the 1990s and is a result of the United Kingdom's immigration policy, which made studying and immigration to the UK easier. This wave also included Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka and professionals including doctors and software engineers from India.[4]

Population trends by religion
in the UK[1][6]
Year Hindu Muslim Sikh
1961 30,000 50,000 16,000
1971 138,000 226,000 72,000
1981 278,000 553,000 144,000
1991 397,000 950,000 206,000
2001 559,000 1,600,000 340,000
2011 817,000 2,707,000 423,000

In terms of relative numbers of South Asian descendants in England and Wales, Hindu population of 806,000 is the second largest group, after 1,628,000 South Asian Muslims according to the 2011 census.[2] This reflects a growth over the 1991 census, when its Hindu population was 397,000 compared to 703,000 South Asian Muslims and 206,000 South Asian Sikhs in the England and Wales.[6]

According to the 2011 census, nearly half of the 817,000 Hindus living in the UK were residents of the London metropolitan area.[7] About 300,000 British Hindus of all ages were born in the UK.[4]

The Hindu population in the UK is predominantly urban, and has relatively higher representation in the professional and managerial positions.[8] Hindu men are more likely than general population to be entrepreneurs, and both Hindu men and women are more likely than general population to have higher education.[8] According to United Kingdom's Office of National Statistics, of all ethnic minorities in Britain, the British Hindus had the highest rate of economic activity in 2011,[9] and a median net wealth of £206,000 in 2006 (compared to median net wealth of £223,000 for British Christians).[10] Over a 20-year period, British Hindus also had the third lowest poverty level (after British Christian and British Jews),[11] and the second lowest rates of arrest, trial or imprisonment at 0.5% (after British Jews' 0.3%) among all ethnic groups tracked by UK's Ministry of Justice.[12]

Temples and Organisations[edit]

The largest Hindu temple of England, in northwest London.

A University of Derby report states that there are considerable linguistic and theosophical diversities among Hindus in the United Kingdom, yet they also share certain core beliefs, rites and festivals of Hinduism.[13] The National Council of Hindu Temples and the Hindu Council of the UK are among national umbrella organisations for Hindus in the UK. There are regional organizations that organize community events and social affairs in the UK, such as The Hindu Council of Birmingham.[14]

UK-wide Hindu organisations include the National Council of Hindu Temples UK which is the oldest UK-wide Hindu organisation. It comprises over 300 Hindu Temples and Hindu Faith Organisations.[15] The Hindu Council UK representing almost 400 affiliated cultural and religious organisations of various Hindu denominations including temples,[16] and The Hindu Forum of Britain, with nearly 300 member organisations.[17]

There were over 150 Hindu Temples in the UK in 2012[18] with 30 Temples in the London area alone.[19] Slough Hindu Temple was built by the Slough Hindu Cultural Society - formally opened in 1981 - it was the first purpose-built Hindu Temple in the British Isles. However, the first Hindu Temple in the UK was opened in the late 1920s near Earls Court in London and it was functional for about four years.[20]

There is a diversity of Hindu-based organisations in the UK including the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), Swaminarayan (BAPS) in Neasden (Greater London), the Chinmaya Mission, Ramakrishna Mission and Sai Organisation, each having large followings. SHYAM, an educational Hindu organisation teaches the Bhagavad Gita, Ramayana, Shrimad Bhagavad, Vedas and Upanishads.[21] The predominant Hindu beliefs found in the UK include its Vedanta monist, Vedanta monotheistic and various sampradayas.[22] Less of 1% of the Hindus in the UK identify themselves to be belonging to Brahma Kumaris, Divine Life Society, Hare Krishna and other organizations.[23]

Festivals and community events[edit]

Diwali decorations in Leicester, United Kingdom.[24]

Hindus in the United Kingdom celebrate major festivals such as Diwali.[24] Homes and businesses are decorated with festive lights and Hindus gift sweets such as laddoo and barfi. Community events such as dances and parties bring Hindus and non-Hindus together. Leicester annually plays hosts to one of the biggest Diwali celebrations outside of India.[25]

The Hindu festival of Diwali has begun to find acceptance into the larger British community.[26][27] Prince Charles has attended Diwali celebrations at some of UK’s prominent Hindu temples, such as the Swaminarayan Temple in Neasden.[28][29][30] In 2013, Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife joined thousands at the BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden to celebrate Diwali and the Annakut festival marking the Hindu New Year.[31] Since 2009, Diwali has been celebrated every year at 10 Downing Street, the residence of the British Prime Minister.[32][33]

Converts to Hinduism[edit]

  • The British celebrity, Russell Brand converted to Hinduism.[citation needed]
  • Lead Guitarist of the Beatles, George Harrison converted to Hinduism in the mid 1960s. Upon his death in 2001, he was cremated per Hindu rituals and his ashes consecrated into river Ganges.[34]
  • Philosopher John Levy also converted to Hinduism.
  • Novelist Christopher Isherwood, converted to Hinduism and remained a Hindu until his death.[35]
  • Hindu scholar Krishna Dharma(formerly Kenneth Anderson), converted to Hinduism in 1979.
  • In September 2006, Rev. David Hart made headlines when he converted to Hinduism whilst still remaining a priest of the Church of England.[36]

Discrimination and stereoptyping of Hindus in the UK[edit]

A report authored by Robert Berkeley of Runnymede Trust states that the Hindu community groups and organizations in the United Kingdom face systematic disadvantage and discrimination.[8] They face a legacy of inequality, targeting and stereotyping in daily life and by the media, which has left the Hindu community isolated, with a limited capacity to engage with other communities, or address the problems they face.[8][37]

Scholars state that the Hindu community in the United Kingdom, and Europe in general, has faced discrimination in immigration policies adopted by the local governments.[38][39] In local councils, construction or expansion permits for Hindu temples and community centers have been turned down for years, while Muslim mosques and Christian churches have been approved by the same councils and built.[40] The discrimination suffered by Hindu communities from the local council officials in Britain has been described by Paul Weller as follows,

Nearly 50% of Hindu children, both boys and girls, in British schools have reported to being victims of bullying for being Hindu and their religious heritage.[42][43] However, Claire Monks et al. note that children of various races and religions report being victims of bullying in British schools as well.[44]

The Hindu community in the United Kingdom is not unique in suffering discrimination and stereotyping.[8][45] The similarly small Jewish community of the United Kingdom, and in recent years the much larger Muslim community of the United Kingdom, has also expressed similar concerns. New legislation and institutions to understand and respond to religious discrimination are being debated by British politicians.[8][45]

Private golfing, country clubs and other social clubs in Britain have routinely discriminated against and denied entry to Hindus – in addition to Sikhs, Muslims, women, Africans and other minorities after asserting "freedom of association" principle,[46] and parts of EU-wide law to limit this practice were adopted in the United Kingdom in 1998.[47][48] In some instances of Islamist terrorism, such as after the 7 July 2005 London bombings, Hindus along with Sikhs of the United Kingdom became more targeted and vulnerable for backlash than Muslims.[45][49]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d UK Government. "Religion in England and Wales 2011". Office of National Statistics (11 December 2012). Retrieved September 7, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "2011 Census: KS209EW Religion, local authorities in England and Wales (Excel sheet 270Kb)" (xls). Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 7 July 2014. 
  3. ^ R. Gale and C. Peach, Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs in the New Religious Landscape of England, Geographical Review, 93/4 (2003), pp. 469-490
  4. ^ a b c d Fredman, Sandra (2011). Discrimination law. Oxford England New York: Oxford University Press. p. 81. ISBN 978-0-19-958442-0. 
  5. ^ http://www.ibtimes.com/uganda-legacy-idi-amins-expulsion-asians-1972-214289
  6. ^ a b R. Gale and C. Peach, Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs in the New Religious Landscape of England, Geographical Review, 93/4 (2003), pp. 469-490
  7. ^ Minority religions mainly in London. National Statistics. Accessed 3 May 2015.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Robert Berkeley, Connecting British Hindus - An enquiry into the identity and public policy engagement of British Hindus Runnymede Trust, Hindu Forum of Britain (2006)
  9. ^ Full story: What does the Census tell us about religion in 2011? Office of National Statistics, UK Government (May 2013)
  10. ^ Karen Rowlingson, Policy Commission on the Distribution of Wealth University of Birmingham (2012)
  11. ^ Anthony Heath and Yaojun Li (2015), Review of the relationship between religion and poverty, Nuffield College, Oxford and University of Manchester
  12. ^ Gavin Berman & Aliyah Dar (July 2013), Prison Population Statistics 1991-2012, Social and General Statistics, Ministry of Justice, ONS, UK Government
  13. ^ Weller, Paul (2008). Religious diversity in the UK : contours and issues. London u.a: Continuum. ISBN 978-0-8264-9898-4. 
  14. ^ Weller, Paul (2011). Religions in the UK 2007-2010. Derby: Multi-Faith Centre at the University of Derby. ISBN 978-0-901437-30-3. 
  15. ^ [1] National Council of Hindu Temples UK, accessed 3 August 2009
  16. ^ Affiliates Hindu Council UK, accessed 4 August 2009
  17. ^ About us About us, accessed 12 December 2008
  18. ^ LIST OF HINDU TEMPLES IN THE UK National Council of Hindu Temples (UK), accessed 3 May 2015
  19. ^ [2] 30 Temples in the London area
  20. ^ Bimal Krishnadas (edited by), Directory of Hindu Temples in the UK, 2004-2006, page 7, published by the National Council of Hindu Trmples (UK), Leicester.
  21. ^ [3]
  22. ^ Paul Weller, Hindu Origins and Key Organisations in the UK University of Derby, United Kingdom
  23. ^ Paul Weller, Some ‘Other’ Religious Groups in the UK: Key Information University of Derby, United Kingdom
  24. ^ a b Leicester Diwali celebrations draw large crowds BBC News (3 November 2013)
  25. ^ "Diwali – The Festival of Light". Leicester City Council. 
  26. ^ Roy, Amit (25 October 2011). "Dazzle at downing, colour at commons". Mumbai Miday. Retrieved 3 November 2013. 
  27. ^ "Transcript of the Prime Minister's Diwali reception speech". Gov.UK. Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 3 November 2013. 
  28. ^ PTI (10 November 2007). "Prince Charles, Camilla celebrate Diwali in UK". Times of India. Retrieved 3 November 2013. 
  29. ^ "Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall Celebrate Diwali at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London". www.mandir.org. BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha. Retrieved 3 November 2013. 
  30. ^ Thompson, Jessica Cargill. "Seven wonders of London: BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Hindu Mandir". Time Out London. Time Out Group. Retrieved 3 November 2013. 
  31. ^ Jones, Toni (4 November 2013). "Samantha Cameron glitters in a spectacular autumnal sari as she celebrates Diwali on visit to Hindu temple". Daily Mail. Retrieved 4 November 2013. 
  32. ^ PTI (17 October 2009). "Brown celebrates Diwali at 10, Downing Street, in a 'historic' first". Times of India. Retrieved 3 November 2013. 
  33. ^ Roy, Amit (25 October 2011). "Dazzle at downing, colour at commons". Mumbai Miday. Retrieved 3 November 2013. 
  34. ^ Tillery, Gary (2011). Working class mystic : a spiritual biography of George Harrison. Quest Books/Theosophical Pub. House. pp. 91–148. ISBN 978-0-8356-0900-5. 
  35. ^ http://www.isherwoodfoundation.org/biography.html
  36. ^ http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/british-priest-in-kerala-in-conversion-debate/article3074555.ece
  37. ^ Dias (Editor: Charles Westin), Nuno (2010). Identity processes and dynamics in multi-ethnic Europe. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. pp. 179–180. ISBN 978-90-8964-046-8. 
  38. ^ Skutsch, Carl (2005). Encyclopedia of the world's minorities. New York: Routledge. p. 554. ISBN 978-1-57958-470-2. 
  39. ^ Weller, Paul (2001). Religious discrimination in England and Wales. London: Home Office, Research, Development and Statistics Directorate. ISBN 978-1-84082-612-8. 
  40. ^ Paul Weller et al. (2015). Religion or Belief, Discrimination and Equality: Britain in Global Contexts. Bloomsbury Academic. pp. 178–180. ISBN 978-1474237512. 
  41. ^ Paul Weller et al. (2015). Religion or Belief, Discrimination and Equality: Britain in Global Contexts. Bloomsbury Academic. p. 161. ISBN 978-1474237512. 
  42. ^ Gelfand, Michele; et al. (2015). Handbook of Advances in Culture and Psychology, Volume 5. Oxford University Press. p. 175. ISBN 978-0-19-021897-3. 
  43. ^ E Nesbitt (1993), Gender and religious tradition: The role learning of British Hindu children, Gender and Education, 5(1): 81-91
  44. ^ Monks, Claire P.; et al. (2008). "Peer victimization in multicultural schools in Spain and England". European Journal of Developmental Psychology 5 (4): 507–535. Retrieved 2015-05-03. 
  45. ^ a b c Paul Iganski (2008), Hate crime and the city, Oxford University Press, ISBN 9781861349408
  46. ^ Lindblom (2005). Non-governmental organisations in international law. Cambridge New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. 169–183. ISBN 978-0-521-85088-9. 
  47. ^ Thane, Pat (2010). Unequal Britain equalities in Britain since 1945. Continuum. pp. 58–68. ISBN 978-1-84706-298-7. 
  48. ^ Jacobsen, Knut (2004). South Asians in the diaspora histories and religious traditions. Leiden Boston: Brill. ISBN 978-90-04-12488-2. 
  49. ^ 7/7 backlash against Hindus and Sikhs, The Telegraph; Quote - "There have been 932 hate crimes against Indians, predominantly Hindus and Sikhs, compared with around 600 such instances against Pakistani and Bangladeshi Muslims".

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