New Hindu Shrine at the University of East Anglia

New Hindu Shrine at the University of East Anglia

Looking at large institutions in the UK that provide religious facilities to their customers and patrons, such as hospitals and universities, one may notice a trend of inequity. While there are often chapels and Islamic prayer rooms, Hindu shrines are a rarity. In casual conversation, several excuses have been postulated for this, such as:

“There are not that many Hindu people here”

“Hindu people are generally not as religious as Muslim people”

“God is everywhere, so you do not need a specific place to pray”

“Who is going to look after the prayer facility if the religious Hindu people leave?”

“If we give Hindus a place of prayer, we will also have to provide places of prayer for all of the other obscure minority religions”

“Your imagery may offend people of other faiths”

New Hindu Shrine at the University of East Anglia
UEA Yoga Student Shrine

What is the reason for this discrepancy? Perhaps, while living in a “Christian country” people of minority faiths simply do not expect fair prayer facilities. If that is true, perhaps recent events at the University of East Anglia can provide some inspiration.

New Hindu Shrine at the University of East Anglia
UEA Homa
New Hindu Shrine at the University of East Anglia
UEA Diwali Puja

As there are no Hindu temples in Norwich or the surrounding areas, Hindu students there were at risk of religious isolation. The University of East Anglia has therefore been the venue of several Hindu religious and cultural practices such as traditional yoga, Bharatanatyam dance classes, arati, puja, homa and celebrations of Diwali and Holi. Unfortunately the Hindu students at the University of East Anglia faced some difficulties due to a lack of any official place to house their murtis, so in 2010 they formed a Hindu Society affiliated to the National Hindu Students Forum and requested a prayer facility with the backing of the university’s Equality and Diversity Manager, the Hindu Council UK. The University sought to resolve this issue by appointing three Hindu advisors to provide advice and support to Hindu staff and students and by offering a storage cupboard in the Chapel to the UEA Hindu Society at the start of February 2012. The UEA Hindu Society gratefully accepted the cupboard and set up a shrine inside it.

New Hindu Shrine at the University of East Anglia
UEA Chapel Hindu Shrine
While tolerance is one of the finer qualities of the Hindu faiths, progress at the University of East Anglia has shown that Hindu people need not lower their expectations of fairer treatment. It is also a good illustration of what can be achieved with a little perseverance when we seek the support of and work together with The Hindu Council UK and the National Hindu Students Forum.

Anybody who feels they are facing unfair treatment on religious grounds should not hesitate to contact the Hindu Council UK for advice.

Padmini (Sivananda yoga teacher, Norwich)