Imagine you are a Hindu


Ipswich Hindu Mandir

The History of the Hindu Community Iin Suffolk

Mayuri Patel’s Story

Dr Chinmayi Nath’s Story.

Aruna Mistry

Umesh Patel

Some Guidelines for Culturally Competent Care

A BBC Radio Suffolk Thought for the Day

A Dream of India




Your religion originates from India,
from the ancient Indus Valley civilisations.

You believe in One God, Brahman, but you
recognise many manifestations of the Deity,
represented by gods and goddesses
with various names and forms.

You have many sacred writings,
such as the Vedas and the Upanishads
and especially the Bhagavad Gita,
which contains the teaching of Lord Krishna.

Your place of worship is called a Mandir, or
temple, but your home is also a sacred place.

You believe in reincarnation, with each life
influenced by your actions in previous lives.

You aim to break free

from this cycle of death and rebirth,
and achieve Moksha (union with God).

Lord Krishna teaches that you may attain Moksha
by Jnana Yoga (purity of knowledge),
by Karma Yoga (righteousness of action),
by Bhakti Yoga (fervour of devotion)
or by Raja Yoga (discipline of meditation).

hundusThe OM or AUM is the most sacred Hindu monosyllable.  It is the seed sound of all creation.  It begins and ends recitations from the Vedas and other Hindu prayers.  It forms the heart of all mantras (sacred utterances).  It can be recognised in the sound that is heard when a conch shell is blown.

Taken from the Hindu Faith Card in the Diversity Game



The Hindu tradition has no founder and is best understood as a group of closely connected religious traditions, rather than a single religion, representing nevertheless a complete way of life.  Hinduism can be traced back to at least 5000 BCE in the civilisations of the Indus Valley, from which the name is derived.  It is inextricably bound up with culture and social structure.  The teachings are enshrined within many holy books, including the Vedas, the Upanishads and the Srimad Bhagvat Geeta.

For many Hindus the numerous gods and goddesses of Hinduism are seen as aspects of the One divine principle, Brahman.  The belief that there are many ways to worship Brahman leads to a tolerance of other religions.

At the heart of Hinduism is Dharma, the ancient law which underlies the order of the universe and is reflected in a moral and ethical life.  Karma, the law of action and reaction, teaches humans how to behave, and shapes their destinies.  Hindus consider that religion is a sanctified and disciplined path that one should follow to reach a higher goal, i.e.  to become a better person.

Hindus believe in reincarnation, through myriad lives, until release is obtained.  Reincarnation is bound up with the ancient Hindu principle of compassion for all living things. 



Between the Baytree and the Buddhist Evolution Shop in the Thoroughfare is the entrance to the Hindu Mandir.  It occupies the upstairs premises vacated by the Triratna Buddhist Order in 2010.

A significant number of Hindus arrived in Ipswich in the 1950s mostly to work in retail.  They have since been joined by BT employees, medical practitioners and other professional people.

Hindus traditionally have shrines in their houses which are used by them on a daily basis and also by friends and neighbours who may choose to join them for festivals and other auspicious occasions.

When the Hindu community grew in size they were allowed to use the premises of other groups for such gatherings - including the Friends’ Meeting House, the Unitarian Church and the SIFRE Centre at Suffolk College’s Bolton Lane site.  But they longed for a place of their own.  After much fruitless searching they decided that they would have to rent for the time being and so In 2010 they signed the lease on these rooms in the Town Centre.



In the early 1980’s a group of five Hindu families joined together to form a group and met in individual houses to perform Hawan, once a month.  The sacrificial fire was lit and sandalwood, dry small pieces of wood, and samagri made of rice, sesame seeds and dry herbs mixed with purified butter (ghee), were sprinkled in the fire while Vedic Hawan Mantras were chanted.

The group increased in numbers with the passage of time, and by early 1990s, families from Norwich and Gt.  Yarmouth joined the group.  By 1995, the embryonic Samaj had grown up to 15 families, and could not be accommodated in their homes.  (The word “Samaj” is a synonym for association or society.)

Efforts were made in 1995 to formalise the Ipswich Hindu Samaj, but without success.  However the Samaj was listed in a national religious directory, and a contact person in Ipswich provided the necessary information on Hinduism, directly or via SIFRE (Suffolk Interfaith Resource).  Dr.  Sushil Soni represented the Hindu Community in SIFRE and in SACRE (Suffolk County Council Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education) Dr.  Soni also represented the Hindu community at the Mayor’s annual Multi-faith Celebration of Community of Ipswich.  He also presented “Thought for the Day” at BBC Radio Suffolk at regular intervals.  The members of the Ipswich Hindu Samaj also helped the Ipswich & Suffolk Indian Association to organise Indian Summer Melas in Ipswich.

In 2005, the need was felt more strongly to formalise the Ipswich Hindu Samaj, and to seek a permanent site or premises in Ipswich for a Hindu Cultural Centre and Mandir, to cater for the needs of the growing Hindu Community in Ipswich and Suffolk.

An open meeting was held on 26th July 2006, and the Ipswich Hindu Samaj was formally formed and the constitution was approved.  On 21st March 2007, the Charity Commission registered the HIS as a charity, after a minor addition to the constitution.

Earlier in 2006, discussions had been held with the Suffolk County Council and the Ipswich Borough Council for their support for the Hindu Cultural Centre and Mandir in Ipswich.  Up to this point Hindu Community members had to make a return journey of 200 miles to visit a Hindu temple.  These discussions are still continuing with the commitment of both Councils for their support.

Since its inception the Executive Committee and Trustees of IHS have been working hard to raise funds for the Centre and Mandir.  The vision of the Samaj remains to establish a permanent Centre I Ipswich as a place of welcome in East Anglia for Hindus of all traditions and for the wider community. 

The Hindu Centre whilst providing a place of worship, would also cater to the social and cultural needs of the community.  The Ipswich Hindu Samaj in collaboration with the Ipswich & Suffolk Indian Association, would continue to support the Indian Community and to hold cultural and social programmes, and the Ipswich Hindu Samaj would hold religious festivals for Hindus and for members of the wider community who were interested in knowing about Hindu faith and traditions.

Ipswich Hindu Samaj is now, therefore, a voluntary and charitable organisation set up to relieve poverty, to support the Hindu Community in their well being, culturally and socially and to foster good community relations within the wider community by providing education and understanding of the Hindu faith and its traditions.  It will also encourage holistic therapy through Yoga and Ayurvedic knowledge and hold language, dance, music and Indian Vegetarian cookery classes.


Diverse Ipswich and the Hindu Community

The Hindu Community has been an integral part of diverse Ipswich since the 1950s.  There are about 500 Hindus here who are British Citizens and the town is receiving an increasing number of Hindus as the major IT service provider, British Telecom, is jointly undertaking projects with various Indian IT companies.  As a result of this, the rough estimate tells that at least, 600 Indian – Hindu families (1,100 individuals) are based in Ipswich and some 2,200 Hindus in Suffolk altogether. 

This clearly justifies the provision of a Cultural Centre and Temple for the Hindu community in Ipswich and the nearby area.

The Importance of the Temple for a Hindu family

A Hindu temple (mandir), is a house of worship for followers of Hinduism.  They are usually specifically reserved for religious and spiritual activities.  A Hindu temple can be a separate structure or a part of a building.  A feature of most temples is the presence of murtis of the Hindu deity to whom the temple is dedicated.  They are usually dedicated to one primary deity, called the presiding deity, and other subordinate deities are associated with the main deity.  However, some temples are dedicated to several deities.

The temple is the focus for all aspects of everyday life in the Hindu community - religious, cultural, educational and social.  All aspects of the Hindu temple focus on enlightenment and liberation which is the basic aim of human life.

Importance of cultural centre

The purpose of the cultural centre is to cater for the various needs of the community members through library services, learning sessions of classical dance, music, regional languages, the provision of a community hall for various social-religious events, regular religious activities and everything that comes under ‘CULTURE’.  The centre will try to inculcate the true Hindu values like Peace, Harmony, Non-violence and Tolerance and oppose any extremist activity or any activity that will break the law and order of the state.

The need of such a cultural centre can be understood from the following statement extracted from the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights: ‘Every human being has the right to culture, including the right to enjoy and develop cultural life and identity.’

Role of the temple and cultural centre for the non-Hindu community

· The cultural centre will be open for people from all religions and faiths.

· The centre will co-operate / participate in every possible inter-faith activity to bring cohesion in society, propagate knowledge of all religions and strengthen the fabric of the society. 

· The temple and activities in the centre will demonstrate practical knowledge to school and college students and in particular students of Religious Education specialising in Hinduism. 

A Hindu person would visit the temple at least on the following Festivals of the year, observed variously in different Indian states

· Ganesh Chaturthi rebirth of Lord Ganesha, son of Shiva and Parvati

· Markar Sankranti a joyous mid-winter festival celebrated in India and Nepal

· Vat-pournima a full moon festival in June, when wives pray for their husbands.

· Holi and Ugadi spring festivals of colours, Onamsummer festival of joy

· Gudi Padwa a spring festival to welcome the New Year

· Mahashivratri festival dedicated to Lord Shiva

· Rama Navami..celebrates the birth of Lord Rama

· Raksha Bandhan celebrates the unique bond between brother and sister

· Janmashtami the birthday of Lord Krishna

· Dusshera celebrates the triumph of Rama, the victory of good over evil,

· Karwa Chaut a day of ritual fasting by wives for their husband’s prosperityr

· 5 Day Diwali Celebration the Autumn festival of lights;

Other days / Special Occasions

· At weekends

· On the birthday of a family member

· On a marriage anniversary

· After a new baby is born

· During examinations

· After any personal achievement

· On the days of fasting

· Every day - elderly people usually visit temple everyday (provided it’s open)

· Special family pooja/worship

The cultural centre can be used or hired out for the following occasions:

· Naming ceremonies

· Birthday celebrations

· Marriage functions

· Personal get-togethers

· Cultural programmes

Ipswich Hindu Samaj will endeavour to arrange special events on the following days of the year:

· One bhajan-evening every month

· Five Day Festival of Diwali

· Celebrations of all major Hindu Festivals

· Ganesh Festival (either 7 or 10 days) celebrations

· Durga Pooja (Navaratri Raas Garba Celebrations)

· Readings from Bhagvat Geeta & Bhagvat Puran

· Reciting of Hanuman Chalisa & Mata Durga Chalisa

· Readings from Ramayana

Other facilities/ activities to be included

· Library

· Discussion groups

· Classes of Indian Classical Dance

· Indian Classical Music

· Regional Languages


*Dr Sushil Soni



I live in South Ipswich with my two teenage daughters aged 17 and 14, and my husband Chandresh.  We have a small family retail business and I also work as an Accounts Assistant at Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality.

 I was born in the Gujarat state of India and grew up in an extended family in Bombay surrounded by uncles, aunties, cousins and of course my parents and my lovely little sister! We used to have a small shrine in our house and worshipped several different deities, including Krishna, Ganesh, Saraswati, Laxmi and Swaminarayan.  We also went to our Mandir regularly to celebrate birthdays, wedding anniversaries, Diwali and just before our exams and after our results to say thanks God.  We used to go to our native village every summer in the holidays to see our grant parents.

At school we also celebrated Hindu holidays like Diwali, Holi, Makar Sankrati and many other religious festivals.  Everyday at school our typical day would start with prayers before lessons.  During the Diwali time we used to bring sweets to the school and shared them with each other.  We had rangoli competitions, lantern making, and occasionally we decorated our note-books as it was the start of the New Year.  At my college The Gita (the holy book) was a subject that we had to study, in many schools it was a compulsory subject! I loved learning about all of our Hindu pasts and all of our Psalms- you could call them!

After marriage I joined my husband in Ipswich in 1994.  , At that time, there were very few Hindu families in Ipswich and no place to worship, which meant that there were not enough of us to form a community so that we could properly celebrate our festivals.  For example the Navrati festival had to be celebrated at the house of one of our friends.  it was enjoyable but it did not measure up to the way that we used to celebrate back home! However, during those times we got by, by worshipping in our shrine and often visiting the Neasden temple in London to celebrate and thank God for anniversaries, birthdays and religious festivals that have gone by.  Before we worship in the shrine, we bathe and clean ourselves, next we pray to God for future success and happiness and finally we use prayer beads and thank God for everything that we have been given. 

As the years passed, more and more Hindu families arrived in Ipswich.  We all felt that there should be a place in Ipswich where we could all get together and properly celebrate our festivals.  This was how the Ipswich Hindu Samaj was formed; this was also when the idea came up of establishing a Mandir in Ipswich.  Today, this is the place where we go to pray, get together for functions and set up various clubs for the elderly and the young.  For example, every Wednesday lunchtime there is an elderly luncheon club.  I think that this is a really important part of our Indian culture- we always look after and respect our elderly. 

Hinduism is all about learning, and most of what my children have learned, they have learned by observing their elders and absorbing their values – respect and honesty- in particular.  But there is probably another reason they respect elders - because they strictly believe in Karma and don’t want to be reincarnated into something small.

The Hindu community is growing; however, I feel that many children are often at a loss and do not have many opportunities to fully embrace the religion.  To overcome this problem, I feel that we should try and encourage the children to participate in the events linked to our religion, to ensure that they fully understand it and appreciate our culture.  My daughters like the idea of being Hindu, though mostly they love the culture side of it - they love the colours and music involved with the many different festivals! My main aim is to ensure that my daughters will carry on and continue the Hindu religion and culture into their families. 



I came to England with my husband in 2003.  My son is 7 years old and I have completed more than 9 years in Ipswich.  My native place is Odisha, in the eastern part of India.  Being from India, I am glad to be associated with the vast richness of Hindu culture and the elusive beauty of its spiritual tradition.  It is a most ancient religion which teaches us basic values of life that sustain us and has given immense wisdom, a glorious culture and rich traditions to uphold life and build a better society. 

Being from Odisha, an eastern state of India, we traditionally follow Lord Jagannath, along with his brother Balabhadra and his sister Subhadra.  Jagannath is considered as an incarnation of Vishnu and also as a form of Buddha as well as a manifestation of Krishna.  The colour of the deities - Jagannatha (black), Balabhadra (white) and Subhadra (yellow) - possibly represents the skin colour combinations of all the people of the world and helps to spread the maxim of universal brotherhood.  The idol of Jagannath is made of special neem wood with large round eyes, with stumps as hands and with no legs which is the representation of Brahman as close as possible, because he symbolises the formlessness of God who is the foremost, the great infinite being.  The temple of Jagannath in Puri is recognised as one of the sacred Hindu pilgrimage places in India.  Jagannath is also known as “Patita Pavana”, which signifies all the merciful aspects of God. 

Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra come outside of the Temple during Rath Yatra (Chariot festival), allowing the public to have a holy view.  The most significant ritual associated with the Chariot festival is the chhera pahara when the Gajapati King, the King of Odisha sweeps all around the deities and chariots.  This ritual signifies that under the lordship of Jagannath, there is no distinction between the powerful sovereign King and the most humble devotee.  I always admire these aspects associated with our tradition and culture.

I am an artist and my passion for Indian Art has also supported me to know more about my culture and religion.  I have observed that our ancient Indian art was not just to adorn the walls but to narrate a story and most of the Hindu artworks are illustrated scenes from epics like Ramayan and Mahabharat and other mythological stories which continue to inspire artists even now.  These artefacts have helped in strengthening our cultural values and preserving heritage and history.

I have always been fascinated by the Patachitra art of Odisha, an ancient religious Indian art which originated from a small village, Raghurajpur, near Puri, which goes back to the 8th century AD.  Patachitra art is performed on cloth using natural colour which can be traced back to the establishment of the shrine of Lord Jagannath at Puri in Odisha.  The subject matter of the patachitras include religious, mythological, and folk themes based on Krishna Leela and Lord Jagannath.  It has inspired me to work on patachitra paintings and also helped me to make a small documentary on this folk art and its artists using digital media during my research project on contemporary art & design study in UK.  Our religion and culture has always inspired me to get attached to the core of native themes of India and is also reflected in my art work in this modern era.

Since my childhood, my parents taught us to believe in God, the supreme power.  It makes you strong and helps you to believe in your own strength and guides you in the right path of life.  As a Hindu, I always believe in and respect other religions.  Hinduism explains God is the same in every religion but is worshipped in different ways by different names in different times.

Hindu Scriptures, however, have not given any definition of Hinduism.  It is in fact not the name of a religion but the “way of life” of the people inhabiting the land of Sindhu.  It is better to replace Hindu religion by “Sanatana Dharma”.  It is a way of life which has been enhanced by various learned persons, philosophers and great followers of God through time and space.  The moral values we perceive from these our ancestors play an important role in our life. 

I am very fortunate to have received a few years of my initial education from the Sri Aurobindo School in Cuttack, Odisha.  Aurobindo was a great freedom fighter, philosopher, poet and also a spiritual leader.  He founded the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, in Pondicherry along with the help of his spiritual collaborator, Mirra Alfassa ("The Mother").  He dedicated his life to serve humanity in the areas of education, medical services and social services among the poor and needy.  I remember how those school days started with a meditation around the Samadhi and after that we were allowed to visit Sri Aurobindo's and the Mother's room.  Meditation helps to develop deep focus in your work and gives calmness of mind.  The history of meditation is intimately bound up with the religious context.  Since prehistoric times, civilizations in India used repetitive, rhythmic chants and offerings to appease the Gods.  I used to visit my school in Odisha during my return visits to India.

I would like to share few childhood memories of time spent with my late grandpa.  He was an humble English teacher, a voracious reader and also a great admirer of Gandhiji, the Father of the nation India.  He used to give us small story books related to moral values and also related to Vivekanand and Mahatma Gandhi’s ideology as and when we met him.  My grandpa also advised us to follow Gandhiji’s point of view regarding the true religious and social ideas of Hinduism.  Gandhiji has taught people the value of nonviolence, truth, the welfare of all without exclusion and service to mankind.  Our religion believes in the Law of Karma.  It states that, any action that we do in life, has some “Fruit” or “Consequence” attached to it.  Our religion always teaches us about worship, that the work you do is the true means of worshipping God and that the best way of using your knowledge and education is to use them in the service of mankind. 

Hinduism represents a very broad and diverse philosophy embedded within the religion.  One of its philosophical tenets is to give respect to parents, teacher, and elders.  We touch our elders’ feet to greet them which is a sign of respect and a humble way of acknowledging their love to us.  I remember one Sloka on this which I learnt from childhood time.

“Gurur Brahma Gurur Vishnuhu Guru Devo Maheswaraha

Guru Saakshaat Parabhrahma Tasmai Sri Gurave Namaha”.

The true meaning of Guru is one who disperses the darkness of ignorance.  In Hinduism the Supreme Guru is Lord Brahma, alongside Vishnu and Maheswara.  They are the creator, preserver and transformer of knowledge respectively.  We respect teachers as gurus as they help us to gain knowledge.  Hinduism also explains that Mother and Father are your first gurus as they bring you to this beautiful world and they give you the first lessons of life.  So we always prostrate before them to get their blessings. 

In our religion, knowledge is the greatest of all forms of wealth.  It always guides your actions and thoughts in the right way.  We always worship Lord Ganesha and Goddess Saraswati during Morning Prayer as they are the God and Goddess of knowledge, wisdom, intelligence, success and prosperity in Hinduism.  Our religion also teaches us to live together in a family.  There are many examples of this present in the Hindu Epics - Ramayan and Mahabharat.  This tradition of strong family ties has made it distinct from western culture. 

I have been working in different community centres for local people in Ipswich.  These beliefs have always helped me to carry out my work in the right way.  At the moment, I am working at Ipswich Hindu Samaj Community Centre and Mandir to organise various youth and children’s activities.  Associating with this organisation helps me to know more about our religious beliefs and to share these good values to the youth and children of our community through different activities like organising religious and cultural events, informing them about the mythological and moral stories in our culture, teaching them to chant mantras and Vedic prayers and also providing meditation and yoga.  We are able to provide these good ethics of Hinduism to our children in UK through this organisation. 

Hinduism teaches selflessness and sacrifice, respecting elders, staying together in a family, emphasising one's responsibilities rather than rights, self-discipline and simplicity of life-style.  These values have moulded not only my education but also my life, taught me how to live and how to become a true being.  I am trying my best to share these good values in the upbringing of my son while I am staying in the United Kingdom and also to convey them to the people of our community to the best of my ability.



I moved to Ipswich in 1990 when I got married.  I live with my husband, my mother in law (who is 84 years of age, and my son who is 11 years old.  I am a full time working mother, and with an 11 year old, most of my time just flies by each day.  I am a Hindu by birth but I personally don't practise much! However my mother in law is a vegetarian and carries out prayers daily which last about an hour and a half!

At the age of 6, my family (including my brother aged 1) came over from Africa to England in 1972.  My mother spent most of her time looking after the family and also my Granddad for 40 years.  She tried to fulfil her duty as a daughter in law and a wife but she now feels bitter that she missed out on living her life the way she wanted to.  I grew up in a working class family-my father worked in a factory making gas cookers and gas fires.  He earned about £75.00 per week which he used to run the family, pay the mortgage and other bills and send money to his mother who lived in India.  We had no cars, fridge or telephones.  Travelling was by using public transport and holidays were just spent visiting close family or entertaining them.  We lived a simple life but a happy and healthy one! The main reason my parents came to England was so that myself and my brother could get a good education.  Hence, both I and my brother studied hard to become educated up to at least a "degree" level and we both got good jobs.  After we started earning incomes, we brought a 3 bedroom house, got a phone in the house, a fridge and a car!

With regard to my current engagement/practice of being a Hindu - although I have a Hindu background, I don't feel I know much about Hinduism as a religion other than what I learned at school.  As children, we certainly attended various Hindu festivals such as Holi, Navratri, weddings, pujas, New Year celebrations etc.  but we did not really understand their meaning and purpose.  I suppose what I have learnt has really come from watching "serials" on television about the Mahabharata, Ramayana, and Hanuman etc.  For me, Hinduism is an interesting religion but too complex to understand or put into practice.  For one thing, there are too many gods and goddesses to learn about.  However, I would say that I am "spiritual" and try to live life the right way, as a human being should.

I believe that there is only one God with many names so I respect all religions and am happy to attend any house of God whether it’s a church, a temple or a mosque etc.  All religions have the same underlying message so that's what I believe and understand.  It is this principle which I am trying to teach my son.

Due to the previous lack of a vibrant Indian /Asian community in Ipswich, I have not really attended any Asian functions except perhaps Dinner & Dance at Diwali –and with no Hindu temples (until recently) any worship was just done at home.  I don't feel there has been much on offer in Ipswich until now regarding this matter-hence it has been very difficult for someone like my son to learn anything.

I believe that it’s necessary to learn basic messages given in all religions so one can live a good life and conduct oneself correctly but it is not necessary to actually practise any particular religion or enforce one’s views on anyone else.  As long as you have a good heart, do not discriminate or judge anyone, do not harm anyone but love and respect all people of all religions, and try and help everyone when you can, then I think these are good principles upon which one can lead a good and happy life.



I was born and brought up in a little village in Gujarat, India.  My father originally from Uganda, settled in India in the late 1950s.  He was a railway worker and bought a farm in India and made his livelihood from humble beginnings.  Of all my memories, as far back as I remember, our family were relatively comfortable but not luxurious by any means.  My grandmother whom I remember dearly had a great influence on our lives.  She was religious and superstitious but at the same time very considerate, kind and protective of her family.

From an early age we were encouraged to pray and participate in numerous religious ceremonies which I feel has had a terrific influence on my family.  We were also encouraged to be kind to all living forms - from ants to street dogs and the cows that would walk around in our village streets.  On the way to our farm we would be given food to feed ants’ nests as well as grains to feed to birds every morning and leftovers to feed to dogs as well as grains to give to sadhus walking the streets.  All I am trying to say is, I feel such activities have allowed me to develop into someone who thinks about all life forms and those humans less fortunate than myself.  This has been particularly obvious when I return home now after enjoying a reasonable standard of living.

My father was equally religious and in his way knowledgeable and he encouraged us rather than told us to follow certain ways.  My mother followed the family tradition as housewives did in those days.  My grandmother passed away when I was 13 but she has left me a lifetime of memories and I am most grateful to her as I am a parent of 3 children and feel if I could pass on half as much I would be a happy parent.  Since being in England for the last 35 years I have been through many different phases as there are differing influences with which I have come in contact.  I feel education has influenced me to an extent in my questioning faith and beliefs sometimes.  Having science as my education background, as I come across different explanations, I have had to pause and think.  Influences from society and different cultures have led me to question certain aspects of religion.

As mentioned, having gone through numerous trials and tribulations, I have found my religious belief has prevailed and I remain a firm believer in an existence of a superior power.  As a Hindu with limited knowledge, I am fascinated by explanations that are given in scriptures and depicted in many religious serials on television.  I would like to travel to religious places and ask questions to broaden my knowledge at a personal level.

I consider myself to be a Hindu with certain beliefs which include the existence of a God that influences the universe.  I believe in karma and reincarnation.  I have had doubts around the definition of good, whether it means being kind/considerate/generous or whatever an individual sees as being good.  My upbringing and way of life has allowed me to progress as well as I have done and strengthens my belief, in fact reinforces my belief.  I have raised my own family here in England and as the children have grown up here they have developed a somewhat different outlook.  They are not as firm believers as I am.I believe in guiding and putting information to them and let them decide for themselves.I do believe they will be religious although not to the same extent as I am while I in my turn am not as religious as my parents.  I believe as time goes by and people are informed, educationally as well as through other aspects, they question and like to have evidence about religion and different aspects of religion.  This is not always in black or white so I feel people tend to be mainly non-believers.  This continues until at some point something happens and “by hoping and praying” things turn out to be ok and individuals become believers.  At least this is my experience.

I was in India recently and I felt a stranger in some aspects as I saw some practices which may be considered “blind faith”.  People in large numbers did things that gave them joy and had faith in what they were doing.  I feel happy that people have means to express their beliefs and they do so in the way they do.  This gives our culture a unique identity in the western society.  Currently I chair the Ipswich Hindu Samaj and in this capacity I try to bring our small but growing community in and around Ipswich together as well as reach out and open up to the multicultural society of which we are a part.

I consider myself to be privileged to be here.  I have been given an opportunity to be part of a multicultural society and I value all the diversity to which I have been exposed, enabling me to become, hopefully, a better individual who can pass on some of the good foundations of my forefathers to the generation to come.



Practices may vary considerably among Hindus, according to where they come from, according to caste, and according to personal preference.  Although the caste system is not legally sanctioned in India, it still influences many people.

Ablutions and Hygiene

Some Hindus prefer washing in free flowing water and they would require water for washing to be available in the same room as the WC.


The birth of a baby is celebrated, especially the birth of the first boy.  Soon after the birth it is customary for a close relative to be invited to put a drop of water and honey on the infant's tongue, celebrating the sweetness of life and the bond with the family.  Mothers traditionally rest for about forty days after the birth and do not prepare food.  Sometimes the baby's head is shaved at the 30th day.


After death the body should always be left covered.  It is important to consult the family and ask if they wish to perform the last rites.  It is traditional that female relatives wash the body of a dead woman and that male relatives wash a dead man.  Hindus are always cremated.  Usually the eldest son of the deceased takes a leading part in the ceremonies.  Hindus may wish their ashes to be sprinkled in a holy river, such as the Ganges.  Many carry Ganges water with them, and believe that it should be the last thing that is put into the mouth when a Hindu dies.  White has traditionally been the colour of mourning.


Hindus do not eat beef because cows are held to be sacred and they may find derogatory comments about cows offensive.  Many Hindus are strict vegetarians and do not eat any sort of meat.  They may also avoid eggs.  Hindus would prefer not to use plates and utensils which have been used for non-vegetarian food.  As for other vegetarians, food should be prepared and served separately from meat dishes.  Some Hindus will only eat with their right hand, and may expect visitors to do the same.


It is not generally acceptable for a girl or woman to have uncovered legs.  Saris, or loose top and trousers are normal wear.  The emphasis on modesty means that joining activities such as mixed swimming may be problematic.

Gold jewellery worn next to the skin is believed by some Hindus to ward off diseases and these items will be removed reluctantly.  Married women often wear a gold brooch given to them by their husbands, as well as gold bangles.  Men of the highest caste (Brahmins) may wear a sacred thread over their right shoulder and around the body; it should only be removed if absolutely necessary.


Very few Hindus would insist on fasting whilst in hospital, though they may practise this as part of their faith.  Only the more devout Hindus, often women, are likely to fast.  Sometimes fasting implies eating only ‘pure’ foods such as fruits or yoghurt, rather than complete abstinence.


Notable festivals are Holi (in the spring to mark the death of winter) and Diwali (in the autumn, celebrated with lamps and candles).


When a younger Hindu greets an elder, the younger may touch the feet of the elder, as a mark of respect.  When meeting with a family, or another group of Hindus, it is usual to begin by addressing greetings to the eldest member first. 

Public displays of physical intimacy such as kissing and hugging are not the norm amongst Hindus.

In a Hindu Home

Most Hindu homes contain a small shrine to one of more gods.  These will often feature a statue perhaps an AUM symbol, candles and offerings of food or other gifts for the deity.  It would be disrespectful to remove or handle things placed at the shrine.

When receiving a visitor it is considered polite to offer some food and drink and it could be seen as offensive for the visitor to refuse such offers.


Hindu marriage ceremonies can vary a great deal but the central focus is the sacred fire, around which the couple walks (5-7 times) while the priest reads aloud from the scriptures.  A wedding can take place at any time of the year but the time of day is likely to be carefully chosen according to its astrological significance for the couple.  Most Hindu marriages are arranged through the families.  The pre-marriage celebrations last 3-5 days and involve all the relations.  The bride usually goes to live with the bridegroom's family.  Red and pink are considered to be auspicious colours to wear at a wedding ceremony.


Hindu women are likely to have a strong preference to be treated, examined and cared for by female professionals and should not be cared for in mixed wards except in emergency situations.


Hindus may have several names – a personal name, a special name, and a family name.


Hinduism is based on the community, rather than the congregation.  The home is a place for devotion, but worship also takes place in the temple, or mandir.  Visitors to a mandir will be expected to remove their shoes and cover their heads.  They should also dress modestly.  Seating is on the floor, and it is considered disrespectful to sit with feet pointing towards the sacred area at the front of the temple.  Mandirs are only usually to be found in cities.


Although Hinduism was originally an umbrella word covering the various beliefs and practices of the people of the Indus Valley, and strictly speaking only applies to Indian people, it has produced many gurus over the centuries and there are many movements emanating from or influenced by Hinduism which have attracted westerners into their ranks.

For example: The International Society for Krishna Consciousness was founded by Srila Prabhupada (Swami Bhaktivedanta) in 1966.  The Sai Baba movement, the Brahma Kumaris and the students of Sri Chinmoy are all within the Hindu family

All of the information in this section is for guidance only and is by no means meant to stereotype the Hindu Community.



Looking at the past, and at the present, one wonders if it will ever be possible for religion to exist without its followers, at some stage, coming to blows with each other.

The prophet and mystic, Hazral Inayat Khan, tells us that behind all wars there is a suggestion of religionHe points out that people think the reason for war is mostly political, but in fact religion is the greater warmonger.

He was a Sufi Master, who brought Sufism to the West at the turn of the century.  Sufism is the mystical side of Islam and is one answer to frictions between religions.  Whereas theologians in college want to find out the differences between, say, Moses and Buddha, Sufism wants to look behind all religions to find their similarities and how they arrive at the one truth.

Religion for the mystic is a steady progress towards unity, or oneness, and being able to identify with the good and bad in everybody.

So often where religion is at the root of wars and conflicts, there is a particular focus on a holy place or building.  The sacred Temple Mount in Jerusalem, where king Solomon's temple was, and where now stands two mosques, is a holy and most significant place for Moslems.  Just below this is the Jews' most sacred Wailing Wall.  The proximity of these holy places, in a time of conflict must be like a tinder box waiting for the spark to set it aflame.  But Sufism tells us the old truths of the East -that religions are not in buildings, relics or places, but in our hearts.  The God of my religion and the God of your religion is the same God

Therefore, like Sufis, one could be just as happy to worship in a Hindu Temple, Mosque or Church.

My own teacher, Sri Chinmoy, put it even more simply when he says – there is really only one religion and that is the love of God.

Martin Spettigue



Can it be true?
In dreariest Neasden?
In sprawling, dull suburbia?
Beside the North Circular’s creeping dereliction?
A dream of India,
gleaming white, with pennants bravely flying,
sacred mountains rising improbably to Indra’s sky.
Shiva dances here.  Krishna plays and Lakshmi helps the poor.
Ganesha offers learning and good luck
to those who come to pray.
More deities are here than I can count
but they are One in Brahman, who made all.
And one are all who shed their shoes to enter:
sadhus, seekers, disciples of the guru;
those who come to worship and to wonder.
Within the hum of London
hear the OM of eternity.

 by Rev. Cliff Reed, President of SIFRE ,
 inspired by a SIFRE visit to the Shri Swaminaryan Mandir (Hindu Temple) ,
Neasden, 2nd September 2000.