Australia, March 3, 2017: In 2011 Census, Hinduism emerged as the fast growing religion in Australia. The factor behind it is largely the migration.
Reverend Albert Lange rechristened himself as Bhakta Dasa in 1979 was disillusioned with Christianity, thus, converted into Hinduism.
“I was an atheist before I found my truth in the Hare Krishna movement,” he said.
Mr Dasa is now the national communications director for International Society for Krishna Consciousness, ISKCON Australia.
5000-year-old Hinduism religion has drawn many Australians like Mr. Dasa.
Hinduism in Austrlia:
Meanwhile, Census watchers, predict that Hinduism will overtake Islam (2.7 per cent), despite the increase in the number of Australians nominating Islam as their religion (from 2.2 per cent to 2.6 per cent of the population).
The rationale behind this phenomenon is many Indian settling in Australia. In last two decades past June 2014, there’s been four fold increase in Indian residents.
But, native Australians are also gravitating towards Hinduism, stated Mr Dasa.
“The Hindu way of life, with vegetarianism, karma and spirituality as its tenets, has never been more popular in the western world,” he said.
Rath Yatra or Chariot festival is the highlight of Australian Hindu Calendar.
The adorned idol of God Krishna, or Jaggannath (Lord of the Universe) is seen in the festival. He steps out of the sanctum of his temple in Albert Park onto the streets of Melbourne. In order to symbolise the reestablishment of the connection with the God, the ropes of his cart are pulled by thousands of devotees.
This year the festival drew more than 25,000 people to the Catani Gardens of St Kilda, reflecting Hinduism’s rising popularity in Australia.
Food such as prasadam (religious offering), Indian dance and music performances and Bhagwad Gita readings, attracted many non-Hindus to the event.
ISKCON temple is one of the many temples that cater to the religious needs of Hindus in Melbourne. Of the 51 Hindu temples in Australia, 19 are located in Victoria, belonging to different sects of Hindus that worship gods such as Ganesha, Durga, Hanuman and Shirdi Sai Baba.
Makrand Bhagwat, from the Hindu Council of Australia, says the number of temples in Melbourne has been gradually increasing over the years, exhibiting a proportional increase in the Hindu population of the state.
Australia’s biggest and one of its oldest Hindu temples- Shiva Vishnu temple – was laid in 1988 in Carrum Downs, in Melbourne’s south-east. Situated on almost six hectares of land, the temple is visited by more than 100,000 people a year.
The temple was built by the Hindus belonging to India and Sri Lanka predominantly, the temple offers religious accommodation to the migrants coming from southeast Asian countries such as Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, as well as Fiji.
“We just needed a place to worship,” says Sivananthini Krishnamoorthy, a migrant from Sri Lanka who has been a part of the team that saw Shiva Vishnu temple take shape from scratch in a small shed.
Mrs Krishnamoorthy spoke that the Hindu temple at Carrum Downs is beyond a place of worship for the community in Melbourne – many Caucasians also visit and are learning Vedic Hindu scriptures in Tamil.
“Something that I never did as a child even in Sri Lanka,” she said.
She says that the temples of Melbourne had helped her family to reinvigorate a connection to their culture and tradition.
The Hindu temples of Melbourne come under the ambit of the Hindu Organisation of Temples Association that involves in many interfaith activities and provides spiritual services to Hindus across Australia.
The temple also becomes a spot for celebrating Diwali, Holi and New year also for naming ceremonies and weddings. Traditionally it is a first stop for Hindus on the arrival of a baby, or when moving into a new house or buying a car. Students and job seekers often flock there before a major exam or interview.
The Hindu Council of Australia liaises with government, while catching on to other organisations and institutions, for seeking fair representation of Hindus in the media.
Adding Hinduism as a religion option in the 2016 Census was done by the council says Mr Bhagwat.
“[The council], along with its partner organizations, ran a campaign in our networks to encourage the Hindu community to exercise this option,” he said. “We are very keen to see the outcome of the 2016 Census…and pretty confident that this [growth] trend will continue.”
– prepared by Sabhyata Badhwar of NewsGram. Twitter: @SabbyDarkhorse