Namaste - Welcome to the webpage on Hinduism.
Local Place of Worship:
Tayside Hindu Cultural & Community Centre,
10 Taylor's Lane,
Tel: 01382 669 652
(approx. 25 minute bus journey from the University)
- Programmes every Sunday from 12:30pm to 2:30pm
- Celebrations are held such as Diwalli, Holi and Janmashtami
- Aarti (prayer) at 2pm and a vegetarian meal provided at 2:30pm
Image below of an invitation to welcome University of St Andrews staff and
students to attend their religious and cultural events - the E&D Officer with
committee members and local congregationnext to the Hindu Mandir holy shrine:
Dress/Jewellery/Identity: Bangles are worn, “Upanayana” (sacred thread) over the right shoulder, red marks on the foreheads and nuptial threads/necklaces.
The Sanskrit word Om (aum) is known as the sound by which the earth was created.
The Swastika is derived from the Sanskrit language, from "Su," meaning "good," and "Vasti"," meaning "being". In India, it is used as a good luck charm.
The dance of Shiva is sign of the dynamic forces of creation and destruction, and the harmonious balance of opposites. The circle of flames surrounding the figure denotes the universe in its entirety.
Curriculum & Student Provision Specific Issues:
Source: HEA Faith Guides for HE: A Guide to Hinduism
Generalising about Hinduism -
A common mistake made by Hindus and non-Hindus alike is to treat Hinduism as a unified category. The beliefs, practices, sensibilities and sensitivities of Hindus are in fact best understood not as representing ‘Hinduism’ in a generalised sense, but as reflective of the regional and linguistic background of the persons concerned, their caste status and sectarian affiliation.
An upper caste Hindu, for instance, whose family has known all the benefits and privileges traditionally accorded upper caste members, may have a different set of sensibilities than a Hindu of a lower caste, whose caste group may have suffered centuries of discrimination and exploitation. Equally, a British Hindu whose parents arrived in Britain from India fifty years ago would have very different sensibilities from one who was born and brought up in Trinidad and moved to Britain as an adult in search of employment.
Conflating ‘Hindu’ and ‘Indian’ -
Another such mistake is to treat the categories ‘Hindu’ and ‘Indian’ as interchangeable. It is important to remember that not all Indians are Hindus. India has a sizeable non-Hindu population. Equally, not all Hindus in today’s globalised world are Indian. Some Hindus may have Indian roots often going back several generations, but may prefer to see themselves not as Indian but as, for instance, Trinidadian, or Fijian, or Balinese, or British.
‘Othering’ and Stereotyping Hindus -
The problem only gets further compounded when Westerners draw exaggerated contrasts between the ‘Western self’ and the ‘Hindu other’. Three strands of ‘othering’ Hindus are commonplace.
The first tends to describe Hindus as idolatrous, polytheistic, and primitive. It emphasises such relatively rare Hindu practices as animal sacrifice and widow burning as the defining characteristics of Hinduism, and contrasts these with supposedly ‘civilised’ elements of Christian and Western selfhood. The second perception tends to glorify Hinduism, highlighting particular aspects of Hindu philosophy as its defining features, and setting up a contrast between Hindu spirituality and Western materialism. The third view tends to exoticise Hinduism, seeing it as mysterious, elusive and alluring. None of these are helpful perceptions. All three tend to represent Hinduism (and indeed Western worldviews) in stereotypical terms which have little bearing on the complexities of the real world.
The most common problem faced by Hindus is one shared by most immigrants of South Asian origin. They are often the victims of racial intolerance and religious bigotry, or simply of Western ignorance and indifference. A lack of understanding about differences between, for instance, Indians, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans and Bangladeshis, or between Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains, leads to a lack of sensitivity to, and disregard for, the multiplicity of belief systems, life styles and religious orientations prevalent among South Asian immigrants. Equally, a lack of understanding of their socio-economic conditions, of their everyday struggles and challenges, and of the gradual changes in their values and beliefs resulting from their exposure to British society, leads to racial prejudice.
Purity and Pollution -
Some Hindus may consider certain kinds of food and drink, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, even onion and garlic, and also alcoholic drinks, to be ‘impure’. Vegetarian food is considered ‘purer’ than non-vegetarian food, and some castes and communities may follow a strictly vegetarian diet.
Others may be concerned to maintain their dietary purity not throughout the year but during certain phases of their life or on particular occasions. Some Hindu temples and shrines may require all visitors to have remained ‘pure’ for a few days prior to their visit to the sacred sites. Similarly, some forms of pilgrimage may require a period of preparation, prior to the journey, when the pilgrims must maintain the highest standards of purity. Some phases of the calendar year, such as the months of shraadh dedicated to the memory of dead ancestors, may require higher standards of purity than normal.
Some Hindus, especially women, often observe fasts at fixed times of the week, months or year, when they avoid food items considered ‘impure’, often restricting their diet to uncooked food (considered purer than cooked food), fruit, certain kinds of cereal and milk. Many Hindus also consider beef taboo. This follows from the general Hindu regard for cows as sacred animals.
Considerations of purity and pollution often extend to matters other than food and drink. Sexual intercourse prior to, or outside of, marriage may be considered polluting for the families of those involved, especially when the partners do not belong to the same caste or community. Children born out of wedlock may be treated as impure and therefore illegitimate. In many communities female virginity and ‘purity’ prior to marriage tends to be valued highly. The bride is often perceived as a ‘gift’ from her family to the family of the groom and ensuring the virginal purity of this gift, as well as the act of gifting itself, is believed to bring spiritual merit to the gift givers. Women are often considered impure during their monthly periods, and are debarred from making visits to the family shrine or to temples and other sacred sites during this time.
Hindu Pride and the need for Social Acceptance -
All the above are potentially delicate issues for at least some Hindus, at least some of the time. A far more sensitive issue for most, if not all, Hindus, however, is the suggestion that their religious world-views and practices are primitive, irrational or inferior in some way to those prevalent in the West. Suggestions like these make most Hindus defensive about their religion, and a common response is once again to engage in a process of ‘othering’ and reverse stereotyping, where the Western ‘other’ is portrayed as being overly materialistic and therefore unable to appreciate the spirituality of the Hindu ‘self’. Needless to say, treating Hindu beliefs and practices in a non-judgemental, non-confrontational, and respectful way enhances the chances of constructive dialogue between Hindus and non-Hindus.
Recruitment and Retention -
It is impossible to specify general requirements or preferences relating to Hindu students in higher education. There are no dress codes binding on all Hindus, no rules about dating, alcohol, smoking, and dietary habits that apply to all. Some Hindus, especially those from upper-caste backgrounds, tend to be vegetarian and would benefit if vegetarian food options are available on campus and on field trips. Students might also appreciate the occasional screening of Indian films on campus where such provision exists. Not all Hindus attach the same degree of importance to the observance of festivals, and requests for leave of absence during Hindu festivals would need to be considered on an individual basis. In trying to ease themselves into campus life away from home, students might find it helpful if they are provided with information about local temples, ashrams, yoga classes, and Hindu societies.
Some universities already have active Hindu societies where members organise lectures, religious discourses, discussions, film screenings, and music and dance events on a regular basis. Again, not all Hindus would necessarily be interested in joining such groups. Some such societies may have members with strong Hindu nationalist and chauvinistic sentiments, and the activities of the society may reflect this. Where such sentiments are expressed, they are often communicated in a rhetoric of victimhood, where the Hindu is presented as a victim of centuries of Muslim and Christian oppression. This can potentially lead to tension between followers of the different faiths, and any conflict will need to be resolved with due sensitivity.
Please refer to the 'Higher Education Academy Guide to Hinduism’ for an
overview and examples of adjustments specific to staff/student in universities:
HEA Guide to Hinduism (PDF, 2,221 KB)