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Title: 'A place for our Gods' : the construction of a Hindu temple community in Edinburgh
Author: Nye, Malory
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1993
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This is an examination of the various ways in which Hindu religious traditions are being adapted and reinterpreted by people of Indian descent, now living in Edinburgh. It looks in particular at the development of worship in the context of an Edinburgh Hindu temple (Mandir), and how those involved in the temple project are constructing the notions of 'community' and 'Hinduism' around themselves. The Hindu population of approximately one thousand are divided into various groups and factions - particularly in terms of regional identity (mainly Panjabi and Gujarati) and migration history (approximately half were once resident in East Africa). Two communal institutions attempt to work across these lines of division - the temple, and a cultural organisation called the Edinburgh Indian Association. As they are an 'ethnic' minority group, it is important to consider the means by which religious and cultural ideas are being produced through interaction between Hindus and white Scots. Although principles of boundary maintenance and reactive ethnicity are useful for understanding these processes, it is also important to consider that notions of ethnic identity are often an area of intense creativity, and such creativity is as much the result of relationships within an 'ethnic' group as those between such groups. Edinburgh Hindus are reacting as much against each other as against white Scottish society. The presence of the Mandir is helping to produce several important changes within this population. Firstly, it is one of the main areas where this sense of ethnic identity is being developed. Secondly, it is a major social arena, in which the different groups and factions choose to gather together, and by doing so it encourages (and helps to construct) a sense of community. Thirdly, the notion of what it means to be a Hindu - and also of what 'Hinduism' actually is - is having to undergo rather considerable modification to accommodate the coming together of these different regional traditions. In fact, the notion that there is such a thing as 'Hinduism' is not without problems, since there are strong arguments to make that in India itself the various 'Hindu' religious traditions are not variations on a common religion, but actually distinct religions. At the same time, however, the notion that Hinduism is a unification of these diverse systems has a strong appeal to many Hindus, and has been used as the basis for several important reformist movements - such as Arya Samaj and Swaminarayan, as well as the 'counter-reformist' version of Hinduism called Sanatan Dharrn. These three traditions have been very important within the various Hindu diasporas, particularly in East Africa, and indirectly have had a strong influence in Edinburgh. However, to understand the role of Hinduism within the Edinburgh Mandir, it is also necessary to understand both the history of the temple project and of the community that is based around it. This is discussed with reference to the present day structures and organisation of the temple, the plans for the future, and the political relations between the temple leaders. This also provides the background for understanding the forms of worship that are being developed at the temple meetings. The main religious gathering - called a satsang - is first described, and then discussed with reference to how it is used as a forum in which the different regional Hindu traditions can come together without being too radically compromised. This is particularly because of the symbolic nature of these types of worship, which allow for multiple meanings and understandings within a common ritual form. This use of temple worship as an arena for divergent religious traditions is part of a process in which the temple congregation is becoming identified as a community, and at the same time this community is becoming identified with the wider concept of the 'Hindu community'. This construction is 'imagined' to a large degree by external agencies, it is also becoming an important symbolic idea (again with multiple meanings) for most Hindus living in Edinburgh. These processes of ideological construction are occurring at the same time as the physical construction of the temple building. That is, as the shape of the building is designed and constructed, the community itself - along with the notion of Hinduism - are also being created out of divergent elements. Although the temple building will one day be complete and concrete, the construction of the notions of Hinduism and community can never be complete, they are always fluid and indefinite.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available