Hindus in Africa
Hinduism took root in Africa through the spread of the British Empire, which colonized huge swaths of land throughout Asia and Africa, including almost the entirety of the Indian subcontinent. Many Indians were recruited as indentured servants throughout the British Empire, settling mainly in the British colonies of Southern and Eastern Africa. Their descendants eventually gained middle-class status in these countries, a position which has changed little in post-colonial Africa.
Hinduism is non-proselytizing religion and was usually not propagated to the same lengths or through the same means as Christianity and Islam. It has mostly been confined to practise by the Indo-African communities of these countries. However, in post-colonial sub-Saharan Africa, a small-scale movement for Hinduism and its propagation outside the Indo-African community has occurred, spearheaded by such individuals as Swami Ghanananda, the first Hindu swami of Ghana. Today, Lagos, Nigeria, which did not receive an original influx of Indian migrants as did countries such as South Africa and Uganda, is home to over 25,000 Hindus, mostly local converts and more recent, post-independence Indian immigrants. This was primarily the work of International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) missionaries.
While Hinduism has been cited as possessing many parallels to African spirituality, it has received opposition from the entrenched Christian elites and Muslim minorities of these countries. The Swaminarayan faith has a sizable following in Africa. Several temples belonging to the faith have been built in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia.
Africa in Hindu mythology
Although there is little historical evidence of Vedic and Hindu culture in geographical Africa, Ethiopia and Somalia (The Horn of Africa) are mentioned in some Hindu texts, notably the Ramayana. It is believed that some regions of modern day Ethiopia and Somalia were part of Lord Rama’s kingdom and were also included in the kingdoms of his sons Lava and Kusha.
The Nile River also finds mention as the “Neel” (Blue) in the Ramayana, and is believed to be the root word for the Nile.
After slavery was abolished throughout the British Empire in the early 19th century, farmers found themselves with a shortage of cheap skilled labour. A unique British solution to this problem was to allow indentured labourers to move around throughout the Empire, where they were needed. These indentured labourers were mostly made up of marginal farmers. Indentured labourers usually had four year contracts after which they could reside in their adopted country or return to India. Not surprisingly, owing to the prohibitive costs for transport as well as no assurance for the future in their home land, most of them chose to settle, mostly as distinct cultural communities.
Indentured Labourers traveled far and wide, and indeed today many Indians spread out around the world have their connections to India through this system. Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Mauritius and Guyana are all countries with sizable Indian-descent populations.
In South Africa, indentured labourers worked mostly on the sugar cane farms in Natal. Today, the Kwa-Zulu Natal contains one of the highest Indian populations outside India.
More recently, South Africa has seen waves of expatriate Indians settle down there.
1. Shivan Kovil (Shiva Mandir), Lenasia (Lenz), Johannesburg, South Africa
2. Hindu Temple Complex, (en route to) Springfield Park, Durban, South Africa
3. Shree Siva Subramanium Alayam, 122 Sirdar Road, Clairwood, Durban 4052, South Africa
4. Shree Muruga Alayam, 152 Jacobs Road, Clairwood, Durban 4052, South Africa
5. Melrose Temple, 37 2nd Street, Abbotsford, Johannesburg 2000, South Africa
6. Madhya Kailash Temple Midrand, 52 Stag Road Glen Austin EXT 3 Midrand