Just 2 per cent of the Australian population identifies as Hindu, but the religion is one of the fastest-growing in the country. Today, Australia has 20 times as many Hindus as it did 30 years ago.
Just 2 percent of the Australian population identifies as Hindu, but the religion is one of the fastest-growing in the country. Today, Australia has 20 times as many Hindus as it did 30 years ago.
So how is the community catering to the surge in numbers?
Some of the smaller wedding ceremonies may have all the colour and tradition of a Hindu wedding, but think of this-a backyard marriage of a young Nepalese-Australian couple! It is clearly smaller than a typical ceremony. Most can continue for several days and attract over a thousand guests.
Hindu priest Narayan Bhatt offers these smaller services in a makeshift temple at the back of his home in Sydney's west. He says it is an alternative for those in the community who cannot afford larger celebrations but it also eases the growing demand for temples.
Hinduism is now Australia's fourth-largest religion, although those who consider themselves “no religion” also rank above it.
While it still represents just 2.1 percent of the population, demographer Mark McCrindle says it is expanding at a record pace, "Thirty years ago, the top countries of migration were all European countries, plus New Zealand. Today, you've got China, India and Vietnam, all those top five countries of 'Australians born overseas.' And so that's been the massive change. And over that same period of time, we've seen the number of Hindus go from about 20,000 or so to 440,000 currently. And so it's really followed those migration patterns as we've shifted our focus in our migration from Europe to Asia."
In the past five years, the number of Australians identifying as Christian has dropped 7 percent, while those identifying with no religion is up almost 50 percent.
There is a 27 percent increase in Islamic numbers, and Buddhism has risen by 7 percent. But of the top five religions in Australia, it is Hinduism enjoying the most significant growth, with a 60 percent increase.
The transformation of the Shri Shiva Mandir temple in Minto in Sydney's south-west is symbolic of that growth. The temple opened in the 1990s, and services there at that time would cater to the small community of 30 to 40 people. But as the numbers grew, so did the structure.
Today, up to 400 worshippers can pass through the temple in a day. Hindu Council Australia director Ashwani Sharma says it is a similar story across the country, "Melbourne, South Australia -- Adelaide -- Perth, Queensland and Newcastle, so, yeah, there's a significant demand for temples for worshipping in all of those areas."
Most Hindus in Australia are migrants, with 81 percent born overseas, but Mark McCrindle, the demographer, says the statistics are shifting. He adds on to say, "Now we have first-born and second-born generations that have a culture from overseas but are Australians, and so that's where we're seeing the next generation of Hindus and other religions."
And with new generations come new approaches to the practice of the religion. University student Sanjana Madhyasta's parents were born in India, but she was born in Australia. She says, "It's a bit more of a modern approach to the things that we do. Because, being in Australia, the things that we do, there is a bit more of a twist and a different understanding to the things that we do."
She says, for example, when people come to the temple, it is not just about coming to pray to God but more about the idea of meditating and being in a peaceful state of mind.
Kiran Sampathkumar, also a second-generation Hindu, says, growing up in Australia, he has been exposed to other faiths and cultures and that has influenced how he practises his religion. He says, "Well, I went to Parramatta Marist, so, a Catholic school. To me, we'd always have prayer before class, and we'd have mass every week, and then I'd go home into a Hindu family and Mum would want me to do puja* and everything like that. So that did confuse me a lot. But I guess me learning about my own culture, learning about another religion, really helped me understand myself. Not to take anything from either of the religions, but it just helped me learn about myself and what really interests me and what drives me."