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L’hindouisme au Canada

The first Hindu immigrants, who came to Canada in 1903-1904, were from Punjab. As the religious boundaries between Sikhs and Hindus were more fluid at the time, the two groups were often listed together in the earlier editions of the census. With the liberalisation of Canada’s immigration policy in the 1960s, many Hindus immigrated to Canada at that time. The large majority of these new Hindu immigrants came from Hindi-speaking Uttar Pradesh in North India. Others were Tamil-and Bengali-speaking Hindus. In the following decade, many Hindus arrived from the former British colonies in East Africa, South Africa, Shri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Mauritius, Guyana, Fiji and Trinidad. There are also Canadian converts to different Hindu sects, who have been attracted to Hinduism by various charismatic gurus visiting Canada. According to the census of 2011, there are 497,000 Hindus in Canada. The largest number of Hindus can be found in the province of Ontario (366,720), followed by British Columbia (45,795) and Quebec (33,540).

Generally, Hindus in Canada share the same beliefs and follow the same rites and practices as Hindus in India. Marriage is usually done along caste lines. However, some young Hindus and their families choose not to adhere to caste rules. Religion is practised at home and in the temple. Hindus have created sacred spaces in Canada by building Hindu temples and inviting Hindu priests from India to perform rites and religious services in the temples.

There are over a thousand temple societies in Canada, which play the role of community organisations. Many temples offer Sunday schools, where children can learn Indian languages, classical Indian dance and music. These temples function as community cultural centres. The largest Hindu temple in Canada is BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Toronto, which opened in 2007, followed by the Hindu Sabha Temple in Brampton. Some important temples in British Columbia are the Hindu Temple Burnaby and the Mahalakshmi Temple in Vancouver, and in Quebec – The Hindu Temple of Quebec, Shree Ramji Temple and the Hindu Mission Temple in Montreal. Unlike in India, a temple is in Canada often dedicated to multiple deities and is the religious home for very diverse Hindu communities. The deities worshipped in Hindu temples are Durga, Ram, Ganesh, Krishna, Shiva, Murugan.

Religious festivals are celebrated at the temples and this a joyful occasion for all Hindus, who gather at the temples in great numbers. An interesting phenomenon is the communal meal after the religious service at some Hindu temples in Canada, during which Hindus, and often non-Hindu visitors, share food and fellowship. Sunday is not a special day in Hinduism, but religious services usually take place on Sundays, in imitation of church worship in Canada, as this is usually the most convenient day since everyone is available. Services are usually in Sanskrit, and in local languages, Hindi, Punjabi, Gujarati and Tamil.

Hindu temples in Canada are often visited by travelling gurus and swamis. They offer meditation sessions and hold seminars on various topics of Hinduism. These visiting gurus, together with the Hindu priests of the temples, who usually come from India, play an important role in maintaining the links with the spiritual home in India. Most Hindus would travel to India once a year to visit relatives, worship or go on pilgrimage. In the diaspora, Hindu communities, organised around Hindu temples, make it possible for Hindus in Canada to live in a multicultural way, and to preserve their traditions, religious beliefs, practices and culture, while maintaining the links with India.

See also the article by Diana Dimitrova, "General Overview of Hinduism" (in PDF) and the List of Hindu Temples in Canada.

Bibliography
- Beyer, Peter and Rubina Ramji, eds. Growing Up Canadian : Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists. Montreal and London : McGill Queen’s University Press, 2013.
- Coward, Harold, John Rinneles and Raymond Williams, eds. The South Asian - Religious Diaspora in Britain, Canada and the United States. Albany, N.Y. : State University of New York Press, 2000.
- Goa, David. J. and Harold Coward. “Hinduism.” In The Canadian encyclopedia. 2013.
- Klostermaier, Klaus. A Survey of Hinduism. Albany : State University of New York Press, 2010.
- Government of Canada, Statistics Canada, “Canadian Demographics at a Glance.Second Edition.”
- Rukmani, T.S., ed. Hindu Diaspora : Global Perspectives. Montreal : Department of Religion, Concordia University, 1999.

D 16 novembre 2021    ADiana Dimitrova

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