The Hindu population in Canada was 297,200, according to the
2001 census. The census also found that there were 191,305
Hindus living in Toronto.
Nearly 1.8 billion Hindu adherents
are found in the world today.
History of Immigration
The first Indian immigrants to Canada began to arrive at the
turn of the twentieth century. Interest in emigrating to Canada
had developed among Indians after Indian troops passed through
Canada in 1897 on their way home from Queen Victoria's Diamond
Jubilee in London. In 1902, Indian troops again passed through
Canada for the coronation of Edward VII.
Real known immigration began in 1903, when five Sikhs landed
in Vancouver and another five in Victoria. From 1904-1908,
5,159 Indian immigrants were recorded by Canada's government.
Most of these immigrants were Sikhs. Some Hindus were known
to have arrived, although all Indians were commonly referred
to as "Hindoos." The immigrants mostly worked as
loggers and in lumber camps, or building railroads.
Another important event in Indian-Canadian history is the
Komagata Maru Incident. The laws of Canada at the time attempted
to prevent the immigration of non-whites, namely Indians,
into the country. One such law was the "Continuous Passage"
rule in 1908. The law only permitted people to come into Canada
if the ship came directly from India. This was a clever way
to circumvent the entrance of Asians.
As India had no such ships capable of this long haul, a ship
was chartered by 340 Sikhs, 24 Muslims and 12 Hindus to come
to Canada. Upon arriving in Vancouver in April, 1914, those
on the ship were not allowed to get off. A standoff between
the police and those aboard the Kamagata Maru ensued for the
next three months, until the coastguard pushed the ship out
of the harbor while thousands of British Columbians cheered
The British arrested or shot the Indians when they returned
to Calcutta, claiming they were revolutionaries. By this time,
those on board had united and succeeded in arousing anti-British
sentiment and had elevated the matter into a political issue.
The Canadian government attempted to deport Indo-Canadians
in British Columbia or to resettle them in other British colonies.
Anyone visiting India was not allowed back into Canada, even
though they were Canadian citizens. Indians were not allowed
to bring their wives and children to Canada until 1930, after
several Indo-Canadians went to court to fight the law.
Indians were barred from voting provincially after 1907, and
in 1920, the Dominion Franchise Bill denied them a federal
vote. It was not until April 2, 1947 that Indo-Canadians were
granted full citizenship rights, including the right to vote.
In 1967, the first attempt at the erection of a religious
Hindu gathering in Toronto was made. The Hindu Prasna Samaj
had its early beginnings in a rented room in a Christian church
at Queen Street West on Sundays. There, Hindus would gather
to pray and listen. Pictures and idols of the various gods
would be erected. The Samaj still exists on Fern Avenue in
Languages spoken in the Hindu community include Hindi, one
of India's official languages, which many Hindus use as
common language. English, as India's second official language,
is also commonly spoken even by new immigrants. But Hindus
may also speak any number of the different languages and dialects
found in India, including Tamil, Bengali, Gujarati, Punjabi
How old is Hinduism?
"Hinduism is one of the oldest religions of the world.
It is definitely the oldest among the living religions. The
European historians of early 20th Century grudgingly accepted
the period around 2500 B.C. as the earliest available evidence
of the origin of the Vedic religion, which is a precursor
What is Hinduism?
"Hinduism is a living religion without one single dogma.
It is living and changing all the time, and many different
stories can be told in different ways. The images of gods
are tools to help mankind on its journey through life. There
is One God of whom no image exists: The spirit, Om, Brahman,
God or whatever name you give it, the intelligence that is
in every living cell, the One.
Source: Himalayan Academy|
Nine Beliefs of Hinduism Hindus believe in the divinity
of the Vedas, the world's most ancient scripture, and
venerate the Agamas as equally revealed. These primordial
hymns are God's word and the bedrock of Sanatana Dharma,
the eternal religion which has neither beginning nor end.
Hindus believe in one, all-pervasive Supreme Being who is
both immanent and transcendent, both Creator and Unmanifest
Hindus believe that the universe undergoes endless cycles
of creation, preservation and dissolution.
Hindus believe in karma, the law of cause and effect by which
each individual creates his own destiny by his thoughts, words
Hindus believe that the soul reincarnates, evolving through
many births until all karmas have been resolved, and moksha,
spiritual knowledge and liberation from the cycle of rebirth,
is attained. Not a single soul will be eternally deprived
of this destiny.
Hindus believe that divine beings exist in unseen worlds and
that temple worship, rituals, sacraments as well as personal
devotionals create a communion with these devas and Gods.
Hindus believe that a spiritually awakened master, or satguru,
is essential to know the Transcendent Absolute, as are personal
discipline, good conduct, purification, pilgrimage, self-inquiry
Hindus believe that all life is sacred, to be loved and revered,
and therefore practice ahimsa, "noninjury."
Hindus believe that no particular religion teaches the only
way to salvation above all others, but that all genuine religious
paths are facets of God's Pure Love and Light, deserving
tolerance and understanding.
Five Obligations of all Hindus
Worship, upasana: Young Hindus are taught daily worship in
the family shrine room --rituals, disciplines, chants, yogas
and religious study. They learn to be secure through devotion
in home and temple, wearing traditional dress, bringing forth
love of the Divine and preparing the mind for serene meditation.
Holy days, utsava: Young Hindus are taught to participate
in Hindu festivals and holy days in the home and temple. They
learn to be happy through sweet communion with God at such
auspicious celebrations. Utsava includes fasting and attending
the temple on Monday or Friday and other holy days.
Virtuous living, dharma: Young Hindus are taught to live a
life of duty and good conduct. They learn to be selfless by
thinking of others first, being respectful of parents, elders
and swamis, following divine law, especially ahimsa -- mental,
emotional and physical non-injury to all beings. Thus they
Pilgrimage, tirthayatra: Young Hindus are taught the value
of pilgrimage and are taken at least once a year for darnana
of holy persons, temples and places, near or far. They learn
to be detached by setting aside worldly affairs and making
God, Gods and gurus life's singular focus during these
Rites of passage, samskara: Young Hindus are taught to observe
the many sacraments which mark and sanctify their passages
through life. They learn to be traditional by celebrating
the rites of birth, name-giving, head-shaving, first feeding,
ear-piercing, first learning, coming of age, marriage and
Four Aims of Hinduism (Purusharthas)
dharma: righteousness in their religious life.
artha: success in their economic life; material prosperity.
kama: gratification of the senses; pleasure; sensual,
sexual and mental enjoyment.
moksa: liberation from "samsara," the cycle
of rebirth and reincarnation. This is considered the supreme
end of mankind.
Karma: God's cosmic law of karma governs our life
experiences through cause and effect. As God's force of
gravity shapes cosmic order, karma shapes experiential order.
Through karma, your thoughts, emotions and deeds -- whether
good, bad or mixed -- return to you. Thus, karma is your teacher.
Karma is not fate. You have free will. No God or external
force is controlling your life. It is your own karmic creation.
To be responsible for your karma is strength. To blame another
Hinduism believes that the soul is reborn in another body
upon death. Your soul undertakes many, many lifetimes in a
physical body. How you are reincarnated can depend upon your
karma. Bad deeds can cause a person to be reborn at a lower
level, or even as an animal. The unequal distribution of wealth,
prestige, suffering are thus seen as natural consequences
for one's previous acts, both in this life and in previous
lives. After resolving all residual karmas, your soul no longer
incarnates and you achieve enlightenment and moksa (liberation
from samsara, the cycle of rebirth and reincarnation; moksa
is sometimes called nirvana). This is considered the supreme
aim of mankind.
Dharma is God's Divine Law, the law of being. Dharma
is to the individual what its normal developement is to a
seed -- the orderly fulfillment of an inherent nature and
destiny. When following dharma you are in harmony with the
cosmic order; you abide close to God.Scriptures Hindu
Scriptures are broadly classified into Shruti (meaning 'heard')
and Smriti (meaning 'remembered'). Shruti means something
which was heard (directly from the Gods) by the sages while
smriti refers to what was written down and remembered. Shruti
is considered more authoritative than smriti, because the
former is believed to have been obtained directly from God
by the spiritual experiences of vedic seers and has no interpretations.
Vedas constitute the shruti. Hindus believe that Vedas are
timeless and eternal. There are four vedas, namely Rig, Sama,
Yajur and Atharva. Each veda consists of the sections Samhita
(containing the hymns) and Brahmana ( significance of the
hymns), Aranyakas (interpretations), and Vedanta (upanishhads,
which are metaphysical dialogs).
The main works making up the smriti are the Itihasas (histories),
which include the Epics, the main two being the Ramayana and
the Mahabharata (which contains the best-known of the scriptures,
the Bhagavad-gita, which consists of conversations between
Lord Krishna -- one of the incarnations of Vishnu -- and Arjuna,
the hero of the Mahabharata).
A common misconception is that Hinduism is a polytheistic
religion. This is erroneous. Hinduism has one god. This would
be Brahma, the creator. The other gods that people worship
are aspects of that God, including the trinity. The creator
has created these different aspects based on a division of
function. The main Hindu trinity/trimurti is represented by
three Gods: 'Brahma - the creator,' 'Vishnu -
the protector,' and 'Shiva - the destroyer.' The
trimurti represents the cycle of life. Creation, sustenance,
Brahma the Creator who is continuing to create new realities.
Vishnu, the Preserver, who preserves these new creations.
Whenever dharma (eternal order, righteousness, religion, law
and duty) is threatened, Vishnu travels from heaven to earth
in one of ten incarnations (or avatars; the best known of
which is Krishna).
Shiva, the Destroyer, is at times compassionate, erotic and
Aside from the trinity, Hindus also worship other gods. There
are as many as three hundred and thirty three million of these
Gods in the pantheon. It is probably easier and more understandable
for the non-Hindu to compare them to angels or "devtars,"
as they should be called. These devtars have different functions.
Hindus pray to the different devtars for different things,
as they specialise in different things. For example, you may
be at a stage in your life where you aspire to wealth. You
would pray to Lakshmi.
Hindus mostly belong to one of four sects:
- Vaishnavism: which generally
regards Vishnu as the ultimate deity.
- Shaivism: which generally
regards Shiva as the ultimate deity.
- Saktism: followers of Sakti
(or Shakti or Devi) or the Mother Goddesses. The wives of
Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva are Saraswati, Lakshmi, and Parvati,
respectively. Collectively, they are sometimes referred
to as Divine mother (or Shakti). Two of Parvati's fierce
but very powerful forms are Durga (the warrior) and Kali
(the all-destroyer. She clears the slate to restart the
cycle of creation).
- Smartism: non-sectarian; worshippers
can basically select their own god to worship.
Although the caste system
was abolished by law in 1949, it remains a significant force
throughout India. In Canada, however, it is virtually non-existent.
Each follower of Hinduism belonged to one of the thousands of
Jats (communities) that existed in India. The Jats were grouped
into four Varna (social castes), plus a fifth group called the
"untouchables." A person's Jat determined the
range of jobs or professions from which they could choose.
Marriages normally took place within the same Jat. There were
rules that prohibited persons of different groups from eating,
drinking or even smoking with each other. People were once able
to move from one Varna to another. However, at some time in
the past (estimates range from about 500 BCE to 500 CE), the
system became rigid, so that a person was generally born into
the Jat and Varna of their parents, and died in the same group.
The four castes were:
(the priests and academics)
(farmers, landlords, and merchants)
(peasants, servants, and workers in non-polluting jobs). The
Dalit were outcasts who did not belong to one of the castes.
Until the late 1980's, they were called Harijan (children
of God), a term coined by Mahatma Gandhi. They worked in what
are considered polluting jobs. They were untouchable by the
four castes; in some areas of the country, even a contact with
their shadow by a member of the Varnas was considered polluting.
Practicing untouchability or discriminating against a person
because of their caste is now illegal. The caste system has
lost much of its power in urban areas; however it is essentially
unchanged in some rural districts. The government has instituted
positive discrimination in order to help the Dalit and lower
Not all Hindus are vegetarians. In fact, probably only a minority
of Hindus are vegetarians. While many of the scriptures counsel
vegetarianism, soldiers in India have historically eaten meat
as a source of strength and agression. Today, many Hindus eat
meat as an acceptable part of the religion.
However, it is true that the cow is considered sacred in Hinduism.
This is because of (1) the life-giving milk the cow gives selflessly;
(2) the work that the cow does on farms and in agriculture;
(3) religion; The cow is mentioned in many of the scriptures.
When Krishna came to earth, for example, he came as a cowherd.
Even McDonald's, when it came to India, substituted lamb
for beef in their hamburgers.
are a large number of Hindu festivals. Some of the most important
That which is "not dharma"-- thoughts, words and deeds
which transgress God's divine laws and the natural conscience
of the soul. Adharma creates negative karma.
- Deepavali (or Diwali): the
festival of lights held to celebrate the triumph of the
divine over evil. October or November.
- Holi: The spring festival.
- Rama Navami: Celebrates the
birth of Rama (hero of the Ramayana). March or April.
- Maha Shiva Ratri: Honours
Shiva. February or March.
- Janmashtami: The birthday
of Krishna. August or September.
- Navaratri: Festival of Nine
Nights in honour of the Goddesses. September or October.
"A place of striving." Holy sanctuary; abode or residence
of a sadhu, saint, ascetic or guru who is engaged in religious
instruction. May be a simple place where a guru and his disciples
reside, a monastery or a communal institution with schools,
guest houses, publishing facilities, charitable enterprises,
Mystic syllable of Hinduism, identified in the Upanishads as
standing for the whole world and its parts, including past,
present and future, as well as for Paramatma, the Self of all
things. "Aum" is the seed sound, the one undifferentiated
primal vibration from which all manifestation issues forth.
Devotion; the expression of love for and surrender to God.
"Wheel." A center of force and consciousness located
within the inner bodies of man. Nerve plexes, ganglia and glands
corresponding to principal chakras are located in the physical
body, situated along the spinal cord from the base into the
cranial chamber. Seven principal chakras, psychically seen as
colored and multi-petalled lotuses, are commonly described,
though many more exist.
A Mahadeva or great God created by Lord Siva to assist souls
in their evolution. The elephant-faced Patron of Art and Science,
first Son of Siva, Remover of Obstacles.
"Remover of darkness;" guide. A teacher. Though it
can connote a teacher of any subject, guru usually denotes a
spiritual teacher or master.
"Re-entering the flesh," describing the process of
individual souls experiencing an orderly sequence of lives.
Reincarnation provides the means for the soul to mature, and
ends when all karmas have been resolved and Self-Realization
has been attained. This is known as Moksha or Liberation.
Oldest of the four Veda Samhitas (collections): Rig, Sama, Yajur
and Atharva. Organized into ten mandalas (group patterns) of
salutary and prayerful hymns, the Rig portrays a monastic Supreme
Being-as-Cause-and-Lord-of-all cosmology, describes a pattern
of dharma towards righteous and prosperous living in tune with
the Gods. This scripture also details yogic disciplines leading
to realization of the Absolute.
The name of the religion followed by those who worship the Hindu
God Siva. One of the three primary sects of Hinduism, Saivism
(the oldest of the three), is in turn divided into a number
of distinct sects with diverse theologies. The primary goal
of Saivism is Moksha, and the spiritual path of Saivism comprises
four progressive stages of belief and practice called chariya,
kriya, yoga and jnana.
"Power, energy." Refers to the active power of Siva,
popularly envisioned in the feminine form as a Goddess or devi
-- such as Parvati or Lakshmi. In Saiva Siddhanta, Siva's
Divine Energy or Sakti is inseparable from Him. God Siva is
perceived as one Being, beyond yet encompassing the duality
of male and female. When spelled Shakti, can denote impersonal
forces such as Iccha (love), Kriya (action) and Jnana (wisdom),
three Shaktis wielded by Siva.
"Sitting near devotedly;" the name of the final portion
of the Vedas; divinely revealed to rishis who thus expounded
the ultimate nature of God, soul and world and answered the
philosophical queries of devotees.
"Wisdom." Composed 1500-500 b.c.e., four companion
scriptures -- Rig, Yajur, Sama, Atharva -- consisting of roughly
20,000 Sanskrit verses that form Hinduism's primary scripture.
Transmitted to man from the Gods through the superconscious
faculties of the rishis, the Vedas are shruti, "that which
is heard." Because the mystic knowledge described in the
Vedas cannot be experienced through man's intellect, these
scriptures are considered superconscious wisdom. Originally,
the Vedas were passed down orally, only taking written form
centuries after their inception. Each Veda is comprised of four
sections: Samhitas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Upanishads. The
Samhitas and Brahmanas detail a transcendent/immanent Supreme
Being cosmology and a system of worship through fire ceremony
and chanting to establish communication with the Gods. The Aranyakas
and Upanishads outline the soul's evolutionary journey,
provide yogic/philosophic training and propound a lofty, non-dual
realization as the destiny of all souls.
Mr. Ajit S.
Adopia's column appears in
the Life section of the Toronto Star every six weeks, on the
religion page. He has written two books on the Hindu Religion,
namely The Hindus of Canada, 1993, and India to Canada, 1991.
Anand is a devout Hindu who practices regularly and is actively
involved in the Hindu community in Toronto. He is the treasurer
of the Chenmaya Mission.
Mr. Surinder Sharma
Tel: 905 501 9000
Mr. Sharma is vice president of Panorama India, the umbrella
association of all the different Indian associations in Toronto.
Adhopia, A.S. India to Canada
-- A perspective on Indo Canadians.
National Association of Indo Canadians, Ontario, 1988.
Community Groups and Temples
Chinmaya Mission Toronto
15 Main St., Unionville
9333 Woodbine Ave., Markham
Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre
77 Harbord St., Toronto
Hindu Mission Of Mississauga
1808 Drew, Mississauga
Hindu Prarthana Samaj
62 Fern, Toronto
Hindu Sabha Temple
9225 The Gore Rd
Hindu TV Temple Of Canada
3 Evernby, Etobicoke
Jaidura Hindu Society
2691 Markham Rd, Scarborough
Jaidurga Hindu Society
37 Unita Grv, Scarborough
Lakshmi Mandir Hindu Maha Sabha
588 Needham Ln, Mississauga
Pranav Hindu Mandir
102 Rivalda, North York
Shiv Shakti Hindu Mandir & Yoga Centre
1126 Berkshire Crt, Oakville
Sri Varasithi Vinayagar Hindu Temple
3025 Kennedy, Scarborough
Sridurka Hindu Temple Society Of Canada
30 Carnforth, North York
\Swaminarayan Hindu Temple
246 Brockport Dr, Etobicoke
Hindu Temple Society of Canada
10865 Bayview Ave., Richmond Hill
Arya Samaj/Vedic Aryan Cultural Society
Hare Krishna Temple
Vaishnu Devi Mandir
Vedanta Society of Toronto
National Association of Indo-Canadians
P.O. Box 332, Station "A"
(published India to Canada -- A perspective on Indo Canadians)
(Council of Agencies Serving SouthAsians)
979-8611, E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Halton Regional Centre
East-Indian Professional Residents of Canada
Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce
416 224 0090
India Rainbow Commmunity Services of Peel
Kesri Ribbon Project
76 Bankview Circle, Etobicoke
Founded in 1998, the Kesri Ribbon Project is a non-profit, volunteer
based South Asian Youth Initiative in Toronto, Kesri is dedicated
to providing leadership and inspiration by creating a foundation
of support systems for youth by youth.
National Association of Indo Canadians
905 677 0303
(South Asian Professional Networking)
416 410 4016
Sindhi Cultural Association of Toronto
416 292 4233
Sivanda Yoga Vedanta Center
South Asian Women's Centre
1332 Bloor Street West, Toronto, ON, M6H 1P2
Hours: Mon- Fri 9am -4:30pm
Languages: Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, Bengali, Tamil,Sinhalese
Settlement Services -- information and referral, translation
and interpretation, escort, home visits, crisis intervention,
employment counselling, ESL, support groups, educational workshops,
social and recreation activities including seniors and young
adult women's wellness groups.
South Asian Legal Clinic Initiative
Bhajanawali is a radio program based on Vedic Religion and philosophy.
It is broadcast every Sunday from 06:30 PM to 07:30 PM (Eastern
Standard Time) on the CJMR 1320 AM band in the greater Toronto
area in Canada.
Indian Immigrant Aid Services
9 Boon Avenue, Toronto, Ont. M6E3Z2
Hinduism Today Magazine
Mr. Deepak Sharma at (905) 896-7500 or (416) 995-7525.
Hindu Universe : Hindu Resource Center. The largest Hindu and
Hinduism site on the net.
Spirituality/Yoga/Hinduism Home Page
Hinduism: World's Oldest Religion
Hinduism -- an overview
Hinduism Page. Information from a religious, philosophical,
and historic point of view.
Researched by Preeti Kukreja