Ryerson University School of Journalism's Diversity Watch
Resources & Links  |  Click here for our collection of ethnic and mainstream media links

  Inside Backgrounds




  Group Backgrounds


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 on.

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 Toronto.


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 and Urdu.

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 to Hinduism"
Source: Hinduwebsite|

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 Reality.

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 and deeds.

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 and meditation.

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 resolve karmas.

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 journeys.

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 death.

Four Aims of Hinduism (Purusharthas)

dharma: righteousness in their religious life.

: 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 is weakness.
Reincarnation (Samsara)
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, and death.
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 destructive.
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.
Caste System
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:
Brahmins (the priests and academics)
Kshatriyas (rulers, military)
Vaishyas (farmers, landlords, and merchants)
Sudras (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 castes.
Vegetarianism 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.
Festivals There are a large number of Hindu festivals. Some of the most important are:
  • Deepavali (or Diwali): the festival of lights held to celebrate the triumph of the divine over evil. October or November.
  • Holi: The spring festival. March.
  • 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.
Glossary adharma: 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.
ashram: "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, etc.
Aum/Om: 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.
bhakti: Devotion; the expression of love for and surrender to God.
chakra: "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.
Ganesha: 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.
guru: "Remover of darkness;" guide. A teacher. Though it can connote a teacher of any subject, guru usually denotes a spiritual teacher or master.
reincarnation: "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.
Rig Veda: 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.
Saivism: 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.
Sakti: "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.
Upanishads: "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.
Vedas: "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. Adhopia
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.
Phone: (905) 273-9563
Email: adopia@netzero.net

Mr. Pradeep Anand
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.
E-mail: versatile-micro@home.com

Mr. Surinder Sharma
Panorama India
Tel: 905 501 9000
Mr. Sharma is vice president of Panorama India, the umbrella association of all the different Indian associations in Toronto.

Resource Books

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
(905) 305-7644
Sanatan Mandir
9333 Woodbine Ave., Markham
(905) 477-6234
Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre
77 Harbord St., Toronto
(416) 966-9642
Hindu Mission Of Mississauga
1808 Drew, Mississauga
(905) 612-1856
Hindu Prarthana Samaj
62 Fern, Toronto
(416) 536-9229
Hindu Sabha Temple
9225 The Gore Rd
(905) 794-3294
Hindu TV Temple Of Canada
3 Evernby, Etobicoke
(416) 614-9988
Jaidura Hindu Society
2691 Markham Rd, Scarborough
(416) 754-2983
Jaidurga Hindu Society
37 Unita Grv, Scarborough
(416) 297-1146
Lakshmi Mandir Hindu Maha Sabha
588 Needham Ln, Mississauga
(905) 803-9813
Pranav Hindu Mandir
102 Rivalda, North York
(416) 741-4335
Shiv Shakti Hindu Mandir & Yoga Centre
1126 Berkshire Crt, Oakville
(905) 825-0350
Sri Varasithi Vinayagar Hindu Temple
3025 Kennedy, Scarborough
(416) 291-8500
Sridurka Hindu Temple Society Of Canada
30 Carnforth, North York
(416) 759-9648
\Swaminarayan Hindu Temple
246 Brockport Dr, Etobicoke
(416) 798-0940
Hindu Temple Society of Canada
10865 Bayview Ave., Richmond Hill
(905) 883-9109
Arya Samaj/Vedic Aryan Cultural Society
(905) 475-5778
Hare Krishna Temple
(416) 922-5415
Hindu Sabha
(905) 794-4638
Hindu Temple
(519) 748-4586
Hindu Temple
(613) 822-1531
Sanatan Mandir
(905) 887-
Vaishnu Devi Mandir
(905) 825-4202
Vedanta Society of Toronto
(416) 240-7262
Vishnu Mandir
Richmond Hill
(905) 886-1724
National Association of Indo-Canadians
P.O. Box 332, Station "A"
Missisauga, Ontario
(published India to Canada -- A perspective on Indo Canadians)
(Council of Agencies Serving SouthAsians)
979-8611, E-mail : cassa@ica.net
Chinmaya Mission
Halton Regional Centre
905- 637-7448
East-Indian Professional Residents of Canada
Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce
North York
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
Bhajanwali Radio
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
(416) 651-1400
Hinduism Today Magazine
Mr. Deepak Sharma at (905) 896-7500 or (416) 995-7525.
E-mail- dsharma@internet.look.ca
Hindu Universe : Hindu Resource Center. The largest Hindu and Hinduism site on the net.
Spirituality/Yoga/Hinduism Home Page
Hindu Mythology

Hinduism: World's Oldest Religion
Hindu Festivals
Hinduism -- an overview
Hinduism Page. Information from a religious, philosophical, and historic point of view.

Researched by Preeti Kukreja
This website is optimized for 800x600 monitor resolution and best viewed using the latest version of Internet Explorer for Windows.
Ryerson University is not responsible for the content of external Internet links.