MISSING CHAPTERS

The Hindu Community in Calgary

hindu

Canada has long prided itself on being a cultural mosaic: a country comprised of several different parts that make up the bigger picture of who we are as Canadians. Without any one part of this mosaic, something would be missing and the vibrancy of who we are would be less vivid.

One group of citizens that has made substantial contribution to the development of Calgary is the Hindu community, which started arriving to Canada in the early 1900’s. This community has added to the city’s rich cultural diversity and also made valuable contributions in different spheres of Canadian society.

Members of this community have come from many countries: India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Fiji,Trinidad, and Mauritius and a few Caribbean islands.

Calgary is richer for the contributions made by members of this Community in the various fields. The academia in Calgary has benefited from contributions made by members as teachers and researchers, contributors to the development of the oil and gas industries, professional engineers and geologists, medical practitioners and researchers, and professionals in trade and commerce.

Many members have given back to the adopted city by volunteering and serving on the boards of many community and public organizations, organizing blood donations and making donations to food banks. A few members have been active, through the Hindu Society of Calgary, in participating in inter-faith dialogue with the objective of promoting understanding of different religions. The Government of Canada, the Government of Alberta, City of Calgary and Immigrant Services Calgary have recognized the contributions of some members with awards and public recognition.

The community has also been active in the political field, displaying a keen sense of civic participation. Some of the members have contested elections at various levels of government and a few have been successful in getting elected.

The community considers a temple as the focal point of religious activities and had been active in building one to cater to the religious and spiritual needs of the members. To achieve this goal, The Hindu Society of Calgary was formed in 1974. Among its objectives, the Society promotes the understanding of ethical, social, religious and philosophical foundations and practices of Hinduism. It also fosters a spirit of dedication and devotion to Hindu values as suited to modern times.

With the help of its dedicated and generous members, the Society opened its first non-denominational Hindu Cultural Centre and Temple in 1990.

Through the centre, the Hindus are reaffirming their heritage and leaving a legacy for their children. In addition, for all Canadians, the centre is a reminder of the diversity that has shaped this country. The Society also operates the Hindu Vidyalaya (school) to teach formal courses on Hindu Dharma and Hindi Language.

The temple construction progressed through the winter and spring of 1990, and on September 29 and 30, 1990, over a thousand Hindus from different geographical, language and sect backgrounds came to participate in the twenty-four hour pooja. There was pride, elation and tears of joy in their eyes.

A dream had finally come true. Calgary Hindus finally had their own House of God.

It may be of interest for readers to know that worship in Hinduism follows different traditions. The forms of worship in South India and Sri Lanka are very different from the one followed by many North Indians. Hence, some members of the community who follow the South Indian tradition decided to build a temple for the worship of Sri Murugan, the second son of Lord Shiva. This resulted in the formation of the Sri Murugan Society of Alberta with the avowed purpose of building a temple for Sri Murugan. The construction of this temple commenced in late 2015 and the final consecration is expected to take place in June 2017. Currently, the temple has the idol of Lord Ganesha and devotees offer their prayers daily.

The two temples not only provide the opportunity for members of the Hindu Community to practice their religion but also serve to promote greater understanding of the Hindu faith by all Calgarians. This a crucial step for promoting respect for and acceptance of each other’s religion and ultimately religious peace in Calgary. Finally, the two temples add to the richness of Calgary’s religious and cultural landscape. Today the Hindu community in Calgary has over 17,000 members who continue to shape and contribute to the vibrancy of Calgary.

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