Hinduism is the third most popular religion in the world, with around 900 million followers. It is also the fourth most popular religion in the UK, with approximately 400,000 followers.
The largest Hindu communities in London are in Wembley and Harrow. Hinduism is a mixture of religious practices of a variety of religious groups from India. Therefore, it cannot be declared as a single unified religion. Neither is there a single founder, teacher or prophet, nor can a central authority can be defined.
The origins of Hinduism are near the river Indus and date back as far as 3,000 BC. Hindus believe in Brahma - the god of creation - but there are many other Gods such as Krishna, Shiva, Rama and Durga. In the Hindu belief existence is a circle of birth, death, and rebirth, governed by Karma. The aim of every Hindu is therefore to escape this circle, which is rather a matter of practice than of belief. There are numerous philosophies and movements in Hinduism, of which the Swaminarayan movement is the most common in London. It was founded in Gujarat in the 19th century and has established itself firmly in London. The Mandir (place of worship) and Haveli at Neasden, north-west London, is the largest Hindu temple outside of India and has already attracted over 3 million visitors. Some to see the "Understanding Hinduism" exhibition.
The roots of the Swaminarayan Hindu Mission in London lie in the early 1950s. Indians were scarce and scattered, but in 1950 some devotees began to meet occasionally. Slowly, more Indians began to arrive in London and from 1953 onwards, followers of the mission started to meet on a regular basis.
In 1970, the first Mandir in London was built in Islington and offered the first real meeting place for Hindus. In the 1970s more and more Hindus came to London, as many Indians had to leave African countries such as Uganda and Kenya. This led to the biggest ever march by any Asian community in Britain in 1995, when more than 6,000 Hindus brought the West End to a standstill with their message of peace and harmony.