- The Scandinavian countries were preponderantly Christian until the middle of the 20th century; the Lutheran Church had been the established religion for centuries. While a spectrum of Christian sects appeared during the 19th century, the first break in the Christian consensus appears to have occurred early in the 20th century with the spread of THEOS-OPHY to Scandinavia and the subsequent formation of several esoteric groups such as the Martinus Institute, founded in Denmark in the 1940s.Hinduism was introduced into Scandinavia in 1967 as a result of the teachings of Swami NARAYANANANDA (1902–88), a YOGA teacher from Bengal. He had been discovered by some Danes who were traveling in India and they created the first ashram for his work in Gylling, Denmark. In 1969 they erected a house for Swami Naraya-nananda, who made his first trip to Europe in 1971. He regularly visited Europe throughout the rest of his life, and the Narayanananda Universal Yoga Ashrams spread to the other Scandinavian countries.As a youth, a Dane later known as Swami Janakananda (b. 1939) began practicing YOGA and MEDITATION. Then in 1968 he met Swami Satyananda Saraswati (b. 1923), founder of the INTERNATIONAL YOGA FELLOWSHIP MOVEMENT, and went to India to study at the Bihar School of Yoga. He became a SWAMI, was given his spiritual name, and returned to his homeland two years later to found the Scandinavian Yoga and Medi-tation School in Copenhagen. Shortly thereafter he published Yoga, Tantra and Meditation in Daily Life, later translated into nine languages.In 1977, Janakananda organized “Meditation Yoga 77,” an international yoga congress held in Stockholm. He invited an international list of speakers, reflecting the many Indian teachers who would visit the Scandinavian school in suc-ceeding years. He later opened a retreat center in southern Sweden. As did Narayanananda’s move-ment, the school spread to the other Scandinavian countries. The first affiliated Norwegian school opened in 1983. In more recent years, other yoga centers, such as the Ashtanga Yoga Center of Hel-sinki, have opened in major Scandinavian urban centers.Already in the 1970s, the expansive INTERNA-TIONAL SOCIETY FOR KRISHNA CONSCIOUSNESS tar-geted the Scandinavian countries. They opened their first center in Sweden and eventually spread to Denmark and Finland. Today they maintain a large temple in Grodinge, some 25 miles south of Stockholm.In 1974, Sri CHINMOY (b. 1931) visited Iceland and subsequently formed the only Hindu commu-nity on the island. Chinmoy, noted for his physi-cal feats, once lifted the prime minister of Iceland as part of a weightlifting demonstration.In the 1980s, a small number of Indians began to find their way to Denmark and Sweden. By the beginning of the 21st century, there were some 1,500 Hindus in Sweden and around 3,500 in Denmark. Wherever concentrations of immi-grants settled, temples and community orga-nizations began to appear, among the first the Hindu Union in Jönköping, Sweden, founded in 1974. The larger community in Stockholm now sponsors two temples, both of which were opened early in the new century. The VISHVA HINDU PARISHAD has also formed as a coordinat-ing organization for the various Hindu centers. The Hindu community is just completing its first generation in Scandinavia, and forecast-ing its future is difficult. It may also be noted that Indian migration to Scandinavia has also included some Sikhs; as of 2005 five gurudwaras were operating, two in Norway, two in Sweden, and one in Denmark.Further reading: Swami Narayanananda, The Ideal Life and Moksha (Freedom) (Gylling, Denmark: N. U. Yoga Trust & Ashrama, 1979); Swami Janakananda Saraswati, Experience Yoga Nidra: Guided Deep Relax-ation (Copenhagen: Bindu, 2003); ———, Yoga, Tantra and Meditation in Daily Life (Westminster, Md.: Ballantine Books, 1976); Margareta Skog, Det religiosa Sverige (Örebro, Sweden: Bokforlaget Libris, 2001).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.