- Mass immigration of Hindus from India to Aus-tralia occurred later than in most other regions of the British Commonwealth, largely because of the 1901 Immigration Restriction Act, a policy enacted by white Australians to limit the numbers of nonwhite citizens.Prior to the enforcement of immigration poli-cies, small numbers of Indians had entered Aus-tralia as merchants, indentured laborers, and Australia 55 Jdomestic servants. The first immigrants from India arrived in New South Wales in 1830 on a trade ship from the Bay of Bengal to work as laborers on cotton and sugar plantations. Others followed sporadically until 1857, when a gold rush on the continent attracted a steady flow of Asian workers. Most Indian laborers were males, who arrived without their families and returned to India once their labor contracts were fulfilled. Some, however, remained in Australia and made a place for themselves and their families. Some became prosperous, such as Sri Pammull, an Indian merchant, who in the 1850s entered the opal trade in Melbourne and established a suc-cessful family business that has continued for four generations.Approximately 1,000 Hindus resided in Australia at the time immigration restrictions were enacted. Most observed their religion pri-vately at shrines within their homes, as formal places of worship had not yet been established. Although immigration restrictions limited the number of immigrants from India, the laws did not prevent adoption of Hinduism by white set-tlers. Between 1890 and 1920 an enthusiasm for Eastern mysticism spread in Australia. Spiri-tual dissenters, intellectuals, and artists from the middle class promoted the establishment of centers of THEOSOPHY. In the 1890s Charles Leadbeater founded the Theosophical Lodge in Sydney, which eventually became one of the largest Theosophical centers in the world. Theo-sophical lodges served as resource centers for YOGA, sites for lectures on Eastern wisdom, and sponsors of bookstores that disseminated works on Buddhist and Hindu thought. Theosophical lodges served as cultural centers for white Aus-tralians who sought introduction to and assimi-lation of Eastern spirituality.After the immigration restrictions were lifted in the 1960s and 1970s, the population of Hindus, primarily from India, Sri Lanka, and Fiji, grew dramatically. The new arrivals estab-lished strong communities and maintained tra-ditional Hinduism. In 1977, Australia’s first Hindu temple, Sri Mandir, was established by Dr. Padmanabhan Shridhar Prabhu, Dr. Anand, and Prem Shankar. Sri Mandir has served as a center for Hindu festivals and has propagated Hindu culture and philosophy among Indians and non-Indians.Today, many Hindu organizations and yoga schools are part of the culture of Australia, includ-ing the VEDANTA SOCIETY, SIDDHA YOGA FOUNDA-TION, DIVINE LIFE SOCIETY, and the INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY FOR KRISHNA CONSCIOUSNESS. Australian-born adherents have also participated in the propa-gation of Hindu teachings. John Mumford, known as Swami Anandakapila, has become instrumental in popularizing TANTRIC YOGA through the INTER-NATIONAL YOGA FELLOWSHIP.The current growth in Australia’s Hindu population and the continuing interest in Hin-duism among those of European origin have cre-ated a sort of renaissance of Hindu thought and practice. In the 1990s Hinduism became one of the country’s fastest growing religions. Accord-ing to current census reports approximately 95,000 people in Australia identify themselves as Hindu.Further reading: Purusottama Bilimoria, Hinduism in Australia: Mandala for the Gods (Melbourne: Spectrum, 1989); ———, Hindus and Sikhs in Australia (Canberra: A. G. P. S., 1996); Marie M. De Lepervanche, Indians in a White Australia (Boston: G. Allen & Unwin, 1984).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.
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