Hinduism growing in Africa without Proselytizing

Ganesh Chaturthi being celebrated in Ghana

Interestingly, Hinduism is the fastest growing religion in Ghana.  And no one is involved in the business of converting anyone.  Kwesi Anamoah, national president of the African Hindu Temple, discusses the spread of Hinduism within Ghana.

“Today, there are 2,000 to 3,000 families worshipping all over the country which is a big increase from the 24 people who participated in the first-ever training camp in 1976 to become disciples.  We have not achieved this through the winning of souls as other religions do, but have attracted people into the practice of Hinduism simply by the lives we lead.  Our lives shine in the community to attract people.”

Ghana’s 24 million population is primarily Christian (70%) and second most prevalent religious group is the Muslims. In an interesting paper ‘Returning to Our Spiritual Roots’: African Hindus in Ghana Negotiating Religious Space and Identity by Rev. Abamfo Ofori Atiemo, the writer discusses the spread of Hinduism and the form that it will take as it spreads and adapts to the local culture and historical milieu.  Here is the abstract from his paper:

 Hinduism, in its contemporary transnational form, has been widely noted as a phenomenon present in America, Europe and other parts of the world, including Africa, especially, East and South Africa. Discussions of the phenomenon with regard to Africa have, generally, focused on the Indian Diaspora. However, the developments that occurred in the 19th and the 20th Centuries, which resulted in the growth and spread of Hinduism through its reform movements in India and the Western world, also affected West Africa. The impact of these developments was not restricted to Indian migrants in the region; it extended to the indigenous Africans as well.  In Ghana, for example, there are indigenous Africans who identify with Hinduism, professing and practising it as their own religion. Several Hindu movements have been established in the country. They include the Divine Life Society, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), Brahma Kumaris and Sri Satya Sai Baba. There are also movements of Buddhist and Sikh origins such as the Maha Bodhi, Nichiren Shoshu, the Soka Gakkai and Guru Nanak. The presence of these traditions has significantly changed the religious landscape of the country. Previously, the religious space was occupied by only three traditions – the indigenous religions, Christianity and Islam.

All the movements of Asian origins have, to different degrees of success, attracted indigenous Ghanaians.  The Hindu groups appear the most successful.  For example, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) has established a number of branches, and runs a basic school that is well-patronised by both Hindus and non-Hindus. There is also a Hindu Monastery of Africa (HMA), headed by an African Swami, who studied Vedanta at the Forest Academy of the Shivananda Ashram in Rishikesh, India. The latter has established more than seven branches throughout the country and two other branches in neighbouring Togo and the Ivory Coast. In 2010, it was reckoned that there were more than twenty thousand Hindus in Ghana, out which a little over two thousand were Indian migrants.

In this paper, I examine the phenomenon of the ‘African Hindu’ within the context of current discussions about the so-called ‘neo-Hinduism’ and ‘transnational Hinduism.’ I also discuss how these African Hindus resort to a reinterpretation of the history of their traditional religion and culture, in their attempt to find religious space in the almost choked religious environment of Ghana and, also, how they attempt to negotiate their new religious identity in relation to their identity as Africans (Ghanaians). I conclude with a prognosis of the form that Hinduism   is likely to assume in the near future on Ghanaian soil as its African converts attempt to live their faith in the context of their local culture.

Here is a celebration and chanting of “Aum Namah Shivaya” in Ghana.

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  • Agni Ashwin

    I wonder if Africans from traditional-religious background are equating particular African deities with corresponding Dharmic deities (similar to how, in the New World, African slaves equated their traditional deities with various Roman Catholic saints).

    • drishtikone

      Interesting thought. Not at the real sophisticated level, but at least at the most fundamental level, the natural African traditions will be aligned to the foundations of Hinduism.

  • HARRY

    It’s always great to see people who accepts faith for what it is rather then what they get in return as a bribe to practise it. Nice write up Des.

  • Ransford Sidney Mensah-Sarbah

    HI, please am doing my project work on the history,growth and impacts of hinduism in Ghana, i need some assistance.


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