Coming across the country from a household with a deeply religious Hindu atmosphere to Durham was a new experience in my life. In Durham I faced the regular challenges that people face when they first go to university. However, by my second term last year I had made many great friends who came from varying nationalities and cultures who became my Durham family. Since then, I have enjoyed learning words in different languages, discovering new foods and gaining alternative outlooks on life. At the same time, I missed the feeling of also being part of a religious community. Before long, I became a member in the Indian Society; I figured with India being the home for most of the worlds’ Hindus, this society would be an outlet for religious celebration. To my surprise, the society celebrated all religious events in a secular fashion. At the end of last year in order to also provide a religious character to Hindu festivals, I joined the executive team. I soon realised, that my view was not shared by others.
Creating a new society
Last November at the start of my second year, I finally decided to make a new the society, for students like myself who wanted to focus on their faith. The process of starting the Hindu Society was a new experience for me and a friend helped my greatly with the paperwork. Our first event came during National Interfaith Week; coincidentally but also reflecting Hinduism’s belief in many paths to life and many truths. Our ‘Introduction to Dharmic Civilisations’ at the Durham University Oriental Museum included a tour of Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh religious artefacts, a talk by Dhaval Vyas, a speaker who gave a refreshing and interactive talk and finally, we concluded with snacks and networking.
On the 26th of January we held our second event – Hindustani Classical Music on Indian Republic Day. We invited three renowned musicians – vocalist and Durham student Budhaditya Bhattacharya, esraj player Kirpal Singh, and tabla player Gurdain Singh; they were accompanied by Sudakshina Das on the tanpura. Also present were the Vice Chancellor and the Principals of Hild Bede College, Professor Forrest and Stephenson College, Professor Lynes, as well as representatives from the Newcastle Hindu Temple Pd. Vyas. The event started off with speeches by the respected guests and this was followed by a pure classical performance by the musicians. After that we served a three course meal and continued with another round of music.
Bringing people together
Our society has benefited Hindu and non-Hindu students and faculty at Durham University by increasing awareness of Hindu beliefs, providing an outlet for religious and musical celebration, and by helping to bring the community together. Through representing the Hindu community we have also provided a point of contact for parts of the university that may be celebrating Hindu festivals or culture such as the Oriental Museum and the Music Department.
Community events and celebrations
Building on our association with Hindustani Classical Music, we will be promoting the Indian Spring Colours concert organised by the university’s Concert Series Musicon, which will take place from the 29th February – 2nd March, to the local Hindu community in particular. Our society will be volunteering to help in the Holi Festival celebration at the Oriental Museum on the 14th March. We also hope to see people come to the Interfaith Café on the 3rd March, which we are hosting along with other religious student societies from Durham University.