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Britain’s First State-funded Hindu School’s Definition of Practising Hindu too rigid

Britain’s first state-funded Hindu School, the Krishna-Avanti school in Harrow, has come under criticism from Hindu organizations over its definition of ‘practising Hindu.’ The school is set to open in Harrow, north London, in September 2008 and the ‘practising Hindu’ definition is outlined in the admission policy of the school.

According to the admissions policy document, the Krishna-Avanti school defines practising Hindus as those who follow a version of Hinduism requiring daily practice of deity worship and prayer either in the temple or at home; undertake weekly temple-related charity work; participate fortnightly in temple programmes; accept and put into practice the teachings of the Vedic scriptures, in particular the teachings of the Bhagavad-Gita; and abstain from meat, fish, eggs, alcohol and smoking.

The admissions policy also allows for available places to be filled by children from families ‘broadly following’ the tenets of Hinduism. But even this requires them to attend a temple monthly, be vegetarian, and attend a local temple for the festivals of Diwali, Janmasthami and Ramnavmi. (Hindu Council UK)

Hindu organizations in Britain are indicating that Krishna-Avanti school’s definition did not reflect mainstream Hinduism, but was more closely associated with the beliefs and practices of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).

But Nitesh Gor, director of the I-Foundation, which has set up the school, rejected the criticisms and said that the definition we have arrived at includes regular home and temple worship, as well as vegetarianism and avoiding alcohol. We recognise that some Hindus may eat meat in very specific prescribed circumstances and the criteria are not intended to exclude them. Broadly these criteria reflect practices which are common to all mainstream Hindu movements in the UK including the Swaminarayan temples, ISKCON and Jainism as well as all the other branches of Hinduism that have large congregations in Harrow. (Times Online)

Hinduism cannot become an organized religion because it is not a religion in the conventional sense. It is a way of life. Therefore the essence of Hinduism, the Santana Dharma, cannot be captured in few words. It is for each individual to find his/her definition of 'practising Hindu'.