Insight About Hinduism in Tanzania – History, Temples & More

Insight About Hinduism in Tanzania – History, Temples & More

The earliest proof of Hinduism in Tanzania dates back to the first millennium AD when East African and Indian Subcontinent dwellers engaged in trade. The majority of the traders were from the Chola empire, Deccan (presently Maharashtra), and Gujarat. Archaeological evidence of minute Hindu settlements have been discovered in parts of Zanzibar and Swahili coast, Madagascar, and Zimbabwe.

Pew Research Centre approximates that there were 50,000 Hindus in Tanzania as of 2010.

History of Hinduism in Tanzania

The early trade between Africa and Hindus from India took place during the period of Nabonidus, a time when Babylon was among the global trade hubs. In ancient periods, the Hindus would return to India after trading without interfering with the political system. Small Hindu settlements started in the first century AD, mainly on East African Islands, along the coast, and in some instances inland. Early Indian texts refer to ‘Wanyamwezi’ translated as ‘men of the moon’- a word still used to refer to Nyamwezi people of Tanzania. All major explorers who visited East Africa mentioned the existent of Hindu merchants and traders, in Kilwa, Zanzibar, Mozambique, Malindi, and Mozambique. Vasco da Gama convinced a Gujarati Hindu settled in Africa to pilot his first voyage to India from Africa. This regular and affinity trade was aided by steady trade winds blowing from Eastern Africa to the Indian peninsula for some periods of the year, while reversal of wind direction from the Indian subcontinent to Eastern Africa for another period of the year.

The Hindus were non-violent and vegetarian and never tried to impose their culture or religion on Africans. Their prosperity was as a result of the Hindus offering fair trade, quality goods, and loans to the African communities and Zanzibar, but kept their culture, religion, and social life private. The first main change in Tanzania came when Shia Islam (Ismaili) arrived, when Oman Arabs and Muslims started competing with Indian Hindus, and when a conversion campaign was started by the Muslims. The second change came in the 16th century when Christianity and colonial empires arrived.

During the colonial era, the Hindus were the second most economically prosperous ethnic group after the European officials. However, being a minority, they remained legally and politically insecure and became targeted and persecuted following the end of the Colonial era, prompting many of them to emigrate to India and Europe.

Celebration of Diwali and Annakut in, Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania year 2019
Celebration of Diwali and Annakut in, Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania year 2019

Hinduism in Modern Tanzania

Hinduism in Tanzania is considered a minor religion, with about 30,000 followers as of 1996 in both Zanzibar and the mainland. The majority of the followers are of Indo-Tanzanian (Gujarati) ethnicity. As per Pew Research Centre, Tanzania had approximately 50,000 Hindus in 2010.

Among the several Hindu traditions, Swaminarayan of Gujarati is a bhakti Hinduism school in Tanzania and Kenya. It was established by 1950 due to its cultural, temple building, and social initiative in East Africa. Temples have been built in Dar es Salaam, with the majority of them situated in the city center, the street where they are found has been renamed Pramukh street. Swaminarayan temples have also been constructed in other cities such as Arusha, Zanzibar, and Moshi. Other Hindu schools found in Tanzania are Vedanta and Yoga.

Followers of satya Sai Baba, Brahma Kumari, and Hare Krishna are also found in Tanzania. Other Hindu festivals including Diwali are observed by the practitioners of Hinduism in Tanzania.

Hindu Temples Found in Tanzania

Hindu temples are found in several cities in the country and there is a Hindu council tasked with organizing cultural and social activities.

Shree Swaminarayan Temple located in Dar es Salaam, Morogoro Road
Shree Swaminarayan Temple located in Dar es Salaam, Morogoro Road
  • Iskon Arusha Centre in Arusha
  • BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Arusha
  • Hindu temple in Bukoba (Barongo road)
  • BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Dar es Salaam ( Pramukh Swami street)
  • Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Dar es Salaam (Morogoro road)
  • Shree Sanatan Dharma Sabha in Dar es Salaam (Pramukh Swami street)
  • Iskcon Dar es Salaam Centre in Mosque street
  • Shri Shankarashm temple in Dar es Salaam ( Pramukh Swami street)
  • Hindu temple in Moshi (Kilima street)
  • Shri Sanatan Dharma Mandir in Mwanza
  • Hindu Mandal Temple in Morogoro (Station street)
  • Shakti temple in Zanzibar
  • BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Mwanza.

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