Hinduism in Kenya


Hinduism was first introduced to Kenya in the early 1900s. Hinduism has ever since grown to be the third most popular religion in Kenya.

In recent years, Hinduism has been made the 43rd tribe of Kenyan community, below are highlighted topics to be discussed:

Samburu Tribe Kenya
  1. History of Hinduism in Kenya
  2. Here we are to discuss factors and ways in which Hindu people interacted and got to settle and establish Hinduism as a religion in Kenya.
  3. Comparison between Hinduism and other religions
  4. Here we are going to discuss similarities and differences between Hindu religion and other major religions including Christianity, Islamic and Buddhism respectively.
  5. Major Hindu temples in Kenya
  6. Here we are going to mention various temples in Kenya, highlighting the major ones and also the minor ones on the outskirts of Kenya.
  7. Major Hindu celebrations

Here we are going to discuss various Hindu celebrations that are conducted in specific times of the year as in the Hindu calendar. Below are a few celebrations highlighted as discussed in the article below;

  • Diwali
  • Dussera
  • Ganesha Chaturthi
  • Holi
  • Krishna Janmashtami
  • Maha Shivratri
  • Navratri
  • Raksha Bandhan
  • Indian foods in Kenya

Here we are going to discuss the various Indian foods that are commonly known in Kenya. Among the dishes are;

  • Alu gobi
  • Butter chicken
  • Rogan josh
  • Samosas
  • Tandoori chicken among many others.

Let us jump on to the details.

1. History of Hinduism in Kenya

Hinduism in Kenya was as a result of the coastal trade routes between the Gujarat, Marwar, and Odisha from India and the East Africans.

Hinduism in Kenya was introduced in the early 1st millennium AD. This was the period when there was trade between the East Africans and the people from the Indian subcontinent. The trade between the east Africans and Indians was referred to as the coastal trade since it was conducted at the coast of the Indian Ocean. Indians would bring goods to Kenyans at the coastal areas after a series of travel from the Asian continent through the Indian Ocean to the coastal areas of East Africa.

The interaction of Indians and Kenyans at the coastal areas and also in the neighboring coasts of Zanzibar, many Indians began settling in the coastal area of Kenya, Zanzibar, Swahili coast, Zimbabwe and Madagascar, this was in the late 1800s (early 1900s), when Indians first began settling in the coastal areas of East Africa.

Archeological/historical evidence proves the settling of the Hindus in the early  1900s, small Hindu settlements have been tracked at the coastal part of Kenya, Zanzibar, Swahili coast, Zimbabwe and Madagascar. Also, many words in the Swahili language that is mostly used by Kenyans at the coast have the etymological roots from the Indian languages associated with Hinduism.

The Kenyan Gujarati first arrived in Kenya in the early 1900s, this was during the era of the colony, and British were still ruling most Africans including Kenya. The Gujarati first came to Kenya as laborers from India to build the Kenya-Uganda railway. Most of the Gujarati after finishing the railway project decided to settle and start a new life rather than traveling back to their Asian continent.  

2. Comparison of the Hindu religion with other religions   

There are two basic kinds of religions in the world:

  1. Eastern religion
  2. Western religion

Hindu religion is typically different from other religions. Hindu religion is considered to have many beliefs and practices as compared to other religions including Buddhism, Christianity, Islamic among other religions.

Hindu religion is termed the third most popular religion after Christianity and Islamic. Below are differences between Hindu religion with the three commonly known religions i.e. Christianity, Islamic, Buddhism;

a. Comparison between the Hindu religion and Christianity

The difference and similarities between the Hindu religion and Christianity simply lie between the many differences between the eastern and western religions. Below are some of the major differences between the two religions:

Differences

  • Hindu religion is termed pantheistic, not theistic as in Christianity. Hindu religion believes in the existence of God as part of the universe, the universe as part of God, God is inter-related with the world while Christianity is atheistic, belief in the existence of one God, the creator of the whole universe and everything in it.
  • In Hinduism, religion comes from private mystical experiences, a human experience validates the scripture while in Christianity, and religion comes from public revelations recorded in a book and summarized in a creed, the words of the scripture judge the experience.
  • Hinduism considered an eastern religion, all eastern religions are esoteric, this means that the religion is mainly understood by few people who share the experience, in Hinduism, there are many levels of truth, this includes; polytheism, sacred cows and also reincarnation for the masses. There is also monotheism for the mythic, here one declares his/her individual soul with Braham (Braham is the only God of reincarnating). Once the truth is relative to the level of experience. As compared to Christianity where the religion is exoteric, it involves everyone and always open to all.
  • Individualism among the Hindu religion is considered an illusion, Hindu religion believes that all beings are not distinct from God or each other. Christian scripture claims that one should love his/her neighbor as he/she loves himself/herself while In the Hindu religion, it tells you, you are your neighbor. In Hindu religion, the actual words from God, “I” is an ultimate illusion not reality as in Christianity.
  • In Hindu religion, hell is considered as an illusion, since individuality is illusion making free will also an illusion. If free will is an illusion so is sin and if sin is an illusion so is hell, while Christianity believes in the existence of hell where God will administer punishment to sinners on His return to take His nation.
  • Christian believe in the act of sin and also the act of salvation which is an illusion among the Hindu religion, since if sin is an illusion so is salvation. Hindus believe only in enlightenment, Hindu religion believes not in salvation, being born again rather believe in waking up to your innate divinity. Hindus believe that if one is part of God then he/she cannot be alienated from God by sin.
  • Christians believe in the story of the existence of body, matter, history and time, this is contrary to the Hindu religion who do not believe in the existence but instead believe in mystical experiences that lifts the spirits out of time and the world.
  • Hindus don’t believe in sanctity but instead mysticism. Mysticism is simply a matter of intellect, intuition, and consciousness. Christians believe in the sanctity of life, sanctity is simply a matter of will, doing according to God’s will willingly, loving God and your neighbor as you love yourself.

b. Comparison between the Hindu religion and Islamic religion

Islamic just as Christianity is also from western religion as compared to Hindu religion, these bring certain differences between the two religions, below are some comparison between the two religions;

Differences

  • Hinduism is the way of living among the Hindu people in the Indian subcontinent and also those Indians in the diaspora while Islam is a monotheistic religion, with their one God, Allah. Their last prophet being Muhammad whose believed to have delivered the Islamic scripture, the Quran.
  •  Hindu religion shares common terms with Dharmic religions, these include; Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism while Islamic religion shares common terms with the Abrahamic religions, these include Judaism, Christianity among others.
  • Hindu religion has scriptures referred to as Shrutis, shrutis is made up of four, which include:
    • The original Vedic hymns or Samhitas
    • Brahmanas
    • Aranyakas
    • Upanishads

Brahmanas, Aranyakas, Upanishads are the three tiers of commentaries upon the Samhitas. The Hindu religion is also based on the Smritis, which includes the Ramayana, the Bhagavad Gita and the Puranas which are equally sacred among the Hindus.

On the other hand, Islamic religion has Qur’an and Hadiths as their primary scriptures, used in administering sermons.

  • Hindu religion believes in varied traditions. Upanishads commonly interpreted as the Advaita Vedanta tradition, this tradition is done by an individual. It involves a person finding the truth on realizing his/her pure soul, this is called atman, a person who’s ignorant finding his/her ultimate reality as Braham. In most occasions before the person realizes the truth, he/she is usually ignorant and experiences the illusion, this is referred to Maya.

On the other hand, Islamic is a religion that believes in monotheism called Tawhid. Muslims affirm, “There is no god but Allah, Muhammad is the messenger of Allah” daily as one of the five pillars of their religion, in shahada.

  • The scriptures of Muslims states that Muhammad was the last messenger and the Quran was the last revelation of God through His messenger, Muhammad. Whereas the hadiths contain the story on Muhammad’s life, sayings, and the His general way of living that Muslims should follow. The Quran and hadiths are the sources of laws that guide Muslims.

On the other hand, Hindus have no centralized religious authorities, no prophets, nor any binding holy book from God. Shruti is the text containing spiritual believes and customs among the Hindus.

 Similarities

  • Both Hindus and Muslims do not wear shoes on entering their sacred places of worship i.e. the temple and mosque.
  • The act of lending money or giving money on interest is not approved in both religions, it’s considered a bad practice.
  •  Hindu religion worship many gods of different seasons and have faith in different saints, these is similar to the Islamic religion since Muslims go to various dargahs and also have faith in different saints. 

c. Comparison between the Hindu religion and Buddhism

Buddhism and Hindu religion share some customs and rituals but despite that there are also differences that distinguish the two religions, below are differences and similarities between the two religions;

Differences

  • Hindu religion was not founded by any particular prophet while Buddhism was invented by the Buddha.
  •  Hindu religion believes in efficacy and ultimate power in the Vedas while Buddhists don’t believe in Vedas or any Hindu scripture.
  • Hindu religion accepts Buddha as an incarnation of Mahavishnu, this is regarded as one of the gods in Hindu religion, while Buddhists don’t accept any Hindu god in any of their religions or compared to their god, Buddha.
  • Buddhists organize themselves in a monastic order commonly regarded as Sangha and their monks live in organized groups whereas Hindu religion lies in the concept of individualism.
  • Buddhism doesn’t believe in the existence of God, whereas Hindus believe in the existence of Atman, the individual soul, and Brahman, the Supreme Creator.

Similarities

  • Both Buddhism and Hinduism conduct the Tantra ritual, but both have different versions of their Tantra.
  • Hinduism and Buddhism are common since both originated from the Indian soil. The founder of Buddhism was a Hindu, who is regarded as a Buddha. Buddhism is considered one of the greatest gift of India to mankind.
  • Both religions share various spirituals practices and believe like; meditation, concentration, states of mind among many others.
  • Both religions believe in karma, transmigration of souls, the cycle of births and also death for each soul.
  • Both religions believe and emphasize on the illusionary nature of the existence of the world. They also believe in the ultimate role of Karma in keeping men bound to the world and the cycle of births and deaths.
  • Emphasis on compassion and no violence towards all living beings is highly regarded in both religions.

Major Hindu temples in Kenya

Hindu religion is termed the third most popular religion in Kenya. Hindus have their sacred places of worship called the temple. There are many temples in various parts of Kenya, below are major temples in Kenya;

  • EASS Swaminarayan Temple in Nairobi, Kenya.
  • SCSS Swaminarayan Temple in Mombasa (coastal areas of Kenya)
  • Hare Krishna Temple in Mombasa (coastal areas of Kenya)

Other temples in Kenya include:

Kenya women
  • Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Nairobi
  • Shree Kutch Satsang Swaminarayan Mandir, (Langata) Nairobi.
  • Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Eldoret.
  • Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Kerugoya.
  • Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Nakuru.
  • Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Kisumu.
  • Hare Krishna Temple- ISKCON Nairobi
  • Hare  Krishna Temple- ISKCON Kisumu
  • Shree Sanatan Dharma Sabha (SSDS), Nairobi, among many others.

There are approximately 40 Hindu temples in Kenya. In recent times, the Hindu tribe has been made the 43rd tribe among Kenyan tribes.

Major Hindu celebrations

Hindus have seasonal holidays and observances that take place in specific given times of the year in the Hindu calendar, in honor of different rituals and practices among the Hindus, below are some of the major Hindu celebrations that are conducted:

Diwali

This festival is also known as Diwali or Deepavali or Dipavali. It’s one of the most popular festivals of light celebrated by Hindus and other religions.

This is a celebration that is celebrated by Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs.

The Diwali celebrations extend up to 5 days, it’s conducted every autumn in the northern hemisphere.

Diwali celebration involves the celebration of good over evil. The celebration symbolizes the spiritual victory of light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance. Light symbolizes the act of knowledge and consciousness.

The Jains occasionally fast for the first two days of the Diwali feast. On this day all temples, homes, shops and even office buildings are always brightly illuminated as a symbol of light over darkness.

Dussera

It’s also known as Vijayadashami or dasahara or dasara or dashain. Dussera is a major festival among the Hindus, it’s celebrated at the end of every Navratri every year. Hindus always observe this feast on the tenth day in the calendar month of Ashvin among the Hindus. This celebration takes place every seventh month of the Hindu Luni-solar Calendar, which is always in the Gregorian months of September and October.

The celebration is also used in celebration of victory of good over evil. The celebration mark the end of Durga Puja or Ramilia.

Ganesha Chaturthi

It’s also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi or vinayaka Chavithi. Thiscelebration is conducted in honor of the birth of Ganesha.

The festival is conducted in the every year of the Hindu Gregorian calendar in the months of August or September. The festival is marked by making ganesha clay idols privately in homes or in public on temporary stages commonly referred to as pandals.  

This festival includes Hindus observing chanting of Vedic hymns and Hindu texts such as prayers and fasting which is well known as Vrata among the Hindus.

Hindus offer and prasadam from their daily prayers, this is distributed from the pandals to the community. The gifts distributed include sweets such as modaka which is believed to be Lord Ganesh’s favorite.

The festival takes up to ten days before it ends, the festival ends with a one and a half day where the Lord Ganesh’s idol is carried in public procession with music and group chanting, then the idol is immersed in a nearby body of water such as a river, lake or sea.

Holi

This is a popular Hindu festival that is celebrated mainly in Indian subcontinent and all other Hindus from all over the world.

The festival is popularly known as the festival of spring or festival of colours or the festival of love.

The celebrations mark the end of winter and the arrival of spring, also it’s filled with blossoming of love, a period to meet and interact with other people, the period to play and laugh, forgive and forget, also the time to mend broken relationships.

The celebration marks the beginning of a new good spring harvest season. The celebrations last for up to a day, starting on the evening of the full moon day, commonly known as the Purnima by the Hindu, to the falling in the Vikram Samvat Calendar.

The first evening that marks the beginning of the festival is known as Holika Dahan or Chhoti Holi, where Hindus burn the demon holika.

Krishna Janmashtami

This festival is also known as Janmashtami or Gokulashtami. The festival is celebrated once every year in honor of the birth of Krishna, the eighth avatar of Vishnu.

It’s conducted on the eighth day, commonly known as Ashtami, of the dark fortnight, commonly known as Krishna Paksha in the lunar Hindu calendar and Krishna Paksha in Bhadrapad of the lunisolar Hindu calendar, which overlaps with August and September of the Gregorian calendar.

Maha Shivratri

This is a festival conducted once in every year of the Hindu calendar. The celebration are conducted in honor of Lord Shiva and specifically marking the day of consummation of marriage of Shiva.

The celebrations are always conducted in every lunisolar month of the Hindu calendar on the 13th and 14th day of the February/march months in the late winter.

The celebration marks the Great Night of Shiva.

Navratri

This is a Hindu celebration that lasts for nine nights, it is celebrated for up to ten days. It’s celebrated once in every year in the season of autumn.

The festival is observed for different purposes and it’s conducted in different parts of the world by Hindus. There are four seasons of Navratri.

The Sharada Navratri is the most observed among the four seasons of Navratri, the season is done in honor of the divine feminine commonly referred to as Devi (Durga).

Raksha Bandhan

This is a Hindu celebration also known as Rakshabandhan. This is a popular celebration that is traditionally honored among the Hindus.

The ceremony is conducted once in every year of Hindu calendar. On the day of Raksha Bandhan, sisters of all ages among the Hindu culture tie a talisman, commonly known as amulet, called the Rakhi. The talisman is tied around the wrist of their brothers as a symbol of protection to them, the sisters in return are given gifts.

The sisters on tying the amulet around their brothers’ wrist shows a traditional investment on responsibility of potential care amongst both of them.

Read about all major Hindu festivals in this article: https://www.hindusinfo.com/32-major-hindu-festivals-celebrated-in-india/

Indian foods in Kenya

There are various Indian foods that are prepared and are mostly liked by many. Indian foods tend to be delicious in taste, below are some of the commonly known Indian delicacies;

Alu gobi

This is a common dish that entails/made up of potatoes, commonly known as aloo, cauliflower, commonly known as gobi and some Indian spices. Alu gobi is a dry dish that is eaten along with some drink.

Butter chicken

This dish is traditionally cooked in a tandoor, but in the present life, it’s grilled and roasted. The dish was first invented in 1950s in the kitchen of Moti Mahal in Daryqaganj, Delhi. The dish is popular since it’s delicious and hence liked by many.

Rogan josh

This dish is considered a staple of Kashmiri cuisine. The dish was brought on board by the Mughals. Rogan josh is one of the Kashmiri multi-course meal, commonly known as the Wazwan.

The meal is made up of many ingredients and is mostly prepared by experts in the field.

The reddish color of the food is as a result of the traditional dried Kashmiri chilies that have been de-seeded to reduce their heat effect.

You’re advised that if you like lamb then Rogan josh is the perfect dish for you.

Samosas

This is a common dish that is liked by not only Hindus but also other people. Samosas are fried or baked with savory fillings that differ depending on the flavor. Savory fillings can be potatoes, onions, peas, lentils among many others.

The dish is common in the streets and most people eat as a midday snack.

Tandoori chicken

The dish is named after a cylindrical clay oven called a tandoor. Tandoor is where the dish is prepared traditionally.

The chicken is always marinated in yogurt and other Indian spices, red chili is used to give the dish a fiery red hue.

Tandoori chicken is served with steamed basmati rice and crispy naan.

Recent Posts