Ghana’s unique African-Hindu temple – BBC

Ghana’s unique African-Hindu temple

By Rajesh Joshi   BBC Hindi, Ghana

The Hindu temple in GhanaThe temple is located in the capital Accra

The air is filled with the sweet smell of incense burning in a corner of the huge hall.

Wrapped in shiny bright clothes, idols of Hindu gods and goddesses smile benevolently from the elevated platform.

Sitting on the white marble floor a group of more than 50 men, women and children sing devotional Hindi songs.

Nothing extraordinary about this scene, except that the temple is in Ghana and the devotees are all indigenous Africans.         

The tall cone-shaped temple emerges out of the crowded neighbourhood of Orkordi on the outskirts of the capital Accra. It can be easily identified – the holy Sanskrit word ‘Om’ shines on its top.

Indian feelThe devotees here have no links with India and have never visited the country. Still they strictly follow religious rules and observe rituals in traditional Hindu way.

They say they have all converted to Hinduism but many still use their Christian names and African surnames.

However, they give their young ones Hindu names like Rama or Krishna.

Once inside the temple, you forget that you are a continent away from India.

Diyas or little lamps are lit in obeisance to the gods. Surprisingly, there is even a picture of Jesus Christ amid the idols of Hindu deities.

Come evening and the devotees gather in the temple hall for evening prayer rituals. Holy offerings to the gods are distributed after prayers.

Swami Ghanananda Saraswati, the man who established Ghana’s first African Hindu Monastery in 1975, oversees the prayers sitting in a high chair.

Dressed in a flowing saffron kurta and a wrap-around, he addresses the people on the public address system and explains the finer points of the Hindu faith and philosophy.

Swami Ghanananda SwaraswatiSwami Ghanananda Swaraswati established the temple in 1975

“I was born in a village nearby into a native Ghanaian faith,” he says.

But his parents converted to Christianity. “From a very early age I would think about the mysteries of the universe and try to find the answers in religious texts. But I failed,” Swami Ghanananda says.

Then he read some books on Hindu faith and embarked upon a new journey which took him to Rishikesh in north India.

He spent some time there with a spiritual guru who suggested him to open the monastery in Accra.

Ask Swami Ghanananda his original name and the reply comes promptly: “My real name is Guide!”

‘No conversion’It’s not been easy for him to keep the faith.

He says initially he faced some opposition from a section of the local people, but then the number of visitors started growing.

“We don’t ask anyone to convert to Hinduism. Those who seek the truth enquire about the Hindu monastery. We write articles in newspapers before we observe big Hindu festivals like Navaratri or Dipawali,” says DG Otchere, manager of the temple.

He says that when a devotee died recently, a local TV channel covered his cremation because burning a body on pyre was unusual in Ghana.

There is even one Muslim among the devotees.

Jamer Baroudy says he was born into the Islamic faith but his mother introduced him to Hinduism when he was eight years old.

Mr Baroudy says: “I am aware that Islam prohibits idol worshipping but then God doesn’t make any distinction. I visit this temple because I find solace here.”

Today there are more than 2,000 indigenous African Hindus in Ghana who come to the temple quite regularly.

The total number of Hindus, including those from India, is much larger.

Hindu religion was first introduced in Ghana by Sindhi settlers who migrated to Africa after India was divided in 1947. There is still a Sindhi temple in Accra.

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  • Veda Nath Mohabir  On 02/22/2013 at 5:02 pm

    Thx Cyril, for following thru & putting this online. Here’s a Youtube video where the African devotees are chanting a well-known and efficacious mantra “Om Namah Shivaya”.

    Here’s a more soul-full rendition:

    (One can meditate/recite on either depending on time of day or your disposition.

    Now, who’s Shiva? This is a very big topic (as is Hinduism). Physicists/cosmologists, as below, see his various depictions as representing the Cosmic drama/or play (Lila/Leela) of Creation, Preservation of creation and finally, Dissolution of the universe – a repeating cycle.

    Yet, the one Supreme counsciouness (Brahman – which, incidentally gave Abraham his name) also devolves into the three aspects as Brahma (Creator), Vishnu (Preserver, via 10 avatars such as Rama and Krishna) and Shiva the dissolver. See Fritjoff Capra’s “Tao of Physics” for more.
    Also, you will remember, late astrophysicist, Carl Sagan. He devoted one episode of his TV series “Cosmos” to Hindusim’s Creation, Preservation and Dissolution cycle, along with the curiously coincidental time-scale (Yugas), equivalent to Western science’s:.

    Regards, Veda

    • Thinker  On 02/24/2013 at 12:46 am

      You make an interesting point on the Brahman/Abraham connection. It’s high time that people realise that Christianity has incorporated all sorts of ideas from previously existing religions. The similarities in the lives of Krishna and Jesus are striking. We can even add Horus to the mix. And of course Islam borrowed heavily from Christianity and Judaism. The quicker people understand the real history of religions the less religious fanatics the world will produce, hopefully.
      Amen (or rather Amun).

  • treadmarkz  On 02/23/2013 at 5:35 am

    Thank you. As an American Hindu I am always interested in Hinduism in areas where you would not expect to find it. Africa. Central America. China. These places seem to be the least-Hindu places in the world.

  • Veda Nath Mohabir  On 02/24/2013 at 3:16 am

    re Amen (or rather Amun).
    What about AUM (OM) ?

    re Krishna & Jesus.
    A well-known Canadian ret’d UT prof of Greek and New Testament, Tom Harpur, wrote an article listing several statements that were made by Jesus virtually the same made by Krisna 3,000 yrs earlier. Also, see this Jesus Lived in India (based on book by Holger Kersten)


    • Thinker  On 02/25/2013 at 2:29 am

      Many students of history realise that Jesus is most likely a composite figure. The Romans who kept proper records made no mention of him during the time of Pontius Pilate (a historical figure). The reference in Josephus “quidam Jesus” has been recognised as a forgery. The Indian (Hindu/Buddhist) connection is there, no matter how we view Christianity (Christ as Krishna or Christ having lived in India before or after his resurrection).

  • Richlove Sarpong  On 05/29/2015 at 6:56 am

    I am proud of my Gurus

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