Celebrating its Golden Jubilee in 2016, the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh UK organises Sanskriti MahaShibir – a residential gathering of over 2,200 people from across the UK and Europe from July 29 to 31 in Hertfordshire
The year 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) in the UK with the first shakha starting in the Finchley area of North West London in 1966. However, the architects of HSS were not swayamsevaks of the RSS, but swayamsevaks of the Bharatiya Swayamsevak Sangh (BSS) (East Africa). The story of the creation of BSS in itself is a truly inspirational one that occurred by accident.
Today, a swayamsevak can truly feel at home when he is with another swayamsevak and his family, regardless of being thousands of miles away and that is the spirit of oneness that allows the organic expansion of Sangh activities completely independent of one another. In 1946, two swayamsevaks were travelling from Bharat to Kenya on a ship. Their names were Manekbhai Rugani and Jagdish Chandra Sharda. During this trip, they incidently met, when one spotted the other performing the function of dhwaj pranaam which led the other introduce himself and the first shakha outside Bharat started immediately in the middle of the Arabian Sea. Obviously they exchanged ideas and kept in touch that allowed the birth of BSS in Kenya on 14th January 1947. With the mass migration of Indians to East Africa during this period, shakhas grew in number and so did numerous Hindu cultural events and activities.
HSS in UK
As a result of the 1970’s mass expulsion of the Indian community from East Africa by Idi Amin, ethnic Indians including a number of BSS swayamsevaks travelled to the UK. In 1966, the first UK shakha was inaugurated and Hindu SwayamsevakSangh UK (HSS) came into existance. The co-founders decided to register HSS as a UK Charity in 1974 with the following preamble within their constitution – “It is a part of the accepted doctrine of the Hindu religion that its practice develops in its adherents both a Love for Bharat (India) as the Holy Land of the Hindus and the spirit of eternal Hinduism which means love for the whole of humanity regardless of race, country, nationality, religion, sect, faith, caste or creed and furthermore that this part enables such adherents to become better and more useful”.
This preamble has been the spirit of the HSS since its incorporation allowing it to develop and instil Hindu ideals and Hindu way of life in the British multicultural environment through its common and unique mechanism known as the Shakha. In the same way Bharatiya Swayamsevak Sangh was developed in East Africa instilling the Hindu way of life relevant to East African Hindus, HSS UK was created to perform the same function but now relevant to British Hindus being completely independent to both RSS and BSS. The common activity being the Shakha or commonly known as the Sangh.
Activities of HSS, UK
HSS, however, has over 100 centres in the United Kingdom and are attended by over 2000 people on a weekly basis, conducting activities such as yoga, health & fitness, educational and cultural for all ages. Hindu Sewika Samiti was established in 1976 in the UK. After that, many other Sangh related organisations were such as the National Hindu Students Forum UK, Sewa UK, Sewa Day, Hindu Sahitya Kendra, VHP UK, Hindu Lawyers Association and many others have been inspired.
In 1984, HSS held the Hindu Sangamshibir in Bradford University which was the largest ever gathering of Hindus in the country. At the same time, swayamsevaks organised a running sporting event known as the Hindu Marathon and route marshalled a course around the streets of Bradford along with the local authorities, council and the police. The Hindu Marathon then became an annual event attracting at one point approximately 10,000 spectators and participants being held at rotating towns and cities. It was known as the third largest running event in the UK after the London Marathon and the Great Northern Run. It provided an opportunity for Sanghkaryakartas to develop sampark and work alongside community leaders including local Parliamentarians, Councilors and business persons to aid in community cohesion and spirit.
HSS then famously organised the largest gathering of Hindus outside Bharat attracting over 1 lakh British Hindus at Virat Hindu Sammelan in 1989 held in Milton Keynes. This was an inspiring event that attracted global Hindu leaders and personalities. The theme being “Hindu Jage –Vishwa Jage”. On January 19, 1990, the then Prime Minister, Mrs Margaret Thatcher attended Makar Sankranti Utsav held at PratapShakha, Finchley as the Chief Guest.
As second and third generation of continued British Hindu activity, swayamsevaks have tirelessly worked hard in the preservation of Hindu culture on a foreign land through shakha and Sangh related or inspired events. As they have become fearless advocates in the defence of various campaigns against Hindu culture or beliefs, being led by the VHP UK, National Hindu Students Forum or the Hindu Lawyers Association, it is fair to say that Hindu awareness is reaching the ears of the establishment now as young Hindu minded professionals have begun to be a lot more vocal in speaking on Hindu related matters amongst their peers.
The Sanskriti MahaShibir
This year is the Golden Jubilee of the HSS UK and it is all set to commence the yearlong celebrations, the HSS has organised Sanskriti MahaShibir – a residential gathering of over 2,200 people from across the UK and Europe from July 29 to 31 in Hertfordshire.
The 70-acre parkland site will be transformed into a large township, housing 400 tents with all facilities and amenities. The theme of this historic gathering will be Sanskaar (values of life), Sewa (selfless service) and Sangathan (community spirit).
According to Shri Dhiraj Shah, the UK Sangachalak (President), “the activities at MahaShibir will enable its attendees to explore and understand the values and ethics (sanskars) that have nourished the HSS over the last 50 years and prepared them for building a peaceful, prosperous and progressive society.”
A number of prominent persons from the world over have been invited to this historic event. They are Swami Dayatmananda – Head of Ramakrishna Vedanta Centre UK, Shri Mohanrao Bhagwat RSS Sarsanghchalak, Swami Nirliptananda – Head of London Sewashram Sangh UK, Acharya Vidya Bhaskar – Omkarananda Ashram Switzerland, Devi Bageeshwariji – Radhe Radhe Sampradday, Vrindavan, Bharat, Shri Keerti Mathur – Art of Living UK, Dr Shankar Tatwawadi – Advisor of VigyanBharati Bharat, Shri Gauridasji – ISKCON UK, Shri Saumitra Gokhale – HSS USA, Mr Philip Carr Gomm – Head of Order of Bards Ovates and Druids UK, Shri KrishnakantAtri – Hindu Chaplain to the Armed Forces UK and many more.
This now fully subscribed event will be thoroughly enjoyed by all who are involved in and have worked with HSS UK and look forward to another 50 years of contribution to society.
(The writer is Sampark Pramukh, HSS UK)