Prominent Hindu leader and President of the Universal Society of Hinduism Rajan Zed has called on all Australian universities to provide permanent Hindu prayer rooms, which are currently lacking at the University of Sydney.
The President of Ekansh (the Sydney University Indian Cultural Society) Minal Bhagwat said that a designated prayer room on campus would help to create a comfortable environment necessary for Hindu students.
“From a student’s perspective, in particular those that live on campus, the travel to the closest temples and places of worship is both long and time consuming,” she explains. “Having a campus prayer room will allow such students to follow their religion comfortably.”
The University’s Multifaith Chaplaincy Centre caters to various faiths, including Christian, Jewish and Buddhist communities, by giving Chaplains access to offices, common worship space, counseling, and prayer and study groups to assist their ministries.
The lack of Hindu facilities at the Centre predominantly comes down to the fact that “there hasn’t been a [Hindu] Chaplain who has applied in the past,” said the convener of the Centre and Anglican Chaplain Carolyn Andrews.
“A Hindu student or staff member would need to speak to the Hindu faith community to appoint a Hindu faith representative,” she says. Whilst the university provides services for spiritual support, the Chaplains themselves are employed and paid by their own religious denomination.
“It would be helpful to have a Hindu Chaplain to support student needs in conversations with the university,” she added.
Whilst the University of Sydney Union’s Interfaith Festival allows faith-based and religious clubs and societies to promote awareness and understanding of their faith, there is currently no Hindu students’ club or society.
“It is a little surprising that this is the case,” says the festival’s director, Anisha Sara Thomas. “The needs of Hindu students on campus are underrepresented, and we fully support any student initiative to form a Hindu club or society.”