The National Hindu Students’ Forum (NHSF) UK, on behalf of thousands of Hindu students across the country, congratulated King’s College London (KCL) Hindu Society in pioneering the opening of the UK’s first Dharmic Prayer Room.
Its opening ceremony recently marked the culmination of cumulative efforts of successive committees of the KCL Hindu Society, in their determination and perseverance over years to see the landmark project come to fruition. This is a milestone that has inspired students of backgrounds from across the globe, NHSF (UK) said.
Bhavya Shah, NHSF (UK) National President, told iGlobal: “This remarkable achievement marks a moment of pride for Hindu students across the country. I thank everyone who has been working tirelessly over the past few years to make sure Hindu students have a safe space on campus.
“NHSF (UK) are continuing to work with universities to make sure we see more Dharmic rooms across UK campuses. KCL Hindu society has paved the way forward a huge congratulations to them.”
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The UK’s first Dharmic Prayer Room will now be open for all Hindu, Jain, Sikh and Buddhist students and staff at King’s College London in accordance with national lockdown guidelines.
Dhra Gandhi, Co-President of NHSF King’s College London Hindu Society, said: “As soon as we step foot in the Dharmic Prayer Room we all felt a sense of belonging, and were confident that this would be a space where we can reflect on the qualities and aspects of ourselves and improve our efforts to practice Hindu Dharma.”
Faith societies play a pivotal role in allowing students to explore and engage with their identity. With the lack of a multi-faith facility at King’s College London, student leaders across the university identified the need for such a room on their campus, as a place to celebrate and express their Dharmic identity. A prayer room not only serves the purpose of being a platform for spiritual well-being, but also acts as the catalyst for strengthening and empowering the university and wider community, NHSF (UK) pointed out.
With a steer from its National Committee, students at the KCL Hindu Society liaised with King’s and the King’s College London Students’ Union (KCLSU), to bring about the change they wanted to see. The National Vice President, Dr Akshaya Rajangam, a former president of the KCL Hindu Society (2016-2017), was elected as the King’s representative to the National Union of Students’ Conference in 2019. She had the opportunity to submit a motion on behalf of NHSF (UK) entitled ‘Equal access to faith and wellbeing resources for students from non-Abrahamic traditions’. This motion stemmed from the knowledge that many British universities currently do not cater for multi-faith spaces, and less than 20 per cent have chaplains representing students of non-Abrahamic traditions.
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“As NHSF (UK), it is our duty to ensure that our students have spaces that are inclusive and accessible. This motion called for the NUS [National Union of Students] to action the provision of multi-faith/meditation spaces for the numerous Hindu, Jain, Sikh and Buddhist students at all universities,” NHSF (UK) said.
Passing with an overwhelming majority, meetings and discussions immediately began and continued in full vigour over years, with the elected officers of the KCLSU and representatives of the student societies on . Students were successful in communicating the need for such a space with KCL Estates and Facilities and the Dean’s Office, being able to swiftly find an apt location at the Guy’s Campus, London Bridge.
“This is a moment for all our Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and Jain members. To know that they are seen. That their traditions are honoured. That there is, quite literally, space for them at this university,” said the Reverend Dr Ellen Clark-King, the Dean of King’s College.
The co-presidents of the KCL Hindu Society were moved by the damage to religious idols due to the lack of a dedicated space, an example being the breaking of a “Bal Krishna Murti” two years ago. NHSF (UK) said it is heart-warming that the students have still carefully kept the murti (idol), waiting for this day to come, serving as a reminder of what this Dharmic Prayer Space means to them – a space that recognises and values the sanctity and uniqueness of their traditions.
This project paves the way for greater inclusivity for students of Dharmic backgrounds across the world, and acts as a model for every to follow suit, the student representative organisation said.