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Hindu centre looks for permanent base
Buy this photo » Shaunaka Rishi Das at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies. Picture: OX57971 Antony Moore
OXFORD could become home to an “international hub” for Hindu studies if a £1m fundraising effort is successful.
The Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, currently in Magdalen Street, is working to raise the money to buy its first permanent home.
Established in 1997, the independent centre allied to Oxford University has seen a huge jump in its student numbers and is now looking to set down roots.
According to the 2011 census, there are 2,044 people of the Hindu religion in Oxford.
The £1m campaign was launched in November and about £500,000 has so far been pledged.
Centre director Shaunaka Rishi Das, who is also the university’s Hindu chaplain, hopes to move into new city centre premises early next year.
He said: “We thought it is about time we bought somewhere. “When we started 15 years ago we had four students and now we have 68, and we have a huge archive.
“The centre is an organism which is expanding and growing and it is the only centre for Hindu studies at this academic level so we want to put down roots firmly in Oxford.”
He said: “This will become a hub for Hindu studies in the world. Indian studies in some senses began in Oxford – most of the civil servants of the Raj were taught here.”
Mr Rishi Das said the centre was considering options for places it could move to in the city centre.
He added: “Religious studies doesn’t really exist in India so we want to help them and anyone in the community understand Hinduism.
“Of all the religious traditions in the world, Hinduism is the most difficult to study. “It is very pluralist and there is no one church or no one book.
“India is such a powerhouse now, both economically and politically, and they know how we think but we don’t know how they think.”
He puts the increase in student numbers down to more Indian students wanting to study the humanities rather than law or medicine.