Hinduism in the Netherlands

Hinduism in the Netherlands

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Hinduism is a minority religion in the Netherlands, with around 100,000 adherents out of a population of 16,500,000. Most of these are relatively recent first or second generation "Hindoestanen" immigrants, South Asians who had been resident in the former Dutch colony of Surinam and travelled to the Netherlands in the 1970s and 1980s. There are also sizable populations of Hindu immigrants from India and Sri Lanka, as well as a smaller number of Western adherents of Hinduism-oriented new religious movements.



The presence of a significant number of Hindus in the Netherlands is a relatively modern development; in 1960, it is estimated there were only ten Indian families in the country,[1] who between them presumably comprised the bulk of the Hindu population. In 1971, the Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek (CBS) recorded around 3,000 adherents.[2] In the 1970s, however, the number sharply increased. This was due to the immigration of the "Hindoestanen" ("Hindustanis"), people of Indian origin whose families had emigrated to Surinam as bonded workers in the late nineteenth century. With Surinamese independence in 1975, growing concern about their future in the new country caused about a third of the Hindoestanen population to leave Surinam and emigrate to the Netherlands.[1] The Hindoestanen were predominantly Hindu, and as a result the Hindu population increased tenfold over the decade to 34,000 in 1980, continuing to climb to 61,000 in 1990 and 91,000 in 2000.[2]


A small statue of Ganesha in central Amsterdam.
Murugan Temple, Roermond

The largest group of Hindus in the Netherlands is composed of immigrants, mainly from Surinam but with numbers also directly from India and Sri Lanka.[3] The bulk of this population, around 80%, belong to mainstream Hindu traditions, whilst the remaining 20% belong to the more modern Arya Samaj movement.[4] There are secondary groups belonging to the newer "guru movements", such as the Hare Krishnas or the Transcendental Meditation movement, and finally a small number who practice a mixture of more "new age" or theosophical beliefs which include elements linked to Hinduism.[4]

The estimated number of Hindus can vary dramatically depending on which source is used, ranging from 100,000 to comfortably over 200,000.[5] A 1997 study suggested that there were around 100,000 adherents.[3] A 2006 estimate by the CBS concurred with this number, breaking it down as 83,000 of Surinamese origin, 11,000 of Indian origin, 5,000 other non-Europeans, and 1,000 Europeans.[4] However, the Hindu Council of the Netherlands estimated around 215,000, of which 160,000 were from Surinam, 15,000 from the Indian subcontinent, and 40,000 from elsewhere.[6] This figure tallies very closely with those put out by the High Level Committee on the Indian Diaspora, who stated that the Netherlands had 200,000 people of Indian origin, and 15,000 Non-Resident Indians;[7] it is not clear if the two figures have a common source or if they are simply conflating people of ethnic Indian background with practising Hindus.

A 2003 study gave the total "Hindoestanen" population - Surinamese originally of Indian descent - as 160,000, of which 80%, or around 130,000, were Hindu.[6] The largest regional populations, according to the 2003 study, were in Zuid-Holland (60,000), mostly clustered around The Hague, and Noord-Holland (31,200); between them, the two provinces accounted for over 70% of the overall population.[6] The population included a large number of non-practising Hindus; it was estimated that only about 50% were regular attendees at a temple.[8] The same study suggested that there were around fifty temples and around 250 priests, of whom half were full-time workers.[8]

See also


  1. ^ a b Report of the High Level Committee on the Indian Diaspora, p. 141
  2. ^ a b CBS StatLine
  3. ^ a b van de Donk et. al. (2006), p. 126
  4. ^ a b c van de Donk et. al. (2006), p. 127
  5. ^ van de Donk et. al. (2006), p. 91
  6. ^ a b c van de Donk et. al. (2006), p. 128
  7. ^ Report of the High Level Committee on the Indian Diaspora, p. 138
  8. ^ a b van de Donk et. al. (2006), p. 130


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