Special Requirements

Proud to be British and Proud to be Hindu

Background

Hindus accessing public service or in employment have special requirements based on their scriptures, tradition, culture and belief system. While some requirements are common to all Hindus, others may only be observed by stricter or more orthodox Hindus. There are also requirements unique to a particular denomination. Requirements have been classified as:

  1. Dietary requirements
  2. Prayer requirements
  3. Dress code requirements
  4. Other requirements

Dietary requirements

Fasting

Some Hindus may require special consideration at times of ritual fasting on certain days like Janmashtami or Ram Navami. There are different types of fasting, and generally the following apply:

  • Some Hindus may abstain from water and food through the entire time of fasting.
  • Other Hindus may not eat grains, lentils and beans, but may have milk, fruits, vegetables (usually underground tubors) or nuts.
  • Others may have only milk or fruit through the time of fasting.
  • On some fasting days some Hindus abstain from eating grains.

Ingredients

Depending on how orthodox they are, Hindus will avoid either all or some of the ingredients given below in their food:

  • Beef and cow products (it is forbidden to eat beef in Hinduism)
  • Meat, fish, and eggs, including gelatine
  • Onions, garlic and mushrooms
  • Alcohol and alcohol products
  • Asafoetida
  • Red lentils

It is particularly important to check that ready food like bread, biscuits, cheese, jam and other products are checked to ensure that these ingredients are not present. Some ingredients that are numbered (e.g., E471, E472) contain egg or meat products and therefore strict Hindus will avoid them.

Some Hindus avoid eating certain products during some periods or days. During these days or periods, they will avoid these ingredients, but on other days they may consume them. This is listed below:

  • Ekadashi (eleventh day or waxing and waning moon) - Grains, beans and lentils
  • Fasting days like Janmashtami, Ramanavami etc - either abstain from food or from grains, beans and lentils
  • First month of Chaturmasya (July-August) - Spinach
  • Second month of Chaturmasya (August-September) - Yoghurt
  • Third month of Charturmasya (September-October) - Milk
  • Fourth month of Charturmasya (October-November) - Urad Dal or Bengal lentil

Heating and cooking facilities

Orthodox Hindus may not eat food if it is:

  • Cooked in the same pots and pans used for cooking meat, fish or eggs, even if it is washed and cleaned after such cooking
  • Heated in the same oven or microwave where meat, fish or eggs are cooked or heated.

In such instances, a separate set of pots and pans or heating arrangements will have to be made for such Hindus.

Prayer Requirements

Prayer timings and paraphernalia

Many Hindus are required to pray three times a day. They will require a private space where they may bring a plate, a cup of water and a spoon, with which they may offer oblations. The water used for the prayers will be considered sacred and should not be disposed of in a sink. It can be used for watering plants or just drained in a garden.

Types of prayer and worship

Other Hindus may observe prayers during the day, and may chant on beads, read from books, sing devotional songs or meditate.

Altar

Many Hindus also create a portable altar with pictures of Hindu Gods and Spiritual Masters. A space for such an altar may be considered essential if the Hindus reside in a place for a longer period of time.

Arati ceremony

Worship on the altar is called an arati ceremony and usually requires flowers, incense and other paraphernalia including a clean cup of water, a clean spoon, a bell and a lamp. Arati ceremonies may vary for each tradition within Hinduism.

Offering of food

Some Hindus only eat vegetarian food that is offered on an altar to God. This involves a high degree of cleanliness. Cooks usually don?t taste the food before it is offered. The offering is usually done on a plate reserved for making offerings by ringing a bell and chanting verses and prayers. After the offering is made, the plate is usually washed and kept aside before Hindus eat the food.

Dress Code

Forehead markings

Hindu women have a red dot (bindi) marking and ordthodox Hindu men usually have a religious makring (tilak) on their foreheads. Formal dress codes for Hindus should not infringe their right to wear these marks.

Mangalsutra

Married Hindu women usually wear a mangalsutra or a specially consecrated gold chain round their necks and will not remove this.

Sikha

Orthodox Hindu men can sport a tuft of hair like a pony-tail (called a sikha) on the back of their heads and will not remove or cut this.

Traditional clothes

Some Hindu men will wear traditional clothes during worship, prayer or festival days. These can include dhoti, kurta, chaddar or a churidar. Traditional dress for women can be either a saree or a salwar-kamiz. Women may insist on keeping their head covered during worship or at other times as it is considered an essential element of modesty.

Offering of food

Some Hindus only eat vegetarian food that is offered on an altar to God. This involves a high degree of cleanliness. Cooks usually don?t taste the food before it is offered. The offering is usually done on a plate reserved for making offerings by ringing a bell and chanting verses and prayers. After the offering is made, the plate is usually washed and kept aside before Hindus eat the food.

Other Requirements

Mourning

Hindus have elaborate funeral and mourning rituals lasting over eleven days and may require sympathy and consideration for taking time away for participating in the mourning.

At Meetings or interviews

There are no specific requirements, but some Hindus may require separate heating arrangements for meals and may not wish to use the same microwave or cooking range where meat, fish or eggs have been cooked or heated.

Physical Hygiene

Orthodox Hindus have special cleaning rituals in the toilet and may require a mug or a cup of water to clean themselves after evacuation. Some will have a shower after using the toilet.

Most Hindus have a shower before they pray and will need facilities for washing.

Many Hindus don't wear the clothes they have slept in once again without washing them.

Festivals

Hindus may ask for special consideration for joining family during the annual celebrations of Diwali, Holi or Rakshabandhan. For Rakshabandhan, the sister always visits the brother to tie a sacred thread round his wrist. It would be essential to facilitate such meetings between brothers and sisters on this day. Other festivals like Diwali can involve visitors and guests who exchange gifts and sweets.

Emergencies

Hindus on the deathbed may be surrounded by family members who may wish to:

  • Place beads of the wood of the sacred Tulsi plant on the necks of the patient
  • Place or sprinkle water from the sacred Ganges near or on the patient or his/her mouth
  • Chant verses from the scriptures

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