“This new wave [of immigration] started three, four years ago. They are Hindus, but most came from Nepal. Statistics, official figures through the Nepalese Consulate, the High Commissioner for Migration and embassies, indicate that around 50,000 people entered Portugal from Nepal alone,” said Ajit Hansraj, former vice-president of the Hindu Community, to Lusa.

According to Ajit Hansraj, 99% of Nepali citizens are Hindus and come to the Community through religion.

“What attracts them here is the spiritual part. They come to the temple and we have seen a growth in the flow of people every day,” he said.

The Community estimates that the Indian diaspora in Portugal is around 200,000 people. “But Hindus have come from all over, not just India. They have been coming lately from Bangladesh, from Bhutan, for example, from various parts of the world, but especially from South Asia,” he said.

Hindu religion

The growth of the community meant that the Hindu religion in the last census won an independent status in the National Institute of Statistics forms and abandoned the category “other religions”. The same happened with the Buddhists, who today appear alongside the religions considered to be the majority in Portuguese society.

In Hansraj's opinion, Portugal has been a welcoming country, it has a population deficit and needs to face the lack of labour in several sectors: “They look to Portugal because they think they have an opportunity to have a better quality of life, because of what they suffer in their countries...”.

Fast growth

The former vice president is convinced that the Hindu community is the one that has grown the most in Portugal in recent years, despite statistics placing it “in second place”, he said.

Activities have been conditioned due to restrictions imposed by the control of the Covid-19 pandemic, but on days of important religious celebrations in the Hindu calendar, thousands of people flock to the temple. “Now in these openings, more than a thousand, 3,000 people circulate in a day”, he indicated.