A new study suggests that for the first time, people are finding temples in remote areas of Australia — including the remote Australian desert, where the ashrams were once established.
Researchers from Australia’s University of New South Wales found that in remote Australia, more people are visiting temples than in the main cities.
“The population density in remote communities is higher than in other urban areas,” Dr. John McManus, an archaeologist at the University of Sydney and lead author of the study, told CBC News.
“So you have more people living in the desert than you would expect.”
The study, published in the journal Archaeology, surveyed 1,000 Australians, from towns like Goulburn and Taree, to remote villages and the Australian Outback.
Its authors, led by Dr. Sarah Atherton from the University’s Department of Anthropology, said the study suggests the first temples were established in remote Australian communities in the 19th century.
“In the first half of the 20th century, we were seeing people who were very remote,” she said.
According to McManuses study, the main reason why people were not visiting temples in the bush was because the government was not enforcing land use laws.
The researchers say that, in the last 50 years, the government has been “changing its laws to accommodate more of these [remote] communities.”
“These people have more access to the land, and the laws are being changed to allow more of them to access the land,” he said.
The study also found that the average age of a temple was 70 years old.
That’s far lower than the average of 91 years for Australia’s main cities, but still far higher than that of the general population.
It also found people in remote villages are not as likely to have children, and that the religion they attend is different from their country of birth.
In contrast, in cities like Melbourne, there is more variation in age of attendance between the sexes, Dr. McManUS said.
In other words, the religion of a local village is more closely tied to its surrounding culture.
The researchers also found the number of temples increased from 5.2 per cent in 1900 to 19.3 per cent between 1970 and 2015.
This trend has also been observed in the United States, with the number in the U.S. now at about 13 per cent, and Japan, at 15 per cent.
McManus said that even in remote locations, it’s still possible to find temples, and sometimes even find the temples themselves.
“There are probably more temples than there are people,” he told CBC.
“In terms of population density, we’re seeing that it’s happening in places like the Northern Territory, which has a very small population.
So it’s not just that there are fewer people coming to the temples.”
In an email to CBC News, McManuss said there is a misconception that the more people that visit a temple, the more the temple is important.
“I think that’s one of the myths that we’ve all heard,” he wrote.
“It’s really not true.
The number of people who visit a place is just not what it is.”
But McManens study found that, compared to Australia’s cities, the number who are visiting the temples is decreasing.
“The more people you go to, the less temples there are,” he added.