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Tuesday, June 01, 2010

New £16m Hindu temple opens in Wembley

By Catrin Nye
BBC Asian Network

Wembley's newest looming landmark has opened it doors after 14 years of construction.

It is the £16m Shree Sanatan Hindu Mandir, which loosely translates as the all-inclusive temple.

There is none of the metal core most buildings have and, instead, it has been built using ancient techniques based on Hindu scriptures.

The method dates back thousands of years and was used to construct the world famous Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

Many of the temple's component pieces have been hand carved in limestone in the tiny town of Sola - located in the Indian state of Gujarat - before being flown over and pieced together in the UK.

There were also 41 marble deities made in India especially for the mandir.

The temple covers 2.4 acres (9,700 sq m) on the Ealing Road and, at its highest point, is 66ft (20m) tall.

Its bright sand-coloured walls stand out in stark contrast to the unassuming surroundings.

A ceremony called Pran Prathistha was held to "infuse the spirit of God into the statues" as part of the temple opening.

A VIP opening was then held with donors, sponsors and local dignitaries in attendance.

Ajay Jobanputra is governor of Shri Vallabh Nidhi UK (SVNUK), the charity which raised the funds to build the Shree Sanatan Hindu Mandir.

He hopes the temple will provide a place of worship for all Hindus and welcome those of other faiths.

"Famous spiritual leaders and forms of Gods from other religions are featured in the carvings such as Mother Teresa, Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji (a Sikh Guru), Meerabai, Lord Swaminarayan and many more.

"It's about showcasing the importance of respect, love and compassion for all religions, making the temple dynamic and universal.

"The message being promoted is of Vasudev Kutumbakaum, a Hindu term to describe the world as one big family."

The chief priest at the Shree Sanatan Hindu Mandir is Dr Raj Pandit Sharma, who said the new temple may stand out as a structure but it fits in with the eclectic local community.

"I think it will add to the charm of the area," he explained.

"Ealing Road already has mosques and churches and I think this temple will stand out as something unique that can be seen from some distance.

"I would hope that anybody who comes to the temple would find it a place where they will feel relaxed. It's like a sanctuary of peace amongst the bustling heart of London."

Special events

Each morning there will be prayers at the new temple in line with Hindu tradition.

It will house special events for such occasions as Diwali and Navratri as well as annual religious functions to celebrate the birth of Hindu saints and Gods like Jalaram Jayanti (Saint Jalarambapa) and Janmasthami (Lord Krishna).

Mr Jobanputra says the temple is expected to draw crowds from across London and visitors from much further afield.

"We're estimating around 400 to 500 local people will visit us during the weekdays and double that on weekends.

"We also expect visitors from other parts of the UK and Europe.

"We have already had visit requests from Spain, Portugal and Switzerland."

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