30 January, 2014
Pousha Amavasya, Kaliyug Varsha 5115
Europe’s largest Hindu temple has opened in Britain – on the site of a former rubbish dump.
More than 10,000 visitors are expected at the £6.5million Sri Venkateswara Balaji Temple in Tividale, near Dudley, West Midlands, by Sunday, the close of a five day festival of inauguration.
The complex has been built on 12.5 acres of wasteland in an industrial area close to the M5 motorway.
The temple has been constructed in the style of the ancient and sacred temple of Sri Venkateswara in Tirupati, India.
The site has been funded by a £3.3m lottery grant from the Millennium Commission and has taken more than three decades to come to fruition.
Local Hindu worshippers first hit upon the idea of building a giant temple in their part of the West Midlands in 1974.
They spent the next 20 years searching for a site and trying to secure funding.
It wasn’t until 1994 that the then Black Country Development Corporation agreed to donate the site to them for a nominal sum.
Crucially, the site came with planning permission for a temple.
The group began fundraising nationwide and in 1996 they were approved lottery funding.
Work started on the site the following year and in 1999 the first of three smaller shrines adjacent to the site of the main temple was completed.
The same year, a team of 600 builders started work in India on the main temple building.
During building work, three of the founders of the temple invested £100,000 of their own money to prevent the project going bankrupt.
The concrete, granite and class structure was built in stages in the subcontinent before being shipped to Britain to be put together on site.
A team of 30 highly-skilled crafsmen and stone masons were brought over from India to work on the intricate carvings of Hindu gods and godesses that adorn mahogany doors, stone pillars and the walls and ceilings inside the temple.
One of the founders of the temple, Dr. Kandiah Somasundara Rajah, has been involved with the project since its origins in the 1970s.
He said: ‘We used to have the use of another temple but then the congregation got bigger and in 1974 some of our group thought we should get our own temple.
‘In spite of this we had a lot of opposition from the locals – we organised a meeting and nearly got lynched.
‘But we went ahead with it anyway. It came from small beginnings and it is wonderful seeing it being celebrated. It is a dream come true for all of us.’
Thousands of visitors
Yesterday the site was filled with tents erected to accommodate the thousands of visitors who had travelled to witness the ceremonies to mark the temple’s inaguration.
Organisers laid on traditional Hindu dances and songs to entertain them.
The main temple building, the largest of its kind in Europe built in the South Indian architectural style, will accommodate 400 people at any one time.
Some 15 priests have also flown in from Mauritius, India and America to perform ancient rituals in Sanskrit to call on the gods to enter the temple.
The festival will culminate with installation of a 12ft deity of Lord Krishna, the supreme Hindu god.
Dr. VP Narayan Rao, the founding chairman of the temple, said: ‘The priests are trained from the age of seven to do the chanting. Only these people can do it.
‘They will also climb on to the roof of the temple and pour holy water over the whole building. Then it will be a sacred building.’
A further £1m is due to be spent on landscaping the complex to transform the area into a meadow with shrubs and woodland in the style of an Indian garden.
Bimal Krishna Das, secretary of the National Council of Hindu Temples, said: ‘This is great news for the British Hindu community. The opening of this great temple will be a wonderful addition to the multi-religious society of Britain, especially in West Midlands.’
Britain is home to 600,000 Hindus but the temple is expected to attract worshippers from across Europe and the rest of the world.