I have noticed that a lot of people still visit the page on my first visit to a Hindu temple. A lot of people want to visit a mandir but are not sure what to expect. It occurred to me that some people might think that I was just lucky that my local mandir was very friendly, so I thought it worth posting about my visit to another mandir to show that this is not an exception.
I have visited other Hindu temples. I have visited the large Swaminarayan temple in Neasden, London. This is a building of National importance, which won the 2007 British pride of place award, and has been featured in the journal of the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England. As you would expect from such an iconic temple, this mandir has people there to welcome you, answer questions and generally help. People would rightly see that as different from most of the many mandirs that are in towns and cities in the West.
Our visit to Newcastle Hindu temple is probably typical of the friendly welcome that anybody will get in one of the more common mandirs. This year we were on holiday in Northumbria over diwali week, and naturally we wanted to attend a mandir as part of the celebration. I discovered that Newcastle has two major Hindu Temples, one of them being an ISKCON temple. I have great respect for ISKCON and the work they do, but being more drawn to the Shaivite tradition we decided to visit the other mandir. Their website was not running at the time, so I asked about times and events on their orkut group, and asked about event times (I later found that they have a community site with this information). As Newcastle was a distance away from where we were on holiday, and since we have a young daughter we decided that the evening events would mean we got back too late, so we decided to visit for the morning aarti on dewali.
We started off by going through the wrong door, into a community hall below the mandir! I asked someone there the way to the prayer hall and he directed us through the correct entrance. The prayer hall was decorated for diwali and quite a few people were there. We went in, and aarti was just finishing, I had got the time wrong. We gave our devotion to the Murtis and prayed for a while, after which we went to the Pandit for prashad. He welcomed us and was very nice, he was obviously good with children asking our daughter her name and how was her holiday.
He invited us to return to the events of the evening, though we declined because of the travel distance. We were made very welcome by everyone and this diwali devotion certainly added to our holiday. It was just a short, uneventful visit, but as Westerners we were made very welcome, and I believe that this will be the case in any Western mandir. For that reason I think it is worth a blog entry.