Fourth anniversary of the Shree Lakshmi Narayan Temple
This week is the fourth anniversary of the dedication (patotsava) of my local mandir, the Shree Lakshmi Narayan Temple. It doesn’t seem anything like four years since the opening of our mandir!
I attended the evening celebrations and the feeling of having hundreds of people present to worship God and the devas was incredible.
I speak virtually no Hindi, I can respond to greetings and that’s about all. Someone asked me whether it was boring to attend when most of the speech is in Hindi. Continue reading
Shri Lakshmi Narayan Mandir
Today i visited our mandir for the first time in over three weeks. I usually try to attend weekly, but a combination of having the flu, being away for a work related conference, and visiting my father kept me away. I can see why Gurudeva says we should visit the temple on a regular basis. I felt that I was being welcomed by the devas, and spiritually refreshed.
Image is a low resolution copy of image on the Mandir’s site, and considered fair use.
- The Shri Kanagathurkkai Amman Temple
Last week we spent the week visiting my Dad, who lives to the West of London. At the suggestion of a fellow Himalayan Academy Master Course student we visited the Shri Kanagathurkkai Amman Temple in Ealing. The temple is undergoing extensive building work at the moment, and a hall at the back is being used as the temporary temple. We were made welcome; someone brought a chair for my father and the announcements were repeated in English for our benefit. I look forward to visiting again when the main temple has been reopened.
The Aarti, which was quite a long ceremony because it was a bank holiday and a lot of people were attending. After this I went to fetch the car (parking is a few hundred yards away in a pay and display). My wife said that when I had gone we were invited to eat, though we declined as I had already returned with the car. Continue reading
Shree Ganapathy Temple, Wimbledon
Last week we were visiting my father, who lives near London. To make the visit into a pilgrimage I wanted to visit a Hindu temple. When previously visiting my father we have gone to the extremely impressive Swaminarayan temple. This time I wanted to visit a Saivite temple, and because Lord Ganesha has special meaning to all of us, we visited the Shree Ghanapathy Temple in Wimbledon.
As on previous occasions when we have attended Hindu temples in the UK we were made to feel welcome. I think that any Westerner can be assured of a welcome in any Hindu temple in the West when just “turning up” for an Aarti service.
the hindu temple of shri venkateswara (balaji) in tividal, birmingham.
I have been rather lax about posting recently, and it is several weeks since we visited the Venkateswara mandir in Birmingham, UK. This is a very impressive temple, as can be seen in the picture (courtesy of San Sharma, released on the creative commons license). The main temple is fronted by two smaller temples, one dedicated to Shri Ganesha and one to Shri Murugan (Kartikaya). The The main temple has Venkateswara at the centre, and also had other deities including Lakshmi and Hanuman.
Like all the other Mandirs I have visited, we were all made welcome. I mention this again, because I think it important that westerners know that they will be welcomed, many are worried as I was before my first visit to a Hindu temple. We received a blessing and Jal (holy water). Unlike the gulab jal (sweet rose-flavoured water) that I have received in other temples, this jal was spiced with what I thought was a hint of ginger. A commenter has since told me that it was not ginger,but thulasi (tulsi) leaves, cardamom and saffron.
Though Venkateswara is associated with Vishnu as the destroyer of sins, the layout, ambiance and association made me think of Lord Shiva. Continue reading
Our Mandir on Google Street view
Today Google announced that Street View is now available in some cities on UK maps. I found this picture of our new mandir. Continue reading
Continued from How I became a Hindu – part two which follows How I became a Hindu – part one.
Nataraja, Shiva the cosmic dancer.
One day, when surfing the Internet I came across a Nataraja, the image of Shiva as the cosmic dancer on eBay. Almost on impulse I purchased it. I found myself impelled to read up on the symbolism. The symbolism of the dance of creation, preservation and destruction struck a chord with me and immediately felt right.
I found that whenever I passed the Nataraja I could see that this image represented God, and I felt compelled to thank God for all that exists.
I live near to a Hindu temple, and I decided to visit. At first I was very nervous about just turning up, but I was made very welcome and the Pandit explained many things to me. I also bought and studied many books on Hinduism, as I knew that I had been called to this path. One of the books I bought was “How to become a Hindu”, which is published by the Himalayan Academy and available online. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
Last month our old mandir was replaced by a new purpose-built one. I attended one some of the inaugeration ceremonies and I felt very privileged to be there. Much of the ceremony was in sanskrit with translations into Hindi, which I did not understand, though the key points were described in English also. Sometimes less can be more, and the few salient points that I did understand appeared to be just what I needed to know. One was the idea that more than the ceremonies it was the prayers of all the devotess together that pleased God, and that is why we were all asking God in various forms to be present in our murtis. This made me realise that I was part of this, that among the good will of everyone there God was answering partly for me. I prayed that others may come here and be helped on their path as I have been.
One surprise was when the Lord Mayor gave his speech he announced that his wife, the Lady Mayoress was was keenly interested in the proceedings as she is a student of sanskrit. It just shows how studies of Hindu culture are spreading in the west.
Altogether it is a great feeling being together with so many devout people, who’s purpose is to praise God, advance spiritually and help others to do so now and in the future
There is a nice entry detailing the inaugeration of the mandir on the blog of Shri Sadgurudeva Ji Maharaj, which has many pictures.
It is now over a year since I wrote about my first visit to a Hindu temple. Since then I have been attending regularly with my family. I now feel accepted by the Indian Hindus, and one incident more than anything else brought this home to me.
A new mandir has been constructed in our city, and will soon hold rituals to consecrate the deities and the building. This is a very important event, which we are looking forward to very much. One of the people I meet there regularly asked me if I had been given a personal invitation. I told him no, but I had seen the public invitation on the noticeboard. He called over our pundit (priest), and asked whether I could be given an invitation. Pundit ji said “of course not”, then quickly smiled and gave me an envelope with the personal invitation for me and my family
Now he is comfortable enough to joke about me being accepted, I have absolutely no doubt that my family and I have been! I am very privileged to be at the opening of the magnificent new building. This purpose-build mandir will show the presence of Hinduism to everyone in the city. I have great affection for the old building, which is I believe had previously been a club, but at times it was limiting, with some people having to listen through the doors of the prayer hall during well-attended events.
I wrote before that I was worried about visiting a Hindu temple, because I did not know what the “real Hindus” would think . Well, thanks to Deepak on the Orkut site, I finally got the courage to visit. Deepak reminded me of the story of the father, the son and the donkey. This story reminded me that if we always worry about what others think we will end up doing nothing.
Anyway, I need not have worried. I arrived at the temple at a quiet time and the only person there was a priest who was looking through some papers. I performed a namaste to the deities and then sat down and meditated for a while. The priest finished his papers and asked whether he could help me. I asked him about some of the deities that I did not recognise and he told me about them. He then offered me prashad and some holy water, which I took. A younger man came in and told me that they were preparing for a function so the priest could not talk to me for long. The priest said that he was going to perform a short puja before the function and asked whether I would like to stay. During this time several other people came an went, and all greeted me in a friendly manner.
What struck me was how I really felt at home in this place, there was an atmosphere of holiness, peace and friendliness. As I left the priest asked me if I would come again, and I told him that I would. He said that he would tell me more about Hinduism but would also learn from me. He was a very approachable, peaceful and humble man, I know from the website that he has a Phd. and he still said that he wanted to learn from me. And to think that I was worried about being thought of as an ignorant non-Hindu!