Manchester, Aug 3 (BAN): Shree Radha Krishna Mandir located in Gandhi Hall, Manchester opened 50 years ago in 1969. The Hindu temple was the only temple established in Manchester at that time. To celebrate their glorious 50th anniversary the temple embarked on a 3 day journey on Friday 21st to Sunday 23rd June 2019for world peace, prosperity and unity with ashri Sankat Mochan Hanuman Maha Yagya, conducted by Swami Shri Sharan Devacharya Ji (India, Vrindavan), Shashtri Krishan Joshi Ji (Manchester) and Swami Shri Gyananand Ji Maharaj (India). It was definitely a blessed day, over the 3 days they had around 1800 people attend from Iskon followers, Indians, Sri Lankans and Bangladeshi’s and many other communities participating in the event and relishing the great wisdom shared by Swami Ji’s and embraced the wonderful positivity.
British Asia news spoke with Kishan Kumar- Chairman of trustees of Hindu Religious Society, “It was thought long time ago that we have to have a brilliant and as best as possible celebration and performance to celebrate the 50th anniversary for the temple. So far it has gone very well there are singers, saints and scholars here who are performing the Maha Yagya and people have been very supportive coming from all over the UK”.
He told British Asia News the trustees and committee members are all volunteers and for the event they had called upon more volunteers to help whom they call ‘the stars of the background’. Kishan has been around since the temple was established with only 3 murtis (idols) and very few devotees, since then the temple has grown from strength to strength now having a large number of members and professionals from Doctors, accountants, university members who are all involved. He emphasised that this was a very multicultural society where all Hindus are welcomed and have been attending for 50 years.
Lord Mayor of Manchester Abid Latif Chohan and various dignitaries from as far as temples in Blackburn attended. Mr H D Seth, who in his lifetime has achieved the British Empire Medal (BEM) by her Majesty the Queen for community work and an ex-trustee who first set the temple up with a group of like-minded people back in the 60’s was thanked on stage, by both the current trustees and Lord Mayor.
In an exclusive interview with Swami Shri Sharan Devacharya Ji he said to British Asia News “The temple has now been 50 years. The Hindu culture teaches us how to respect our parent’s people around us and to live in harmony and love. This has been our strongest goal post and it is amazing to see how so many Hindus have mixed with the British communities andhave come together today both young and the old to celebrate this day with us. And just how we respect our parents we are here to give our respect to Radha Krishna”.
I managed to catch Namratta Bedi, executive committee member whilst she assisted people and helped around, she is actively making sure the values are not loss as she understands that religion is not the first call in the next generation. She believes religion gives you the basis for what’s right and wrong and aims to find a balance with the current values and what Hindu traditions are.
Namratta said “I've been coming to this temple since 2001 but activelystarted getting involved for last few years. Reason for my involvement was to bring it up to speed with what and how the next generation see the temple…we are in a society where Hinduism is not your primary religion, so we have to find the balance to moveon and progress as time moves on. For example I have a 19 year old daughter who said I come to the temple and I just listen to the scripture but I don’t understand it, how are you going to make it interestingfor me, bring it to my level of understanding so I know why I come here and bow my head. And it’s not that my daughter does not believe in the religion she just needs a better understanding”.
Maneet Kapoor, Trustee and a pharmacist who is a proud born and bred Mancunian has been involved with this temples congregation for 40 years now, in the days as a child it was a community hub with activities, and now he volunteers his time.
Maneet said “Last 8 years I've been an executive members and past 4 years I've been a trustee. As anexecutive member you are very hands on at each event, right the way from serving the food, organising, directing traffic etc. As a trustee it is a holistic approach on how can the temple afford things, strategy etc., we are like any other voluntary organisation. To make a big deal about the 50th celebration I’m proud that I was part of the think tank. We thought let’s get some big figures in,especially from Vrindavan and we can have them over seeing a Yagya which is the prayer around the fireand the whole point of this is for world peaceand community cohesion, so we are thinking slightly outside the box, we believe prayers with fire in open air send out positive vibrations”.
We also got to speak to this first generation who I witnessed buzzing around the temple helping serve food, carrying boxes around and generally being helpful. We spoke to Reya Tandon (age 14), Nikkita Sudd (age 15) and Nikita Arora (age 15) they together told us they “come as a social, we meet our friends and like coming” they feel the temple can do more to promote events such as Navratri so it attracts more people.
Kishan (age 20), Arjun (age 18) Borvan (age 12) who are locals living around the corner and visit weekly tell British Asia News “our parents wants us to come but we find it within ourselves it’s good to come, when we have stresses at school and university it’s good to come and relax your mind here and do a bit of prayer…there is a language barrier about scriptures and bhajans and it would be great to have more of a translation”.
Amit Kumar anorthopaedic surgeon again born and bred working in Manchester“it’s good to see how things have evolved and how we are developing to encourage the modern generation to get more involved. Socialmedia plays a big role, leaving the paper format and going online, means more people can get intune, we reach out to more within and beyond Manchester; we are also in touch with the university. I bring my children here and I've been coming here since I've been born”.
Dinesh Arora has also helped to bring the temple online and keep it updated with his career in IT, as the vice president. “Coming from an IT background I have been involved with the website, emails, memberships etc. We have structured the website; Rajeev Arora initially developed it and still helps with the website as part of his Seva. Since my involvement I've aimed to develop to attract the youngsters and more young families through social media and tech. we have worked with the council to make us more visible with signs on the main roads and streets as we are based in a residential area. Shastri ji has played a big role; he is the temple priest but personally connects with everyone and is very proactive. He is doing a very good job.”
Indu Seth the general secretary of the executive committee mentioned the hard work, team and time and dedication which have been invested into the celebrations. She came into Manchester since she got married 49 years ago and she has been attending since. Her whole family has been living the life alongside the temple and she said “it has been a wonderful experience I have seen the community and mandir change over the years and makes me feel very proud”.
Professor Gandhi for about 20 plus years has been member of the executive committee and said “There are not many people who have time to devote service to the community, with family commitments and work it is difficult, this is a job which requires unsociable hours and dedication hence more suited to a retired person. So my role has moved around from general secretary to president and vice president and I have done this for more than 15 years”.
His academic experience as a professor means he has been able to organise conferences on behalf of the temple. “I introduced for the first time to our temple a national religious conference now running for 2 years and we invite speakers from universities, hospitals, government organisations. I usually organise events which have not been organised before, we organised a GKI World Peace Builders Exhibition, highlighting examples of 3 great people, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Daisaku Ikeda in collaboration with SGI UK, and it was well attended with over a 1000 people. At another exhibition organised in October 2012 all the oldest relics belonging to Lord Buddha for the first time ever in Manchester attended by about 3000 people including VIP’s, MP’s various museums it was realan eye opening exhibition.
The experience bought in by Professor Gandhi has helped to bring in the younger crowd get people connected and inspired, bringing in his skills and expertise to organise unique exhibitions and like he said “this is a pride for our temple also Indu Seth and myself have been organising and overlooking the religious visits from various schools, this has all been done in Ghandi hall and hasbeen putting the temple and community on the map. This is the greatest service the temple can offer our community”
I thought it would be best to let the people who have lived the life of this temple for the past 50 years tell us why it is so special and how we have come today to be at Manchester’s 1st Hindu temple dating back to the 1960’s when the first migration of Indians came to the UK and set up life for themselves. Swami Shri Gyananand Ji Maharaj gave an exclusive interview to us in the video below proud of the community and what they have achieved. The 50th anniversary event, the temple, the people, the Swami Ji’s and certainly the organiser’s filled everyone’s hearts beyond culture, race, gender and spread the wish of everyone to live together with love, bringing a sense of community cohesion and certainly the positive vibrations. The community that settled here in Manchester 50 years ago now have 3 generations and are moving with the times to evolve their traditions into modern day British living.