Feb 1, 2012

Members of the Nepalese Hindu Forum UK (NHFUK) made a pilgrimage to the Balaji temple at Dudley, Birmingham which is constructed in the style of Tirupati Balaji in South India. The visit of the temple by the Nepalese community was initiated as the chairman of the temple Dr N Rao had repeatedly urged us to visit the temple. Nepal being the only Hindu nation (Nepal was officially a Hindu nation before the declaration of secular state) in the world, there is a great reverence to the Nepalese community. The temple management had the plan to invite Nepal’s then King Birendra to inaugurate the temple but unfortunately that plan could not be materialized due to the mysterious assassination of Birendra at a palace party in June 2001. We, a group of 20 members of the NHFUK, from London, Bracknell, Farnborough, Swindon and Reading went to the temple coinciding the day of Makar Sakranti and group Satyanarayan Puja in the temple.
Nepali Hindu Immediately after our arrival we were given a warm welcome and bestowed special treatment despite our request to proceed the programme in a normal way. Dr Rao and spiritual guide Ram ji greeted us with a great enthusiasm and charm. Shree Ram ji shed light in detail from the origin of Hinduism which became Hindu from the river Sindhu as the Persian pronounce “H” instead of “S” to the construction of Balaji temple, one of the biggest Hindu temples of Europe. He was so articulate and knowledgeable about Hinduism that we were completely awestruck, enthralled and absorbed. We entered into the temple amidst the chanting of the Vedic hymn of Satyanarayan Puja, where hundreds of people had participated on the occasion of Makar Sakranti. More than 100 couple had booked the puja and hundreds of other people attended as devotees in the joint puja in the temple conducted by pundits of South India. About 3,000 devotees visit the temple every week, according to the temple officials. The temple is set in a 21.5 acre site, with a number of different shrines and other facilities and it has grown over a 10-year period to become physically the largest South Indian temple precinct in Europe.
Religious places are for all- irrespective of their colour and creeds. Religion should be like the definition of democracy by Abraham Lincoln who defines democracy “for the people, by the people and of the people.” So is religion. Hindus have that open and liberal heart. And religious place of any faiths should generate that feelings inside human beings- the feelings of compassion, friendship and love and only that can ensures the safety of our universe. In this context, the temple burgeons spiritual feelings even entering the temple premise which is located in a beautiful area with green faith hills created with the feeling of promoting friendship and understanding among the religions. There are seven peaks in Balaji temple in Tirupati Andhra Pradesh India. The seven peaks, representing the seven heads of Aadisesha which we can read in our scriptures as Seshachalam. The seven peaks are called Seshadri, Neeladri, Garudadri, Anjanadri, Vrushabhadri, Narayanadri, and Venkatadri. The temple is on Venkatadri, known as the Temple of Seven Hills.

So there must be some connection between these seven peaks and hills but seven is considered to be lucky symbol in Hindu tradition. This is one of the attractions of the temple complex that includes seven Faith hills created to represent seven major faiths in the United Kingdom. Lord Buddha's statue, carved by a local sculptor, was installed on one of the hills in May 2001. Christianity faith hills was laid by Arch Bishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams in 2008 bears a plaque with an inscription “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbour as yourself.” The temple has set aside the hills devoting to different religious faiths including Judaism, Jain, Shikh, Islam, Christianity and Buddhism in accordance with the great Hindu tradition of tolerance, fraternity and brotherhood and respect to other beliefs. Though Hindus respect other faiths and some sects even pray and worship the Gods of other faiths, this is most probably the first temple to give space to other religious faiths presenting a clear illustration of great Hindu tradition of tolerance and friendship. The temple, which is constructed in the style of Balaji in Tirupati houses Ganesh, Murugan, Shirdi Baba, Navagraha, Lakshmi, Shiva and Hanuman Shrines. Faith guide of the temple Ram Athal said the temple also runs a School for Vedic heritage which organizes a weekly Sunday school for children between the ages of 5 and 12 in order to ensure the best possible teaching, understanding and practice of Hindu Dharma and values.
After the puja, Indian origin children and students of School for Vedic heritage run by the temple, read the story of Satyanarayan giving life to the great Hindu scriptures which were passed from one generation to another for centuries. "The aims of this school are to preserve and promote Sanathana Dharma, to inspire children and provide an opportunity for them to learn about their rich heritage, to develop a positive personality based on physical, spiritual and mental development and to create an environment where children learn, enjoy, make friends and learn new skills." In order to gain a broad understanding and an appreciation of this vast field of knowledge, various scripture and epics such as Ramayana, Mahabharatha,Shrimad Bhagavad-Gita, Bhagavatha Purana and the moral values, Bhakthi, Prayer, Worship and Pooja Hindu Rituals in their historic context and their relevance today are taught in the school. The way of righteous living, known in Sanskrit as Sanatan Dharma is timeless and eternal and it is the foundation stone and a guiding light for every aspect of living, including one’s conduct in life, pursuit of knowledge and its objectives. Chairman of the temple Dr VP Narayan Rao shed light in detail to the Nepalese Hindu Forum members about the construction of the temple and they wanted to inaugurate the temple by then king of Nepal Birendra but the plan could not be materialized after his assassination in June 2001 mysterious palace massacre. One of the founders, Dr K Somasundara Rajah 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. We said we should build a replica of the Tarupati Temple in South India." Dr Rajah and Dr VP Narayan Rao have spent 30 years planning the temple which is one of the most sacred sites in the Hindu tradition. Nepalese Hindu Forum UK expressed their happiness for the construction of such a temple.
The group pilgrimage which was the first of its kind in the United Kingdom by Nepalese community has given a lasting impression with the firm determination to continue that tradition and encourage other members of the community. The excellent management of the temple, the beautiful location and the excellent arrangement of the puja was exceptionally magnificent. Members of the Nepalese Hindu Forum appreciated the hospitality and warm reception of the temple officials particularly Dr Rao, Dr Rajah, Ram ji and the priests. On behalf of the NHFUK, Chairman Surya Upadhya sent a letter to Dr Rao and management team for the warm greeting.