Saturday, 10 March 2012


First stage on the Holi Yatra Sponsored Walk with Leicester Friends of Oxford Centre for Hindu StudiesShree Jalaram Prarthana Mandal, Narborough Road. The goal is to visit 15 Hindu temples (mandirs) in Leicester on foot today.

Holi (Hindi: होली) is a religious spring festival celebrated by Hindus, also known as the Festival of Colours. It is primarily observed in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal and in countries with large populations from India or of Indian descent who follow Hinduism.

Yatra (Sanskrit: यात्रा, "journey", "procession"), in Hinduism and other Indian religions, means pilgrimage to holy places and is generally undertaken in groups. One who goes on a yatra is known as a yatri. It is desirable, but not obligatory, for a Hindu to go on a yatra. One can go on a yatra for a variety of reasons, including festivals, to perform rituals for one's ancestors, or to obtain good karma. To traditional Hindus, the journey itself is as important as the destination, and the hardships of travel serve as an act of devotion in themselves. Visiting a sacred place is believed by the pilgrim to purify the self and bring one closer to the divine. (Thanks to Wikipedia for these definitions.)

Shree Jalaram Prarthana Mandal was the first purpose-built Hindu mandir in Europe. It was dedicated to public worship in 1995. Last year, a plaque was unveiled here celebrating the work of those members of the community who worked from as early as 1979 to raise more than £1,000,000 and establish this place of worship. His Excellency the Counsel General of India, Gururaj Rao, was the special guest at the unveiling of the plaque. This was reported in the Leicester Mercury (and covered in this blog, Tuesday 8 November 2011).

I lived in the West End of Leicester from 2006 till 2010 and my GP's surgery was opposite the entrance to the temple on Westcotes Drive (as seen in the photo above). So I saw quite a bit of this temple from the outside in those days. The only other time I've been inside was on one of the Peace Visits organised by Leicester Council of Faiths, in September 2009. The picture below taken on that date (not by me) is of a painting on the ceiling of the temple's worship hall. It contains images of prophets, teachers, messengers and founders of world religions, including Krishna, Buddha, Mahavira, Jesus and Guru Nanak.

The most striking external features of this place of worship are the large white turbans, facing on to Westcotes Drive (seen in the photo at the top of this entry) and Narborough Road, as seen in the photo below (by Ned Trifle, reproduced with permission).

When the group sets off, around 0930, there are around 50 of us. Next stop: ISKCON Temple in the West End.

I leave some fliers and A4 posters for the upcoming REDP event Choice Unlimited here (after asking permission, of course). I also leave information about the Council of Faiths next open meeting, a panel presentation entitled "God in my faith" coming up during the week.

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