Saturday, 10 March 2012


Tenth stage on the Holi Yatra Sponsored Walk with Leicester Friends of Oxford Centre for Hindu StudiesBAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, at the corner of Catherine Street and Gipsy LaneThe goal is to visit 15 Hindu places of worship 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.)

While we're here my iPhone battery gives up the ghost - and so do I. There are still five stages of the Holi Yatra Walk to go and it's already past 1700. Early promotion for this event said it would last from 1100-1700, which was later changed to 0900-1700, then while we've been on it, the end has been moved back again to 1900. At this point I think that's a bit optimistic - especially for me.

As my fellow yatris head off along Gipsy Lane toward the next stage, I make my way in the opposite direction uphill toward the 53 bus back to the city centre. I’m alone but for a matter paneer in nan with salad and chilli sauce, from the Blue Chippy across the road from the mandir. To the casual observer, at certain moments it would be hard to tell whether I'm trying to eat it or it's trying to eat me.

Here are the final five mandirs I don't get to visit today. I don’t know the order in which the Holi Yatra Walk is stopping at them, so don’t take this as a route.

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