Page last updated at 01:08 GMT, Wednesday, 12 May 2010 02:08 UK

The temple in a tiny bedroom

By Catrin Nye
BBC Asian Network

Hindus are currently marking the holy month of Adhik Maas and for many in Britain, the seaside getaway of Clacton-on-Sea has become an unlikely focal point.

The Hindu temple in a suburban home

It may not quite be on the banks of the Ganges, but the beach location of the Essex town and its own tiny temple have combined to help turn it into a venue that up to 700 Hindus from the UK will flock to during the month.

Adhik Maas, also known as Purushottam Maas, runs between 15 April and 14 May. It is an extra month that occurs every three years in the traditional Hindu lunar calendar.

In India, many Hindus mark the month by taking a holy bath every day, as they believe water has cleansing and purifying properties.

However, in England, one holy bath in Clacton's sea and being blessed at its tiny nearby temple is as close as people can get without making a long-haul flight.

In the last 30 years we've had between 60,000 and 65,000 visitors to the temple
Dhirajlal Karia

The temple was set up in 1979 by Dhirajlal Karia and his wife Sushila, as there was not one nearby.

They situated it in the tiny spare bedroom of their house in Coan Avenue.

They flew hand-carved statues of religious figures over from India, and the room was officially named as a holy site after a 72-hour non-stop ceremony carried out by a priest who also made the trip from India.

"In the last 30 years we've had between 60,000 and 65,000 visitors to the temple," said Mr Karia.

"They are blessed in the temple and then downstairs they sing hymns, they chant mantras and they are so happy.

"They feel that this place is their own, their own home, and that's what the temple is all about."

The Karias are especially busy during Adhik Maas. One such party of worshippers to visit them is a 60-strong coachload of women from Wembley, in north London.

For them, the trip to Clacton-on-Sea served as the best of both worlds.

Firstly, they went to the beach and bathed in the sea before performing a Puja - a religious ritual - which saw the party sit in a circle on the sand and chant, clap, sing and light candles.

Hindu worshippers take a dip in the water at Clacton-on-Sea
Hindu worshippers take a dip in the water at Clacton-on-Sea

Following a picnic, they then headed to the temple to be blessed by Mr Karia as part of their pilgrimage.

They lined up along the stairs as the procession through the tiny temple took place, before the group filled the living room of the house for more singing.

"It's more personal than temples in London which can feel quite commercial," said Pratipa, one of the party from Wembley.

"It's by the sea which makes it much more special in this month. I've not seen anything like this in the UK and it reminds me of India."

Sheila echoed: "In Britain I have never seen anything like this - so peaceful and near the sea."

Lassi and chai

The coachload from Wembley depart after five hours, although it is not the end of the day for the Karias as a family arrive with newborn baby Simmi, who is to be blessed in the temple.

Finally, there is the evening shift and the last load of visitors.

The Karias have an open house policy which means nobody is turned away, and Sushila just about has time to hug her guests in between making rounds of lassi (Indian milk-based drink) and chai (tea).

It is a heavy workload and strain for the Karias, but there are no complaints as they gear up for yet more worshippers.

"It's really hard work but I really enjoy it, and I know when people come to my temple they enjoy it," said Mrs Karia.

"When they enjoy it I feel privileged that my personal house is used as a temple."

You can hear more on this story on the BBC's Asian Network Reports radio show or via the BBC iPlayer.

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