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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 August 2006, 00:31 GMT 01:31 UK
Temple rose from small beginnings
By Douglas Marshall
BBC News, Tividale

More than 30 years ago a group of Hindu worshippers had an ambitious plan to build a giant temple in their part of the West Midlands.

Shri Venkateswara (Balaji) Temple of UK
The temple is a replica of one of the holiest sites in the Hindu world

Now, after decades of searching for a site, a flirtation with bankruptcy and furious opposition from some locals, the founders say their dreams have come true.

They have built the Shri Venkateswara (Balaji) Temple, which is the largest Hindu temple in Europe.

And during the next five days more than 10,000 devotees are expected there as ceremonies are carried out to sanctify the building.

One of the founders, Dr K Somasundara Rajah, said he remembered the idea from the mid-1970s.

He 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."

'Dead bodies'

That temple is one of the most sacred sites in the Hindu world and has a distinctive architecture that has been followed in the West Midlands.

The group spent more than two decades trying to get funding and finding a suitable site for the replica.

Hindu deity

Eventually, in 1987, the then Black Country Development Corporation gave them the 13-acre site in Dudley Road East in Tividale, which had formerly been a tip.

Crucially the land came with planning permission in place for a temple.

"In spite of this we had a lot of opposition from the locals - there were rumours that dead bodies were going to turn up in the river," said Dr Rajah.

"We organised a meeting and nearly got lynched. But we went ahead with it anyway."

He said they wondered at times if they were too ambitious, and three of the founders had to put in 100,000 each to stop the temple going bankrupt.

"It came from small beginnings and it is wonderful seeing it being celebrated. It is a dream come true for all of us," said Dr Rajah.

Dr K Somasundara Rajah (l) and Dr VP Narayan Rao
Doctors Rajah and Rao have spent 30 years planning the temple

Scores of sculptors from India have worked on intricate carvings of Hindu deities which adorn the walls, pillars, ceilings and roof of the temple.

It has cost 6.5m to build and will need a further 1m to complete the landscaping around the temple, which is dedicated to Lord Balaji, an incarnation of the god Vishnu.

Some 15 priests have flown in from India and will perform ancient rituals in Sanskrit, calling on the gods to enter the temple, during the five-day festival.

Dr VP Narayan Rao, the founding chairman of the temple, said: "With the chanting of the Sanskrit only these people can do it. They are trained from the age of seven.

"They will also climb on to the roof of the temple and pour holy water over the whole building. Then it will be a sacred building."

In pictures: Tividale's temple
23 Aug 06 |  In Pictures


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