Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for April 26th, 2009

Shri Swaminarayan Mandir

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 26th April, 2009

shri-swaminarayan-mandir-murtiLast night, Nick Clegg, Sarah Teather MP, Sarah Ludford MEP, a group of Brent LibDem Councillors and I were guests the Sri Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden — according to the Guinness Book of Records, the largest Hindu temple outside India. It’s certainly an impressive place. The main prayer hall seats over 2,000 people, though it is the smaller upstairs space housing the five sacred shrines that is the most inspiring, with its intricately carved Italian marble that was worked on by craftsmen in India, then shipped over to London to be assembled like a giant jigsaw. Opposite the temple is a high-achieving faith school, which follows the British curriculum.

Sarah Teather, as MP for Brent East, has built a strong working relationship with the Bachasanawasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS), the socio-spiritual organisation associated with the temple, in which the practice of volunteering is championed. There are only eleven employed people at the temple, as everything else is done by volunteers. Today, a sponsored walk will be setting out from its grounds, to raise money for charity.

In his speech to devotees at last night’s gathering in the main prayer hall, Nick congratulated the community — many of whose elders were expelled from East Africa in the 1970s — for its contributions to British society and its upholding of family values such as respect for the elderly, some of which he felt the rest of British society could usefully learn from.

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