Priests from Ganges shrine to watch work start on Hindu temple complex

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The Independent Online

More than 1,000 people, including priests flown in from a sacred Indian site on the Ganges, will gather today to mark the start of work on one of Britain's biggest Hindu temples.

More than 1,000 people, including priests flown in from a sacred Indian site on the Ganges, will gather today to mark the start of work on one of Britain's biggest Hindu temples.

Construction of the £3m temple, at the site of northern England's oldest Hindu shrine in Bradford, will be preceded by prayers from the priests of the Ganges shrine of Haridwar ("through the Lord's door").

But the extraordinary financial support of the Hindu community will add a distinctly more secular dimension to help the building on its way. Hindu leaders have been astonished by the response to their requests for funds for the building, which have reaped them £1.5m in only four weeks and demonstrated the considerable wealth of some in the Hindu community.

They are attributing the generosity in part to a reawakening of interest in the faith among first, second and third-generation Bradfordians.

"People born into the faith are wanting to immerse themselves in it again. It seems to be a sense of going back to their roots, and there are not the temples to sustain that elsewhere in the West Yorkshire region," said Dayal Sharma, president of the Hindu Cultural Society of Bradford.

"We expected people to donate as much as £250 each and no more than £1,000, but people across the country have got involved," he said.

With two £100,000 donations, from businessmen in Nottingham and Bradford, work will begin without a penny of grant aid. Bids are being made for European regeneration funds because the temple will stand in a rundown district.

The temple, complete with exhibition centre, conference and sporting facilities, will retain the original shrine's worship hall, built in 1966, but see the rest of the building give way to a number of new edifices. Statues of deities will be brought from the Indian subcontinent and traditional craftsmen will be attempting to create a structure based on principles of Hindu architecture. More than 300,000 devotees a year are expected to visit the temple, due to be completed in 2004.

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