Inside Diwali: Brentford Hindu Temple welcomes all

By Liz Cook
November 2 2019, 13:20

As the five-day Hindu Festival of Lights, Diwali, is celebrated this week, Brentford’s Hanuman Hindu Temple priest shares the importance of community and environmental care.

“Come in!” said Pavan Datta Nagaraju, Hanuman’s 29-year-old resident priest, who was dressed in a white t-shirt and sari, and welcomed guests through the temple doors. On day two of the Diwali celebrations, he spent his day greeting devotees who had come to pray and give thanks for ‘God’s care for his people’.

In 2016 Mr Nagaraju moved from Mysore, south India to south west London with limited English. He said: “This is my third year in the UK, I had never travelled outside of India before moving here.”

He relocated to be part of his ashram’s newly renovated temple in Brentford. Travelling from the ‘everyday festival’ feel of his Ashram in India.

His first few months in the UK were lonely and hard, but he said: “This community has been like family.” To his fortune, a community member spoke his native language, Telugu, and dedicated an hour every day to teaching him English.

Mr Nagaraju passed his English exams with a merit. He said: “I am thankful to her, I will always call her ‘Teacher’.”

In India, Mr Nagaraju was a ‘devotee’ of the temple’s 77-year-old founder and guru, known as His Holiness Dr Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swamiji (Sri Swamiji) who has founded 4 ashrams in India, temples in Switzerland, Germany and now the UK, and holds 8 Guinness World Records.

Sri Swamiji’s music, which plays in the temple’s background, led him to London where he performed in 2012 at the Royal Albert Hall.

After the temple was bought in an auction and refurbished, Hanuman Hindu Temple in Brentford opened its doors in 2016. Mr Nagaraju was requested by Sri Swamiji to leave behind his family and friends in India to become the resident priest.

The building is nestled on the quiet, residential street of Beech Avenue, between the thoroughfare of London Road and the A4, where Sky Studios looms above.

On Sunday October 27, day three of Diwali, the temple was filled with garlands, candles, and more than 50 brightly clothed guests. Mr Nagaraju explained that Hindus believe ‘the light attracts prosperity and wealth, and God settles where the light is bright’.

Amongst the decorations and hundreds of tealights, he led the Diwali service attendees through prayer and offerings of fruit, spices and coins.  After the service, he invited all guests to stay for dinner as a community.

Mr Nagaraju plans to settle his life in the UK, and will be married next year to a suiter of his guru’s choice. He looks forward to the ‘new responsibilities’ that a family would bring.

For now, his focus is opening the temple doors to the community every Sunday. Newcomers can join services from 10am or join free weekly yoga sessions on Sundays from 11am.

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