The History of Hindu Cultural Society of Bradford
The majority of Hindus came to the U.K in the 1950s, 60 and 70s in search of work and to meet the economic needs of their families back home. Most of the Hindus came to the U.K from Punjab and Gujarat in India and also from East Africa in the 1970s. In the beginning years, they faced severe hardship and struggle to make both ends meet, and lived in very poor conditions. It was a matter of survival. They worked very hard, often working long hours to establish themselves in the U.K. Most of them had young family’s. Once they were fully settled in the U.K, they felt the need to create a commonplace, where they could meet regularly to meet their Social, Cultural, and religious needs. They felt that if they didn’t take action then, they and their children may lose touch with their religion and culture.
I would like to mention the names of some of the people, who took this initiative to establish an institution to safeguard the interest of the Hindu Community. They were Mr K.K Mittal, Mr Saxena, Mr Jagdish Chawla, Mr P.N Chawla, Mrs Popli, Mr Bhola, Mr Balwant Rai Sharda, Pandit Hari Krishan Sharma, Mrs Ram Piari Sharma, Mr D.N Prabhakar Mr Tirath Ram Sharma Mr Sohan Lal Dharni Mr Raj Pal Dharni and many more. Mr Jagdish Chawla was the 1st elected president of the Hindu Cultural Society of Bradford.
In 1968 they formed the Hindu Cultural Society of Bradford and adopted a constitution to promote Hinduism in the region and to safeguard the interest of the Hindu Community. They started looking for a suitable place to establish a Worship Hall. But all their efforts were unsuccessful, as they could not find a suitable place, which they could have converted into a worship hall or a Temple. Then the Hindu Community decided to establish a make shift temple in a House and so bought a house in Bradford 7 and set up a temple in a Terraced House. They then started going round Hindu community member’s houses to conduct Sunday Kirtan to raise funds for a bigger place.
In July 1973, the Hindu Culture Society of Bradford managed to buy the 311-321 Leeds Road. Planning permission was obtained from the Bradford Metropolitan Council to establish this Worship place for the Hindus of Bradford and the surrounding areas. The prominent members of the community such as Mr K.K Mittal, Mr Tirth Ram, Mr P.N Chawla, Mr Saxena and Mr Bholla gave personal guarantees to the bank to obtain the necessary loan to buy this building. The community members worked very hard to clean this building, to bring it to the standard, so that they could establish a place of Worship.
On 3rd of August 1974 Murti- Procession of deities took place around Bradford and Murti Sthapan was performed at 321 Leeds Road, Bradford, and the first Hindu Place of Worship was established in the city of Bradford. It was a very joyous occasion for the Hindu Community of Bradford. The new Temple was decorated with 5 beautiful paintings of renowned artist such as Shri Shanti Dutta and Prof P.B Lal, which was funded by the Yorkshire art council. As the Hindu community grew in and around Bradford, The Hindu Cultural Society of Bradford began to realise the need of a bigger Purpose built Temple for the growing needs of the community. From 1980 to 2000 various members of the Hindu Community served the Hindu Culture Society of Bradford in various capacities and worked hard to promote Hinduism and to safeguard the interest of the Hindu Community.
I would like to mention the names of Mr S.L Khanna, Mr R.P Johar, MR D.D Sharma, Mr A.K Gautam, Mr K.D Soni,, Mr Mukesh Chawla, Mr Murari Lal Gupta, Mr Rajeev Deweedi, Mrs Saroj Joshi, Mr K Prabhakar, Mrs Pushpa Prabhakar, Mrs Sheela Prabhakar ( Known as Mata Ji) Mr Gian Chand Sharma, Mr Subhash Dharni and Mr A.P Dharni. To obtain the grant from the local authority Mr D.D Sharma, Mrs Sushma Puri and Mrs Neelam Devesher advised and helped the Hindu Cultural Society. I am also grateful to Mr Yash Pal Bhalla for his efforts to collect money for the new Mandir project through Mata Ki Chowkies .
The New Temple
The idea of having a purpose built temple gained momentum and a Building committee was formed under the Chairmanship of Mr A.P Dharni to build a new Temple to meet the growing needs of the Hindus in Bradford and surrounding areas. The other members of the committee were Mr Rajeev Deweedi, Mrs Pushpa Prabhakar, , Mrs Saroj Joshi, Mr Baldev Krishan Bhardwaj, Mr Subhash Dharni, Mrs Neelam Devesher. Mr Kamal Jit Sharma and Mr Ashok Nair were appointed as Co-ordinators of the new Mandir project Building Committee.
On 14th of May 2006 the stone laying ceremony was performed in a very low key affair and the contract of £2.7 million was awarded to Brenville construction company to build the first ever purpose built Hindu Temple in the North of U.K . When we started this project, we only had £300,000 in our bank. The project progressed well in the initial stages, but soon it ran into difficulties due to financial shortages and other problems. Then we realised the need of a religious leader, who could guide us through the very difficult times and who could help us on the religious and spiritual side of the temple. With the kind grace of God, we came into contact with Dharmaratna H.H Swami Sri Gopal Saran Devacharaya Ji Maharaj. He very kindly accepted our request and assured us he would render all his help. He visited the temple for the first time on 5th May 2007 and advised us about shrines and deities. It was on Swami Ji Maharaj’s kind advice that we decided to install Shree Lakshmi Narayan as our main deity and name our Temple as Shree Lakshmi Narayan Temple. We then applied for a bank loan. With a lot of difficulty and hard work, we managed to obtain £1.2 million of Loan from Lloyds TSB Bank.
Many members of the Hindu Cultural Society of Bradford gave an interest free loan for the new Temple project. Since Swami Ji Maharaj joined us, the new Temple project gained impetus and progressed very well. On 24th of May 2007 Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II and Duke of Edinburgh came to Bradford to inaugurate the Worship Hall of Shree Lakshmi Narayan Temple. It was a Historic moment for the Hindus living in the U.K, as it was the very first time that Her Majesty the Queen had inaugurated the Worship Hall of any Hindu Temple in the U.K and abroad. Despite all the financial and other difficulties, we have managed to complete this Temple. I think all the credit goes to our donors and the members of the Hindu Cultural Society, who donated generously towards this very prestigious Religious place.
I am very grateful to H.H Swami Sri Gopal Saran Davacharya Ji Maharaj for his dedicated and devoted services towards the Shree Lakshmi Narayan Hindu Temple. I feel without His Holinesses services, we would have struggled to complete this project. Mr Rajinder Pal Shukla and Mr B.C Mittal worked very efficiently to maintain the financial account of the Hindu Cultural Society. My special thanks go to all the members, who worked very hard to realise this project such as Mr Balakrishnan, Mr Baldev Krishan Bhardwaj, Mrs Saroj Joshi and Mr Kamal Jit Sharma. I sincerely hope that the new Temple will bring peace, prosperity and harmony among the Hindu Cultural Society members and help to bring the community together. I feel that this temple will be a source of inspiration for many generations to come and put them on the path of righteousness.
I pray for the unity and strength among the Hindu Community in the U.K – Mr Kamal Sharma