Hindu worshippers hope to foster links with the wider community at temple open day

Hindu Temple at Tunstall. Worshipers at the temple, left to right, Vandana Khurana, Kiran Kumar, Par

Hindu Temple at Tunstall. Worshipers at the temple, left to right, Vandana Khurana, Kiran Kumar, Paresh Patel and Sunita Nagpal.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

You may drive past it and wonder what’s going on now at the former pub on the side of the Acle Straight.

Now, as part of its efforts to forge links with the wider community, the Hindu temple is holding an Indian Summer Fair.

The former Stracey Arms pub and restaurant, which sits on the banks of the River Bure near a drainage mill, was empty for several years before it was bought by Hindu worshippers to build the first temple of its kind in Norfolk.

The temple draws in people from across the county as well as neighbouring areas like north Suffolk and beyond, and its existence represents the culmination of a long-held ambition for the local Hindu community to have their own place of worship.

“When we started 16 years ago, we weren’t that big a group ... but over time we felt the need for a place of our own,” said Kiran Kumar, a Lowestoft resident and member of the temple’s executive council.

Reaching the point where the community has ample space dedicated for its use, has not been easy.

Their original place of worship was the church hall belonging to St Mary’s, a Catholic church in Great Yarmouth. But the members felt the absence of having their own premises, and space became an issue.

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“They were very kind to us, to let us pray on the second Sunday of each month. But the congregation has increased. A lot of people have moved into the area,” said Sunita Nagpal, a Great Yarmouth GP who is the temple’s president.

As well as being the world’s third-largest religion, with more than one billion adherents, Hinduism is also one of the oldest, dating back more than 2,000 years. It does not have a single founder, it includes elements of a number of philosophies and traditions, and it encompasses a range of beliefs about God.

Worshippers dug deep into their pockets to fund the purchase, and much work on the building was needed as it had a leaking roof and a rat infestation. Despite funds being tight, the group carried out repairs and installed new flooring, and they appreciate the ample kitchen facilities, which can be used for preparing meals for special events. In keeping with popular practice for many Hindus, all food is vegetarian, and alcohol is not allowed.

A registered charity, the Vedic Cultural Society of East Anglia, has been set up to manage the affairs of the temple, which is thought to be the only one of its kind in Norfolk.

Forging links with the wider community is something the members are keen to do.

They have visited local schools to give assemblies where they explain Hinduism to the children, and everyone, including people of other faiths, are welcome to visit the facility to see what a service involves.

“There’s no restriction here: anybody who wants to come here can come and use it,” said Sunita.

From midday to 5pm on September 4 that is open to all, not just people who practise Hinduism. There will be food stalls, sari stalls, henna painting and much else.

The temple is located on the outside of the “Halvergate turn” on the A47 from Acle to Yarmouth.