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07 April 2015

Hindu Temple ● by Jess

Last week, my friend Rachel and I went to visit the Hindu temple in Neasden. It's the very first traditionally built Hindu temple in Europe and it is GORGEOUS. Because it's a sacred space, we were only allowed to take photos outside the building, but we were able to go in to observe the holy spaces for worship.

Confession: Prior to this visit, I knew embarrassingly little about Hindism, other than their belief in reincarnation. Rachel and I were pretty much flying blind as tottled into the sanctum, the heart of the temple. Fortunately, when we walked in there were a million primary-aged children (on a school trip) running around, so that took the pressure of silence and decorum away for a moment while we got our bearings. 

The carvings were staggeringly beautiful-- so intricate and delicate-- it was like marble lace. Within the sanctum is a cupola with an arched ceiling that goes up into a three dimensional mandala that sort of makes your heart hurt it is so beautiful. Around the room were stone pillars, with hand carvings of gods and goddesses in their various reincarnations.  

Around walls of the main space were smaller rooms with statues of people set into scenes. They were unnervingly lifelike (although smaller than the average person). I'll be honest, at first sight, it felt like one of those films with the dolls that suddenly jump to life. I felt a tad uneasy not knowing what I was looking at.  

Fortunately, thickly accent believer came to our aid. The man explained that the statues were sacred images of their Deities, and were the most important part of the temple (This, of course, had to be explained to me later by Rachel as I only understood about fifty percent of his words, and comprehended even less).

To their Hindu followers, these images, or murtis, are very real. Temple patrons give them food and even close the doors to their rooms to allow them to sleep. The murtis are a physical receptacle for their Deities to reside. Because of the murtis, the temple is a place for their Gods to literally live and commune with their followers.  

It was a really beautiful and I'm so glad I had a friend to experience it with me. I really enjoy living in a place that has such a multiplicity of religious and cultural experiences. I feel like learning as much as you can about other people's lives and beliefs can only serve to make you more empathic and, hopefully, a better human being.

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