Local calls for the first Hindu temple to be built in Oxford have been backed by the President of the Universal Society of Hinduism, Rajan Zed.
Zed urged the international Hindu community to come forward and support the Oxford Hindu Temple & Community Centre Project in a statement made in Nevada, USA.
On 3rd January, Zed also Tweeted: “There is urgent need of #Hindu temple in Oxford England to meet spiritual needs of about 10,000 area Hindus & #Oxford University students”.
St Edmund’s Hall student Suriya Prabhakar commented: “As a former president of the Oxford Hindu Society and having had quite a religious upbringing, it always upsets me that there is no religious site to which we Hindu students can go to pray. Of course we have the OCHS (Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies), but although we have a weekly aarti (prayers and discussion), it is restricted to a maximum of two hours every week, which makes it difficult for students who are either busy at that time, or who would prefer to go somewhere to pray in solitude, so to speak.
“I very much respect the facilities that the OCHS has to offer, because it is the only thing I have that is closest to going to a temple, which I was extremely grateful for particularly at the beginning when I found out there was no Hindu temple in the Oxford area. So all in all, I find that this campaign really has potential, and the fact that Rajan Zed is backing it is definitely a positive thing. I hope that the plans can be implemented soon and although I can’t speak for all Hindu students, I believe a Hindu temple would be a great addition to Oxford for the local Hindu community.”
While Zed has stated there are around 10,000 Hindus in the Oxfordshire area, the 2011 census only identified 3878. The Facebook group for Hum Soc, Oxford University’s Hindu Society, has 789 members.
Oxford Hindu Temple & Community Centre Project chairman, Dr Gyan Gopal, said he was “surprised” that Mr Zed had backed the project but “really pleased that it’s gone international”.
The project called for international support in August 2009, but Mr Zed’s comments are the first breakthrough in the international arena since then.
Dr Gopal continued: “Of all the major faiths, Hinduism is the only one not to have a communal place of worship in the county of Oxfordshire.”
While there are no public Hindu temples in Oxfordshire, there is a private temple in Middleton Stoney.
In order to build a place of worship and meeting for the Hindu community in Oxford, the project has a fundraising target of £500,000.
To date, the project has raised £110,000, through a combination of donations and fundraising events, including their annual Summer Mela, which raised £4,500 last year.
Zed further argued in his statement that Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council should contribute towards the project.
Previous applications for funding to the two bodies have been unsuccessful, and neither Council were able to provide further information as to the reasons behind this.
Dr Gopal said that the councils were “all very supportive of the idea, but they are unable to provide any serious support”.
The project is now considering using the funds raised towards getting a mortgage to buy a property, but need more people on regular donation plans to demonstrate they have regular income to meet the payments. Currently, only 15 families are contributing every month.
Oxford University Hindu Society declined our request for comment.
Image: Diane Black