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ARC Home > Projects > Sacred land :
Community | Hindu temple grounds in Birmingham

Hindu temple grounds in Birmingham

The Venkateswara Balaji Temple began with a simple idea. A group of British Hindus planned to reclaim industrial land near Tipton in the East Midlands and build a beautiful temple on it. They needed a centre for their community and Hinduism has a tenet of community service that the project embodies.

At first local people opposed them. Rumours flew – some people were afraid that the Hindus would not only take over the open space where they used to walk their dogs, but would also try to convert them to their religion.

The 12.5 acre site is bordered by a historic canal, woodland and hills just 5 miles from the centre of Birmingham
The Balaji organisers were sensitive to the situation and worked to build relationships with schools, churches and health authorities. They visited these places, talking about Hindu beliefs, and involved the community at all levels.

When the Hindu community first identified the site it was scrubby landfill with soil contamination. Hindus respect the earth and they wanted to do what they could to heal the industrially damaged landscape and reintroduce wildlife into it. There is a lack of clean green space in the area, and residents needed healthy open space to walk and exercise.

Local volunteers have helped develop the site into a healthy living centre. And for the wider community, when the site has been developed, it will be a place not just for recreation but for meditation as well, it won’t just be a matter of coming to the temple but you will be able to sit on one of the hills and have a half hour quietly by yourself and escape from life and relax. That is what is lacking here, somewhere safe and beautiful to do that.

In 2003 it still looks like a building site with a lot of work to do. So far there is a temple, and the community has planted trees and flowers and started to combat the contamination. But even more striking has been the turnaround in the views of the surrounding community – and none of the initial tensions have been realised.

Sacred Land has helped coordinate the project as an example that creates a real legacy for the future – not only buildings and trees, but also attitudes and acceptance.

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