Flowers, food and faith with new friends

Morpeth Totary at Newcastle Hindu Temple.
Morpeth Totary at Newcastle Hindu Temple.

THE latest meeting of Morpeth Rotary Club was a fascinating visit to Newcastle Hindu Temple following an invitation from one of last year’s speakers.

The visit was arranged by Nitin Shukla, who spoke about the Asian Business Connexions organisation as reported in the Herald in November 2011.

Instead of the traditional Tuesday evening meeting in Morpeth, 24 members and friends had a varied and interesting three-hour session at the Temple in Benwell.

Visitors were welcomed at 6pm by Nitin’s father, Dr Hari Shukla OBE, and by a very learned Hindu priest Krishan Attri.

Hari is the former Director of the Tyne and Wear Equality Council and a Freeman of the City of Newcastle. Mr Attri is the Hindu Chaplain to the British Armed Forces and speaks eight languages.

Rotarians were shown the place of worship as it was being prepared for the weekly Tuesday service and were given a talk on the Temple and the Hindu religion. Shoes were removed as a mark of respect.

There is a belief that there is one God for all mankind, but in the Hindu religion, God can manifest himself in many forms. The basis of the religion is peace, truth and love.

For services, the main language is Hindi, but is sometimes Bengali, Gujerati or even English. The religious texts are usually in Sanskrit, but that is a dead language like Latin.

As well as a religious centre, the Temple is an education and a social centre. Services are also held on Sundays and a vegetarian meal is always served afterwards. Respect for older people is a key principle, along with training young people to be good citizens.

The extended family is very important and few of the elderly go to care homes. The next nearest Temple is in Middlesbrough and for big festivals Hindus from a number of Temples will come together.

The service started at 7pm, but they are very informal and people come in and out at all times. Some pick up service sheets from dispensers on the walls.

It was planned to finish at around 8pm and Rotarians went in at about 7.45pm and were each given a handful of flower petals. The service actually ended at 8.30pm.

The worship room is very colourful with red, gold, orange and white and many of the ladies in saris. There are musicians, drummers and singers. A number of long, melodic and chanting hymns are sung and there are short sermons.

Many of the worshippers bring gifts to place next to statues of manifestations of the God. There are pictures of the God in many guises around the room.

A vegetarian meal of four different savoury and one sweet portion, plus naan bread, was served very efficiently to all 300 or so worshippers at the end. Nitin was a superb host along with all of the others at the Temple.