Peterborough is a Cathedral City situated in Cambridgeshire of East Anglia. In 1996 Peterborough with then population of approximately 50,000 was declared as a New Development Town with the establishment of the Peterborough Development Corporation, under the power of the Central Government. This opened a wide range of opportunities for employment as well as the business.
There were probably less than ten Hindu families who had settled down in Peterborough prior to 1972. In the later parts of the year (1972) the tyrant leader President of Uganda, East Africa. Idi Amin Dada issued a decree to all the Asians, holding a British Passport, to leave the Country within 90 days. Hearing the plight of these British Asians. Peterborough City Council was the first local authority in the County to welcome around 30 families in the City. A special team of officers was set up to assist them financially and morally, giving them all the support they needed as refugees, in terms of allocation Council Houses and assisting them in the job market. The majority of these families were Hindus who came in the City from various Uganda Resettlement Camps around this area.
Self –introduction and introduction of these families to each other was carried out by a very tiny group of sympathetic members. A get together was organized by these families and a party was held in Town Hall to thank the Council, and the officers for their hard work in settling the Hindu families. All those present decided to form a Hindu association were firmly placed in the ground. Due to the job opportunities in the City, there was an influx of a large number of families in early 1973, mainly from Uganda and others from Kenya, Tanzania and India also came to settle in this part of the County.
‘Bharat Hindu Samaj, Peterborough’ was established as a Hindu Association in the middle of 1973 with a proper Committee formed to run the organization . The first Hindu festival of Navratri was celebrated in 1973 which was organized by the committee and had hired a hall in St John Street. In the meantime a constitution was drafted for the Association and was approved and adopted at a public meeting duly convened on the 15th day of November 1974 at the Assembly Hall of Linden’s County Junior School, Craig Street, Peterborough. This was a vision and a dream that was seen by many foresighted Hindus and hence the birth of Bharat Hindu Samaj. (The Hindu Association).In accordance with the Constitution, the Samaj caters for the social, cultural and religious needs of the Hindus in the City. With the colonial background of the countries of their origin, Hindus have well settled in different fields of life, have a better understanding and living in harmony with the indigenous population of the City of Peterborough.
The Hindu Families form an integral part of Peterborough’s local community and contribute to the economic, social and cultural aspect of the City life. We believe, as an ethnical minority group. We ought to retain our cultural and religious heritage and thereby enrich the City’s emerging multi-racial sprit. There were plenty of job opportunities in large in an industrial /commercial firm like Baker Perkins, Peter Brotherhoods, and Hot Point, Freeman’s and Thomas Cook etc. Some business minded members of the Community plunged into various types of business and many have been very successful. Within a very short time, these families settled down well in the City.
With the City‘s well –planned expansion programmers, our strength has been considerably increased in the past three decades. The Association had set its foundation with as few as 30 families, increasing to approximately 350 families at present, scattered over a large area of East Anglia. Throughout the year Bharat Hindu Samaj organizes various social, religious and cultural activities and festivals such as Janmastmi, Shivratri, Ram Navmi, Navratri, Ras Garba, Diwali and New Year celebrations, along with spiritual and religious recitals from the Hindu epics. Members of various other Communities, school children and teachers from various schools around the area and other dignitaries of the City are invited at these functions in order tt enhance their knowledge and understanding of our Hindu way of life in general and our religion in particular. The majority of this programme was and is still being organized by hiring large Community Centre or School Halls. Our Hindu ladies have always upheld our traditional moral and cultural values in the Society and have successfully organized and represented the Association in various other events organized by other Association.
Since the establishment of the Association, over a number of years, the Hindu population of about 1200 strong had been seeking a permanent place of their own where they can get together for social, religious and cultural functions. Around 1983/84 a dedicated team of Committee Members and Trustees approached the members the members of the City Council and the Cambridge shire County Council and convinced them by presenting a case for an urgent need of a building/place for the Samaj. After lengthy negotiation and influence involving the Member of Parliament, our long cherished dream was looming on the horizon. Unit number four of the former St Paul’s School became available for the Association to be used as a Community Centre. This was a completely derelict building and required a lot of structure alterations, including new flooring, internal and external renovation, decoration etc. The Samaj had no funds available to carry out such massive improvements to the building and, therefore applied for Urban Aid Grant to the Department of Environment, canvassing through various bodies/groups to whom we were affiliated. After a long wait in 1984, we were very fortunate to have our grant application approved by the Department. We received a sum of approximately £80,000, through the City Council, the highest grant any Association had received in East Anglia at that time. A building contract was prepared and the work on the building had started in the later part of 1984. The Association acquired the possession of the completed building in June 1986 and the Leases Agreement between the Trustee and the Council was formalized with effect from 1 July 1986.
The Peterborough City Council, having recognized our honorary services to the Community, offered our Association to receive a recognized status of an official Community Centre. We willingly accepted and necessitated amending our constitution in line with the Council’s requirement. The new Constitution along with the new Lease document were formalized and adopted in 1993.
A two-classed room in the premises of the Community Centre was allocated for the Mandir activity, where, since 1986, the Hindu families prayed to only the single dimensional pictures of their beloved deities. Initially, portraits and photographs of the deities were placed on hand carved and decorated stage still carrying out the family rituals and pooja. Subsequently, a program for MUrti Pratishtha was initiated. The design and the architecture of the proposed temple were carried out in-house by members of our own Community. We are most fortunate to have the members who possess the technical expertise in the field of Building, Art, Architecture, Engineering and a remarkable strength of unity with the spirit of co-operation and devotion. The Idols of the deities superbly sculptured in marble were imported straight from India.
We received a generous donation of these statues of the deities ( Murtis) from an honourable devotes of Hindu religion. Shree Ram Bapa of Jignashu Satang Mandal, London. It had been our dream to have a purpose built shrine reflecting the artistic architectural and cultural richness of the Hindu Culture. Finally, a long cherished dream of having a proper Hindu temple in Peterborough became a reality. An enormous programme of Murti Pratishna Mahotsva was organised for the weekend on 12th,13th August 1995. The ceremony of the Murtis Pran Pratishtha was initiated and conducted by Right Honourable Param Pujya Shree Swami Satyamitrananda Giriji Maharaj. Numerous Dignitaries and representatives of various Hindu temples in the Country attended this auspicious occasion. Following the rituals ”Shree Ram Mandir” of Bharat Hindu Samja was declared open from this weekend.
Since 1974, following the adoption of the constitution. Every year the Trustees and the Executive Committee in power for that year have always ensured that the accounts of the Samaj are properly audited and the election for various posts are held in at the Annual General Meeting. Bharat Hindu Samaj is one of the Communities in the City, very well recognised by the City Council and other affiliated Departments/Organizations and at the same time has upheld the objectives of the Association in full.
In the time of need, emergencies, and /or natural calamities / disasters our Association has been in the forefront and generous and have forwarded donation to other charitable organisation not only in this Country but other Countries including India
In recent years we have several Hindu Communities joining us, and they became members of the Samaj. New members are from Tamil, Telugu, Punjabi, Nepali, Bengali etc.
We welcome the visits from the schools in the area and from various statutory & voluntary organisations for educational purpose.
We take enormous pride of the fact that until today the organisation has been running on a totally voluntary basis, the only employee being our poojari (priest) to the temple. We celebrate a number of main festivals in the Hindu calendar, plus help to organise individual members’ private religious & social events. our finances are mostly dependent on the donations by the members.
Our regular activities include lunch clubs for seniors on mondays & tuesdays, balgokulam for children of 5 – 12 years of age, gujerati language classes. we are soon going to start hindi language classes too. Number of our members of both genders use our main hall for badminton on regular basis.
We have two daily services (aartis) one in the morning and another in the evening.