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Saturday, 24th February 2024


The brand new and epic multi-million pound Sanatana Hindu Mandir on Ealing Road, Wembley, North London


Culture is innate. It is an inner programming of the mind and its thought processes. It is complex, and has many variables and influences. It is also not constant - it changes and evolves through time.

On Day 2, I visited the beautiful new Sanatana Hindu Mandir on Ealing Road in Wembley, North London. It is literally a stone's throw from the Wembley Stadium, and is so grand and different to traditional British design and architecture, that it just draws people in. I saw children being mesmerised by the colourful Gods and Goddesses, and the sheer experience of peace and beauty all at the same time. Yes, peace need not be compromised for beauty and can co-exist with it. Faith art has a hidden magic in it which inspires and uplifts the spirit to new heights of possibility.

Hindu culture is holistic and pluralistic - in-grained in the Hindu thinking and moulding of a child is an open-ness to different colours, animals, nature and ideas. This early programming helps build open-mindedness. I dont believe all cultures are equally open-minded. Research shows that prejudice is often sub-conscious. Just the very fact that many animals are revered as gods in a Hindu temple is staggeringly unique and different - Hanuman, the monkey god and Ganesh the elephant God are highly revered in the Hindu pantheon. Some scholars have argued that one reason these myths were written was to educate people about the importance of respecting animals, and by sculpting them in the temples, they were given the highest respect and honour.

I interviewed Jay Lakhani of the Hindu Academy, an eminent educationist who participates in a lot of inter-faith dialogues, and is a scientist by training. He travels all over the country to teach Hinduism and his lectures are very well received. He is able to speak fluent English and answer the critical questions posed to him in a scientific way. Many young Hindus have been inspired by these and through them have developed a modern Hindu identity.

Next stop was Wellingborough, where we visited a small family business, Bidd Enterprises and interviewed a Jain Masterchef, Hansaben Shah. They came to the UK some 40 years ago, and never looked backwards to their life in East Africa, focusing instead on building a new future here in Britain. Hansaben's video interview is very inspiring and shows clearly her business ethic of satisfying the customer first, before looking at the profit or return. The happiness and smiles are more important to her than her financial statements. It was very clear in her mind that life is transient, and whilst on this planet, she wishes to cultivate and spread happiness. She made sure all her employees were treated fairly and never acted as a boss or treated them as servants. And she can cater for up to 3000 people at a time. In fact the box of sweets she giftes us was itself a work of great art - and something which is ephemeral as it will disappear once eaten. It was a genuine offering of her soul. Her brothers run Bidd Enterprises, which had two different businesses - one in book distribution, and one in traditional Indian snack foods. Their son Ashish is now about to take over the businesses into a new level and brought his modern thinking and training into the business.

When we arrived in Leicester at our host families home, Dr. Vivian Golding and David, we were welcomed very warmly. Dr. Viv Golding is a Lecturer in Museum Studies at the University of Leicester, which boasts one of the best such departments in the world. She has been fascinated by the innovative work of Diverse Ethics and loves the concept of the Masala Tour. She hosted a lecture of mine on the theme 'Celebrating Diversity in Museums'. I explained to staff and research students that embracing diversity requires one to shift thinking, allowing different cultures to participate in the presentation and interpretation of their heritage. Faith is a key component of a huge amount of world art, and cannot be ignored when the art is displayed or presented. The lecture was warmly received.

In the evening, we came home to a freshly cooked dinner and had a lovely conversation on a range of subjects. Relaxed conversation among people of different cultures is critical to building bridges and understanding in our increasingly stressed and rushed world. We were given Diwali sweets by Hansaben Shah, which we all really admired and shared. The food had travelled from Wellingborough to Leicester, but with it was the smile and spirit of Hansaben. If we infuse our work with spirit, success is bound to come, and peace can spread in this way to transform hearts and minds.

Article added on 4th November 2010 at 8:40am