Culture festival gives temple bid boost

A FLAVOUR of Indian culture came to Ipswich as the town played host to its first summer mela.While money is being raised for a temple in the area, record numbers enjoyed a day out at the Hindu celebration, held on the lawn in front of Christchurch Mansion yesterday as part of the Ip-Art festival.

A FLAVOUR of Indian culture came to Ipswich as the town played host to its first summer mela.

While money is being raised for a temple in the area, record numbers enjoyed a day out at the Hindu celebration, held on the lawn in front of Christchurch Mansion yesterday as part of the Ip-Art festival.

Colourful saris, delicious spicy cuisine and a variety of music entertained more than 1,000 visitors to the park throughout the afternoon.

Dr Sushil Soni from the Ipswich and Suffolk Indian Society said: “I'm delighted with how the mela went. It was a great success.

“We want it to be a permanent fixture in Ipswich and to make next year's mela even bigger.”

The growing Indian community in Suffolk are hoping the event's success will boost their campaign to set up a temple in the area.

Most Read

The nearest Hindu temple is in London, and now people from India are keen to have somewhere to worship together and which can serve as a focal point for their community.

Dr Soni said an increasing number of Hindus in the area meant that the lack of a temple for them was becoming clearer.

He said: “In the 2001 census there were 1,700 Indians in Suffolk and about 1,000 of them - 60 per cent - are Hindus. That number has continued to rise steadily.

“In Ipswich there were 900 Indian people, of whom 500 were Hindus - and again that number is rising.

“Until now people have been content to worship at shrines in their own homes, but there is a feeling that as a community we should have our own focal point.”

Dr Soni said there were already a Sikh temple and two mosques in Ipswich.

Now the Indian society had set up a campaign for a Hindu Samaj Mandir, or temple.

“We know this is a long term aspiration and at the moment we are in the process of gathering support for the proposal.

“Realistically we are not looking to build a new temple, but looking for a suitable building that we can take over and convert to our needs.”

The proposal has already gained support from Ipswich borough council and the county council which have met with Dr Soni and other Indian leaders to discuss the proposals.

There is widespread support for the idea from the Indian community and the wider Ipswich society - including local MP Chris Mole.

Dr Soni said: “There are an increasing number of Indians moving into the area, especially connected with the IT industry at Martlesham.

“They are very keen to build a sense of community and developing a temple would help that.”

If anyone wants to support their attempts to set up a temple, contact Dr Soni at 72 Belmont Road, Ipswich or by e-mail at sushilsoni72@yahoo.co.uk

Mela is one of the most colourful and exuberant traditions originating from the Indian sub continent. The name comes from Sanskrit 'to meet'. It is celebration of art, craft, culture and community.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter