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Photo by Bidhata Rai

Free food for body and spirit at Jalaram Temple

by Bidhata Rai

The Jalaram Jupdi Virpur Temple in Stains Road at Hounslow West offers free meals to both devotees and non-believers everyday.

“The free meals have whetted my appetite for the religion and I visit the temple almost everyday”, says 43 year old Sangita Basnet, who’s a regular at the temple.

According to Ashok Bhatt, 50, the priest at the temple, the place becomes crowded from 1 to 2:30 pm when free meals are distributed.

The temple was first established in 1990 at Norwood Green School under Shree Jalaram Seva Trust. It started the trend 9 years ago and has seen the number of devotees increase since then. The free meals have become the temple’s trademark.

What’s the key ingredient in the successful running of the site, which offers free lunches to the community? Is it the spiritual devotion or is it the free meals?

Many of the people Skinflint spoke to admitted that they go to the temple for both reasons.

Other activities

The members of the temple celebrate each festival enthusiastically.

Every Hindu festival is marked with "bhajans" or Hindu traditional songs during which time devotees throng the temple. No one who enters the temple leaves without having a free meal.

From strip club to sacred place

“The building used to be an extension of a pub, where strippers performed. It’s a lot more respectable now”, said Mr. Mahendra Gokani, chairman of the temple's Trust.

The different usage of the space has given the site a religious fervour. Where people visited the place for alcohol and other entertainment purposes before, they now come for food and prayer.

According to Gokani, devotees hand in around £30,000 annually to the Trust which manages the site.

"Our service is the same but devotees make less offerings now than before," said Gokani.

 

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