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Two new kovils in Berlin for Lankan, Indian worshippers

After years of praying in a cellar in a west Berlin street, the German capital’s 6,000 Hindus can look forward to worshipping in two brand new temples.

A local Hindu group announced plans to build a temple to Lord Murugan, just three months after other Hindus conducted a groundbreaking ceremony for one dedicated to the deity Ganesha. “We want to create a religious place for worshippers from the South India and Sri Lanka,” said Nadarajah Thiagarajah, Chairman of the Sri Mayurapathy Murugan Temple Association. The association has agreed on terms with local officials in the Berlin suburb of Neukoelln to buy a 744-sq m plot of land for the temple for $260,000.

The total cost of the project is expected to be around $890,000, with the bulk of the funding coming from donations from Hindus in Germany, Britain and other countries, said Thiagarajah.

“We hope that construction work can start in July when a festival dedicated to Murugan takes place,” he said.

When completed at the end of 2009 the temple will be able to accommodate 120 worshippers. It will have an 11-metre-high tower that its designers say will symbolise the link to heaven.

“Our present quarters in the Urbanstrasse are too small,” said Thiagarajah, a 62-year-old former radio officer in the Sri Lanka Navy who has lived in Germany since 1981.

Thiagarajah says the new temple is not meant to rival the larger one dedicated to Ganesha, which will also be built in Neukoelln, a working-class district with a large immigrant population and widespread unemployment.

“We are on very friendly terms and often meet up together,” he said of the two groups.

Vilwanathan Krishnamurthy, Vice President of the Sri Ganesha Hindu Temple Committee, said the Murugan temple backers were asked if they wanted to join forces for a single project.

But they declined because they wanted one to their own god, who stands for war as well as beauty and family values. Most of the Murugan worshippers are Tamils from southern India and Sri Lanka.

Work on the Ganesha temple is expected to begin in April. Original plans called for it to be completed in 2009, but it looks as though it will not be finished until a year later.

The temple trustees say they have already amassed the $1.33 million needed for the complex from donations made by Indian businessmen and other worshippers.

The temple will be constructed in a corner of the 84-hectare Hasenheide Park after officials in Neukoelln allowed the Hindu community to use the land rent-free until 2080.

The original design comes from an Indian specialising in temple architecture. German architects had to vet the drawings to make sure they conformed to German building requirements.

A 17-metre high ornamental tower dominates the entrance to the complex, which will contain one large temple with seating capacity for more than 350 and four smaller temples.

“Work on the tower and its ornamental carvings will take more than one year,” said Krishnamurthy, who also chairs Berlin’s Tamil Cultural society and gives dance and music classes in his spare time.

Stone carvings decorating the entrance will be imported from India.

The Berlin sites will bring to three the number of Hindu temples in Germany after the one in Hamm, a city of 150,000 in the populous western state of North Rhine-Westphalia. When completed, the Ganesha temple will be the second biggest in Europe after the Shri Venkateswara, which opened near Birmingham, England, in August 2006.

Hindustan Times



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