Hello, Hello, Hello!!
I know that I haven’t posted in a very long time. Unfortunately, I was previously busy with mid-term exams and such; and I’m now bogged down with coursework and more exams. This blog post is about a module that I am currently taking this semester as part of my undergraduate degree named ‘Studying Sacred Spaces in the City‘.
Here’s a very brief description:
“The module will explore the ways in which religious, romantic and real worlds collide and coalesce to create sacred places in the city. The module will raise and seek answers to many questions…. By bridging the gap between theory and practice, the module will discover whether sacred spaces, with their peculiar histories and reminiscences, tell the larger story of inclusion, segregation and adaptation in the city”.
It’s a very unique module as it requires us to do a semesters worth of fieldwork in the local community (Manchester), which is very different to the usual essay/coursework kind of modules that are usually the norm in many humanities subjects. My group has been visiting and working with the Gita Bhavan Hindu Temple in Manchester. It’s been an interesting and really insightful experience so far. Being students of Religion and Theology we learn so much about history and different religious traditions amongst many other things, however we have not yet been able to put our course into practice and conduct our own research. We have been able to establish a relationship with and meet so many friendly people who have taught us a great deal about the Hindu community within Manchester.
So far we’ve visited the temple a number of times, conducted interviews with the priest, children and other worshippers and members of the religious community. We’ve also been pretty lucky as we’ve managed to attend two festivals: Holi and Navratri. Many of you will already be familiar with Holi – a colourful festival marking the arrival of spring and rooted in mythological stories of Hindu figures. Navratri is something we’d never previously heard about. It’s a nine-day festival which occurs shortly after Holi and is dedicated to the worship of the Durga Maa (The Mother Goddess). Worshippers sing various Bhajans (devotional songs) and have feasts! Of course, the celebrations may differ from place to place – so it will be interesting to hear any of your experiences! (Please correct me if I’m wrong at any point.)
Giving Back to the Community and Public
For part of the course, we also have to make a knowledge product – which is basically our way of giving something back to the community we have been working with. For ours, we decided to get a little creative and make a YouTube channel! I think this will be a great resource for school teachers and any member of the public who wishes to educate others or themselves about what the interior of a temple looks like, the rules and etiquettes of entering a temple and the way in which worshippers pray amongst many other things! The main aim of the channel was to give back to the community, as I’ve previously stated, but also to provide a kind of visual or virtual tour or journey into a Hindu Temple. This temple is interesting in particular, as it houses a variety of different deities – whereas in India, the norm (after what I’ve learnt about during my first year) tends to be temples dedicated to individual deities.I think the previous is a similar trend in many temples throughout the UK and perhaps outside South Asia due to convenience. We’ve tried to encapsulate the main aspects of worship in a temple into the following two clips, also with an insight into why and how each deity is worshipped.
Part one: Entrance into the Temple and a Tour of the Deities.
Part two: The Community Spaces Within the Temple.
You can see more videos on by clicking on the following link: Gitabhavanuom or by typing it into YouTube which will hopefully direct you to our YouTube channel. It’s not yet entirely finished as we’ve got a few more trips to go, however, we have sorted everything out into mini playlists with a brief description for each. So I’m not going to bombard this post with any more of the clips. Okay, maybe I’ll add one… or maybe a few more! 😉
What does it mean to have a space where you can come and worship?
An Interview with the Priest’s Wife.
A Clip from the Navratri Festival.
One last thing that I’ll definitely say is that if you want to learn about different cultures, or religious traditions – next time, before embarking upon a journey to India, Thailand or any other country – an alternative way, or even an interesting day out could be by going to any place of worship or the space of a particular diaspora and immersing yourself within. Alternatively, you can try to get a feel for the place by simply observing, asking questions and exploring. Take your children, family members, friends, pupils or go yourself. You can gain so much by doing this and it could be a real eye opener: I know that I have certainly learnt a lot! Of course, it would be wise to contact the community you’ll be visiting to ask for a convenient time to visit. I know by past experience that Mosques, Churches and Temples are usually welcoming to visitors. You could also be a little alternative and try and find a Baha’i sacred space, a spiritualist Church…the list is endless.
Please feel free to share the above videos with anyone that may find them useful.
~ THANK YOU FOR READING AND MAKING IT THIS FAR! ~