The History of the Balaji Temple
The temple opened in 2006 but was conceived of in the 1970s when a group of Vaishnavist Hindus decided they would build in Birmingham a temple inspired by the Balaji Temple in Tirupathi, South India.
Throughout the 80s they held monthly then weekly prayer meetings in Handsworth and as their numbers grew so did their enthusiasm for the proposed temple. In 1984, a 15 person committee was formed dedicated to making the temple a reality.
The committee set about raising funds immediately and in 1997 they found and purchased a plot of land. This was in Tivdale to the north west of Birmingham and had formerly been a farm and a tip. It was now to become their temple.
Planning permission was secured and designs were drawn up, and in 1999 the foundation stone was laid. The buildings were constructed and consecrated in phases until, in 2006, it had been completed in its entirety. It opened to the public and the local Hindu community has not looked back since.
Today it hosts a school, a community centre, a Gandhi Peace Centre and shrines to Vishnu, as well as Shiva, Hanuman, Ganesh and more.
Vaishanvism and the Balaji Temple
Vaishnavism is the world's most popular form of Hinduism. It is an ancient religion with disputed origins. It most likely emerged in Northern India some time between the 700-300 BCE.
There are many different types of Vaishnavism but all believe Vishnu is the main god. Many sects think of him as the sole supreme being from which all other deities are derived. Some even think of physical reality as a whole being his body.
On top of maybe being the world, Vishnu also preserves it. When evil grows too strong he appears in the flesh as one of his avatars, many of which are human. He then seeks to restore goodness and balance.
In some ways Vaishnavism is similar to Christianity: Vishnu is the one true God, but also part of everything, like the Christian 'holy ghost', and sometimes a flesh and blood human, like Christ. At the same time it is distinct and multi-faceted containing a wide variety of sub-sects that are wildly different too each other and even more wildly different to any western faith.
It is today practiced throughout India and the world, including of course in Birmingham!
Visiting the Balaji Temple
The temple is open from 9am-1pm and then 5pm-9pm on weekdays, and from 9am-2.30pm and 4pm-9pm on weekends and bank holidays. It is a 1.1 mile walk from Sandwell and Dudley train station and can also be reached via the 87 bus from Birmingham city centre. For drivers free parking is available including disabled spaces.
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