A small, temporary stage was set up at the front of the big prayer hall and decorated with bright and colourful decorations. Small idols of Ram, Sita and Lakshman were carried in individually in a procession. The procession saw the devotees singing and dancing, some holding beautiful parasols for the elderly couple carrying the Ram and Sita idols. The scene couldn’t have been much different than the ‘baraat’ ceremony seen in Hindu weddings.
With the stage all set, the Saturday and Sunday evenings also saw a host of performances by dancers, bhajan singers, poets and young children learning Indian classical dance. The festivities also included some customary wedding fun such as ‘the bride’s side’ (who all wore pink sarees to show which side they were from) vs ‘the groom’s side’ engaging in some pre-wedding banter.
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The Sunday evening, when the ‘saat phere’ and ‘jay mala’ ceremonies took place, also saw a string of amazing performances from talented diaspora artists. Another element which drew plenty of (well-deserved) attention during the evening were the two young children dressed as Lord Ram and Goddess Sita, who sat right beside the stage where the idols were kept. Decked out in intricate wedding outfits, the young talent drew praise and smiles from everyone present.
Vivah Panchami is one of the most auspicious times in the Hindu calendar, on which Hindus the world over celebrate the divine marriage anniversary of the divine couple Ram and Sita.
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Although it was the first time ever that the temple celebrated this festival, Gita Bhavan is known for its many events throughout the year. Janmashtami, which celebrates the birth of Krishna, is one of the highest attended events at the temple, with people from all age groups taking part through skits, dances, singing performances and much more. Another crowd-favourite is the Ganesh Chaturthi festival, held only a few weeks after Janmashtami. The event is usually organised by the Marathi community in Manchester and brings in many talents from the community to put up a great evening of festive fervour and spirituality.
The Gita Bhavan Hindu Temple was started by just five Hindu families in 1987. The then-church was slowly repaired and renovated with help from the Manchester City Council. Today, it stands as a beautiful Hindu temple, complete with temple-style domes, and is one of three Hindu temples in Manchester. Together, they make the most important arenas for the Hindu community to get together and celebrate their heritage.