History of Temple
From its humble roots, half a century ago, this steadily growing Hindu temple is now regarded as the largest of its kind in the UK and Europe. Each year, an increasing number of devotees and visitors, currently nearly half a million, visit the temple. Many visiting groups including over 10,000 students from schools, colleges, and University, come to the temple for guided tours.
The journey began in the late 1970s when a group of Hindu Diaspora from the Indian sub-continent shared a vision to create a temple, a sanctuary for prayer, and meditation. The inspiration was the Venkateswara (Balaji) temple located in Tirupathi, in South India.
Initially, the group held regular monthly community prayers at Shri Geeta Bhawan Mandir in Handsworth, Birmingham. In 1980, a deity of Lord Venkateswara, set in an ornately carved wooden Mandapam, was installed in the Mandir. Monthly pujas were performed, initially on the first Sunday of each month and then weekly every Sundays, attended by hundreds of devotees.
Support for building a purpose-built Venkateswara temple grew wider. In October 1984, a fifteen-members management committee was elected to take on the task of raising funds and finding a suitable land. The 15-member committee headed by Dr Agnihorti met regularly in each other’s homes to discuss the ways of realising their dream. A new charity, Shri Venkateswara Balaji Temple, (SVBT) was established and registered in November 1984. After four years, the members decided to change its structure to a five-members elected Trustees. Consequently, the first Board of Trustees were elected in 1988 headed by Dr Narayan Rao. The search for a suitable site and to raise the funds needed to realise the dream began in earnest. An army of dedicated members worked relentlessly searching for suitable land and to gain support from the wider section of the community.
In 1995, a swathe of disused land in Black Country was seen by the searching members, ideal for their dream temple. The land was acquired from the Black Country Development Corporation (BCDC) with the benefit of planning permission to build a Community Centre and a temple.
The land in Tividale was a disused Brades Hall Farm and a tip called Monks Tip. The site was generous and was bounded by a canal to the West, a stretch of river Tame to the North and a narrow busy road A457 on the South.
Plans for an ambitious scheme involving a Temple and a community centre were prepared and the task of raising the necessary funds began. The temple was designed by Prof. Adam Hardy, a research fellow in Indian architecture. In 1996 the Millennium Commission approved the scheme for a grant by way of matching funding. The foundation laying ceremony (ritually sanctifying the ground) was held in 1997. The advice was also sought from Dr Dakshinamoorthy in India, a specialist in the Temple design according to Vedic rules (Stapathi). The main temple was built reflecting the South Indian Dravidian styles with distinctive granite hand-carved Gopuras (towers) incorporating many traditional stone carvings.
The East facing temple complex with shrines and the main Gopura is planned symmetrically about an East-West axis. The access road from the main road on the South leads one to the courtyard through the Entrance Gopura opening onto a vista with shrines on both sides and the imposing main temple with grand ceremonial stairs in front.
The installation of various deities took place from 1999 onwards. The Kumbabishekam (Consecration ceremony) of Lord Ganesh temple was the first milestone in the functioning Shri Venkateswara Temple.
The shrine for Muruga (Subramanya Swamy) was consecrated in 2000 followed by a shrine for Navagraha in 2003.
The community hall refelecting the Buddhist style of architecture was completed in 2004.
The main temple for Lord Venkateswara was completed and consecrated with a Kumbabishekam in a grand celebration in August 2006.
The following year, the ornamental pond (Pushkarani) was opened with the statue of Anantha Padmanabha in the Anantha Shayana posture on the serpent Adi Sesha.
The Kumbabishekam of Lord Shiva followed in 2010. The Shiva Linga in the Shiva shrine is unique in that it is a 'swayambu' linga meaning 'naturally found'. It was taken from the river bed of the Ganges in its origin Gangotri.
Shridi Baba was installed in Baba shrine and consecrated in 2011.
The Yagasala, the hall for performing yagnas (Homam), the first of its kind in UK was completed and became a daily functioning sacrificial ritual hall in 2014.
The complex also includes seven symbolic Hills dedicated to major faiths. A statue of Buddha carved in wood by a local artist was installed on a hill dedicated to Buddhism in 2001, The wooden statue was later replaced by a granite Dharmachakra (Wheel of Dharma). The Christian Hill was formally opened by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams in 2008 unveiling a plaque with a quote from the bible. In September 2013, the Zoroastrian Hill with a steel sculpture by a local artist to represent the faith was erected. The other Faith Hills represent Jainism, Sikhism, Islam and Judaism. The temple facilitates Interfaith events.
Gandhi Peace Centre, the first of its kind outside India, was built in the Balaji grounds and opened its doors in 2018 with a grand opening ceremony presided by its donor Mrs Rajashree Birla of Aditya Birla Group. It is a simple circular building, containing exhibits showing the life and times of Mahatma Gandhi and space for study, yoga, and meditation.
The development of the complex is still continuing with plans for completing the processional way for the chariot, a dining hall, and to complete the extensive landscaping before a long-awaited Maha Kumbabishekam of Lord Venkateswara.