New temple for ‘bravest of brave’

RITUAL: Women from the camp make offerings at the temple

RITUAL: Women from the camp make offerings at the temple

First published in North Dorset by

SOME of the fiercest soldiers in the British Army enjoyed a serene opening to their Hindu Temple in Dorset.

The Gurkhas are known as the "bravest of the brave" and have been recruited into the Army from Nepal since 1857.

Now their signals unit based at Blandford can enjoy somewhere to worship, and socialise, after Tuesday's ceremony.

There is a permanent Gurkha staff of 30 at the camp with up to 60 soldier students on signals courses, and there are 39 Gurkha families at the base.

The temple will be served by the equivalent of a priest, called a "Pandit" - the name is the origin of our word "pundit".

Outside is a ceremonial square where back home live animals like goats would be sacrificed - in Britain, cucumbers and other vegetables are used as stand-ins.

Soldiers can pray before battle to the god of strength, Hanuman, or to the goddess of death, Kali.

Hindus celebrate 15 ceremonies a year and Pandit Jagadish Paudel said: "The soldiers come to pray many times especially if they are going to be sent to fight."

Sgt Kamal Guring, 36, said: "It is a proud day for us.

"At the moment we do the ceremonies in our houses."

Binu Limbu, 29, a soldier's wife with 28-month-old son Manobal, said: "This will remind us of home."

The Queen's Ghurkas Signals is more than 500-strong and a detachment has been based at Blandford since 1990.

Commander Lt Col Chris Ford said every place in the Gurkhas attracts 1,200 applicants. The unit and rest of the signals school is due to move to Wales in 2012 or 2013.

The building will be kept as a temple if more units with Hindus move into Blandford, reused for other faiths, or used for normal duties.

Padre Andrew Cooper said: "I think it's great, it's right in the middle of the camp by the church."

Mayor of Blandford Steve Hitchings said: "The camp is integral to the town and the Gurkhas are a fundamental part of the camp."

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