AN INTERNATIONAL religious statesman has backed a campaign to give Oxford its first Hindu temple.

Rajan Zed, president of Nevada’s Universal Society of Hinduism, has urged the global community to support the Oxford Hindu Temple and Community Centre Project.

Mr Zed said a permanent base was vital for the county’s estimated 5,000 Hindus.

He added: “A temple is urgently needed for Hindu students at the University of Oxford so they have a spiritually meaningful life in addition to material success after they graduate.”

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The project began five years ago after members realised there was nowhere in the city for them to hold community events and communal prayer.

About £2m is needed to buy land in Oxford, which would, it is hoped, contain a temple and a community centre.

Members of the 300-strong project group have so far raised £110,000, but need community and faith groups to help their quest for a home.

Their efforts have been praised by Mr Zed, who said it was important to share the Hindu culture and traditions with younger generations.

He added: “Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council should also contribute towards it so that their Hindu citizens have their own worship place like other major religions.”

Project members have welcomed the support received from across the United States.

Chairman Gyan Gopal said: “It’s great the appeal has gone worldwide, really fantastic.”

Volunteer Kanta Gopal added the support has inspired committee members to continue with their fundraising.

She said: “The whole committee is really excited. It is the best news I have heard.

“We really have now got people sitting up and listening. It has taken a bit of time, but now we have been recognised, we hope it will accelerate and we will fulfil our dream.”

It is hoped the community centre would host lunch clubs, games sessions and dance and language classes.

Mrs Gopal said: “There are so many places for other faiths and organisations and really nothing for us and it’s a shame for Oxford.

“That’s why the Hindu community is so fragmented. Having a focal place, we can bring the communities together.”

Committee members are looking to raise at least £500,000 this year so the group can afford a mortgage for a temporary base in Oxford.

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