Joydeep Ray, NDTV, Wednesday, May 10, 2006 (Talaja):
A few days ago Vadodara was burning with communal violence but a temple in Gujarat is a perfect example of religious harmony.
It has been said quite often that India is a country riddled with contradictions and a newly constructed Hindu temple built on a land donated by a Muslim is one such perfect example.
The temple in Talaja in Bhavnagar district though doesn't seem much different from thousands of temples across the most communally divided state.
Breaking caste barriers
The temple will be officially opened on Thursday but it is already more than a place of worship.
A local Muslim doctor donated the land worth crores of rupees to the Hindus and its construction cost was borne by Muslim villagers.
Now, when the temple is complete, thousands of villagers irrespective of their religion are preparing a feast for 1.5 lakh villagers who will attend the inauguration.
"Since childhood, I always thought that one day I would construct a temple where idols of so many Gods would be kept. And also people from all religions would come and visit the temple and that was my inspiration," said Abidbhai K, a Muslim villager.
Interestingly, rich donors had offered huge contributions to the temple trust, which were turned down by both Hindu and Muslim religious leaders.
"The specialty of this temple is that it has not been built with the help of rich people who came with lakhs of rupees but with the contribution of poor villagers who gave small amount of money, some may have paid five rupees, some people paid Rs. 50 and some others hundred rupees and that's how we have developed it," said Sree Arvindbapu Dev Murari, a Hindu religious leader.
Construction work on the temple is over but the spirit continues.
Villagers are now pooling in money to build a hostel for mentally challenged children on the temple premises.
They say handicapped children will be accommodated here free of cost regardless of their caste, creed or religion.
The villagers also plan a shelter for old cattle on the temple grounds.
This Hindu temple at Talaja is definitely a landmark of communal harmony in Gujarat and now local religious leaders want to replicate the model elsewhere too.