Closing Hindu Temple would be 'step backwards for Bath'

Dr Yukteshwar Kumar (right) at Bath's Hindu Temple
-Credit: (Image: Dr Yukteshwar Kumar)


Closing Bath’s only Hindu Temple would be a “step backwards” for the city, a Hindu former councillor on Bath and North East Somerset Council has warned.

Since 2021, Europe’s only Shree Jagannatha Temple has been based in the former classrooms of Culverhay School, later Bath Community Academy. But now two new schools are set to be built on the site — but it means that the Hindu Temple will have to move out next summer.

But former Bath and North East Somerset councillor Dr Yukteshwar Kumar, who is Hindu himself, warned this was “a decision that threatens to dismantle a vital and vibrant part of our community.”

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He said: “The Bath Hindu Temple has been more than just a place of worship; it is a cultural hub and a source of solace, support, and education for many. It has served as a bridge, connecting people from diverse backgrounds and fostering a sense of unity and understanding.

“The temple’s presence in Bath enriches our city by promoting multiculturalism and offering everyone a glimpse into the rich traditions and practices of Hinduism.”

Bath's Hindu Temple -Credit:Susmita Rajhansha
Bath's Hindu Temple -Credit:Susmita Rajhansha

Dr Kumar was elected onto Bath and North East Somerset Council as a Liberal Democrat councillor for Bathwick in 2019, but lost his seat in 2023 after he defected to the Conservatives. In 2021 he was the first Asian deputy mayor of Bath and his first deputy mayoral engagement was the opening of the temple. But he said he had “lobbied vigorously” on the issue since even before he was elected, helping to work on getting the space since 2013.

The idols at the temple -Credit:Susmita Rajhansha
The idols at the temple -Credit:Susmita Rajhansha

He said: “The proposed closure undermines the principles of inclusivity and respect for diversity that our city stands for. It disregards the needs and sentiments of the Hindu community, who have contributed significantly to the social and cultural fabric of Bath. Moreover, the temple provides numerous community services, including proposed language classes, cultural events, and charitable activities that benefit the broader population.

“I urge the local authorities to reconsider this decision and explore alternative solutions that could address the concerns leading to this proposal. Whether it involves relocating the temple to a more suitable venue or providing financial assistance for necessary renovations, it is crucial to keep the temple doors open.

“Closing the Bath Hindu Temple would be a step backward in our collective efforts to build an inclusive and harmonious society. I call upon the readers, local officials, and the wider community to support the preservation of this invaluable institution. Let us work together to ensure that the Bath Hindu Temple continues to thrive and contribute to the rich cultural tapestry of our city.”

Bath's Hindu community at the Rath Yatra -Credit:Susmita Rajhansha
Bath's Hindu community at the Rath Yatra -Credit:Susmita Rajhansha

Speaking after the plans for the two schools were approved earlier this month, Paul Roper, Bath and North East Somerset Council’s cabinet member for economic and cultural sustainable development, said the council would engage with the temple over the plans. He said: “We realise the sensitivities of it but the need for educational use is a strong one.”

The Culverhay site has been protected for education since Bath Community Academy closed in 2018. Now the Department for Education has said it will build two new schools in Bath: a new school for children with special educational needs and disabilities, and an alternative provision school for vulnerable pupils at risk of permanent exclusion.

Most of the old Culverhay School buildings will be demolished in early 2025 to make way for the new schools, but Mr Roper said the building containing the Hindu Temple would be retained until July 2025 to meet their requirements to move at certain times. He said: “We are not just kicking them out.”

Ashish Rajhansha, who with Susmita Rajhansha founded the Hindu Temple, said it would take at least six months to build a temporary site that the temple could move into, and warned that the temple may have to close for a period if a new location could not be found in time. He said: “It will be very painful for us if we don’t find somewhere very quickly.”

He added: “We always knew we had to move out at some point but the amount of time is not good enough.”