Hindus celebrate in Bath despite plans to demolish temple

The Ratha Yatra in Bath on 7 July 2024
-Credit: (Image: Susmita Rajhansha)


Hindus from across the country headed to Bath to celebrate a major annual festival at the city’s Hindu Temple at the weekend.

At the Ratha Yatra, idols of the Lord Jagannath and his brother and sister are taken outside of the temple and paraded in the street in decorated chariots. Nearly 1,000 people are believed to have attended the Ratha Yatra at the Hindu Temple in Bath on Sunday July 7, where a nearly three hour procession took the chariots along Rush Hill.

Bath’s Hindu Temple is the only temple dedicated to Lord Jagganath in Europe. But the celebration happened under the shadow of the fact that the temple will be demolished next year.

READ MORE: Man has face rebuilt by surgeons after it was ripped off by his dog

Idols of the Lord Jagannath and his brother and sister with food laid out for the Ratha Yatra at the Hindu Temple in Bath
Idols of the Lord Jagannath and his brother and sister with food laid out for the Ratha Yatra at the Hindu Temple in Bath -Credit:Susmita Rajhansha

READ MORE: Ten people including children swept out to sea and rescued in West Country

The Shree Jagannatha temple opened in 2021 in old school buildings of the former Culverhay School, moving in on a temporary basis as the school had closed. Now Bath and North East Somerset Council plans to demolish the school buildings to build two new schools on the site. The part of the site containing the temple will remain until July next year to allow more time for the community to find a new temple.

Susmita Rajhansha, who founded the temple, said: “People come here, sit together, eat together, and drink together. [...] They also said: ‘Where do we go for the next Ratha Yatra?’

“It really depends because what's happening, we don’t know exactly.”

The Ratha Yatra chariot procession in Bath
The Ratha Yatra chariot procession in Bath -Credit:Susmita Rajhansha

Bath Mayor Michelle O’Doherty was at the Ratha Yatra on Sunday and the council has said it will engage with the temple over the plans. Paul Roper, the council’s cabinet member for economic and cultural sustainable development, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service when the plans were finalised in June: “We realise the sensitivities of it but the need for educational use is a strong one.”

The council plans to clear the site of the former Culverhay School and turn it over to the Department for Education to build two new schools: a new school for children with special educational needs and disabilities, and an alternative provision school for vulnerable pupils at risk of permanent exclusion.

Also speaking in June, Ashish Rajhansha of the Hindu Temple said: “This has been our home for about three years.”

He 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.”