LONDON: A UK-based charity working on a project to build Britain’s first temple dedicated to Lord Jagannatha in London has welcomed a pledge of GBP 25 million from an Odisha-origin entrepreneur and hopes to get the first phase of construction completed by the end of next year.
Shree Jagannatha Society (SJS) UK, registered with the Charity Commission in England, said that global Indian investor Biswanath Patnaik made the pledge at the first Shree Jagannatha Convention held in London on Sunday.
Mr Patnaik, the founder of FinNest Group of companies, joins the company’s managing director, Arjun Kar, who is the UK-based principal donor of the project.
“Speaking at this occasion, Shri Kar announced that Shri Biswanath Patnaik has pledged a sum of GBP 25 million towards the construction of a magnificent temple for Lord Jagannatha in London, which will be facilitated by FinNest Group of Companies, of which he is the Managing Director,” the charity said in a statement.
The FinNest Group is an early-stage private equity investment firm that invests worldwide in renewables, electric vehicles (EVs), hydrogen locomotives, innovative technology and fintech. Kar also revealed at the event that the group has committed GBP 7 million towards the purchase of nearly 15 acres of land for the new temple – to be known as Shree Jagannatha Mandir London.
“A suitable land has been identified and is currently in the final stages of purchase, and a pre-planning application has been submitted to the local government council to secure permission for the Mandir’s construction,” the charity said.
In his message to the convention, which coincided with celebrations of Akshaya Trithiya over the weekend, Patnaik pledged his financial support for the construction of the temple and exhorted devotees to “work together with faith in Lord Jagannatha to make the dream of a Mandir a reality at the earliest”.
The convention, attended by Deputy Indian High Commissioner to the UK Sujit Ghosh and India’s Minister (Culture) Amish Tripathi, celebrated the UK tour of Gajapati Maharaja Dibyasingha Deb, the maharaja of Puri, along with Maharani Leelabati Pattamahadei.
“The most significant aspect of the tradition of Lord Jagannatha is its all-encompassing universality. He is invoked and worshipped by virtually all the diverse religious sampradayas – each in their own way. Lord Jagannatha is also worshipped by Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs,” said Gajapati Maharaja.
As the Aadya Sevak, or first and foremost servitor of Lord Jagannatha, and the Chairman of the Shri Jagannatha Temple Managing Committee at Sri Mandir in Purushottama Kshetra, he also expressed his support for the temple project. In his keynote address entitled ‘Traditions of Lord Jagannatha and the Significance of Purushottama Kshetra’, he noted that the tradition of Lord Jagannatha represents “great harmony” for the planet.
Dr Sahadev Swain, Chairperson of SJS UK, expressed the hope that the new Shree Jagannatha Mandir London will become an epicentre of Jagannatha culture in Europe and a prominent pilgrimage site, attracting thousands of devotees and tourists from around the world.
The charity’s Indian-origin Trustees – Bhakta Panda, Aditya Singh, Santosh Pattnayak, Chetan Shatapathy, Sukanta Sahu, Amita Mishra, Nidhi Kar, and Anjan Mishra – famously performed a victory prayer for British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and handed him gold-plated deities from India during his leadership campaign trail in London last year.