PM Britain’s first state Hindu school wows with marble temple

January 30th, 2010 - 3:31 pm ICT by IANS  

By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, Jan 30 (IANS) Adorned with classroom shrines and a grand marble temple, Britain’s first state-funded Hindu school has opened its doors to the British media after fending off allegations it would promote religious segregation.

Krishna Avanti Primary School opened up its eco-friendly compounds Friday to show its Vastu-inspired architecture and design, yoga sessions, Vedic ethos and vegetarian meals to the press.

And the sponsors of the school in northwest London, which has the largest concentration of Hindus in Britain, immediately announced plans to open up secondary Hindu schools to cater to mounting demand in London, Leicester and other cities.

The showpiece of the school, which does not charge fees, is an eye-catching temple built from hand-carved Makrana marble from Rajasthan, the same marble that was used to build the Taj Mahal.

The smart school buildings are wood-clad, their roofs covered with grass and the “eco-friendly” compound includes a pond, a wildlife garden and an outdoor amphitheatre.

Before the opening of the school, which is funded by a charity and partnered by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), Hinduism was the only major religion without a faith school in Britain.

Its formal opening in a borrowed building September 2008 prompted a flood of criticism from secular groups and other critics of faith schools, who claimed it would promote exclusivity and lead to the ghettoisation of Hindus.

But headteacher Naina Parmer said: “We’re not an exclusivist ghetto. As a faith school one of the key things is we’re an inclusive faith. The children learn about other religions.”

“We play classical music in the communal areas as it is calming and it also embraces the fact we are British.” Ten percent of the children are white.

Unlike other schools in Britain, Krishna Avanti Primary School recycles rainwater, uses water pumps to warm up water for under-floor heating and has intelligent building management systems that control room temperature.

As with a nearby ISKCON temple - housed in an estate donated by the late Beatle George Harrison - the school serves lunch cooked from vegetables that are grown on the school grounds.

“The children are responsible for patches outside their own classrooms,” said Nitesh Gor, chair of school governors and director of the I-Foundation, which helped raise government and private funds to build the school.

The school cook is also the school priest.

Local MP Tony McNulty, a government minister till last year, welcomed Krishna Avanti as a “fantastic school”, adding: “I don’t subscribe to the notion that faith schools are divisive as other schools in the area show.”

I-Foundation is now proposing a secondary school costing up to 30 million pounds that would cater to up to 600 pupils.

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