NEW BEGINNING: The temple basked in sunshine for the official opening
CELEBRATION: (from left) Priyanka Sharma 16, Palav Patel 16 and Tejal Sharma 19
OPENING: Worshippers at the temple new Hindu temple in Ifield, the largest in the South East
WORSHIP: A ceremony at the new temple
JOY: Worshippers express their happiness at the temple's opening
A NEW Hindu temple has officially opened after almost a decade of planning and work.
The Sanatan Mandir, based at the Apple Tree Centre in Ifield, held its opening ceremony at the weekend.
The £4 million temple is the largest in the South East and worshippers took part in Pran Patishta, a three-day grand opening ceremony.
Bharat Lukka, trustee of Gurjar Hindu Union, which runs the temple, said: "We had a tremendous turnout. More than 3,000 people arrived on Sunday."
The temple has a main hall of worship, an office for governors' meetings and classes, changing and catering facilities, parking spaces, peace gardens and a sports hall.
Mr Lukka said it was a relief to see the temple open officially after long-running planning problems.
He said: "The Hindu community feels very privileged to be part of Crawley and we hope the opening of the new temple will integrate the town."
Over the three days more than £100,000 was raised to help pay back the loan taken out to build the temple.
Mr Lukka added: "It is a magnificent achievement to raise that much money in such a short time and we are very proud of the contribution so many families have made."
Fundraising included the sale of small bits of land after the site was divided into 2,000 pieces each available to buy for £400 to dedicate to family members.
Other items at the centre, like car parking spaces, the kitchen, offices, facilities and garden were also available to sponsor.
Sponsorship and donations can still be made as the Gurjar Hindu Union continues to raise funds to pay back the £2 million loan.
The grand-opening also included religious ceremonies such as the blessing of the deities and the raising of the flags.
Spiritual leader Bhaishri Rameshbhai Oza attended the grand opening to bless the temple and take part in the ceremony.
Another trustee, Ashwin Soni, said: "The weekend's events demonstrated to me that Crawley's residents are embracing our culture.
"We sent out invitations to 300 of our neighbours in Ifield, inviting them to the celebrations and we were so happy that many of them accepted.
"We were able to show them that ours is a friendly culture and we invite people of all faiths to visit our temple."
The building of the temple began in May 2008 and was completed in February this year.