West Ealing chariot procession

This piece in Ealing Times on Saturday morning reminded me about the Sri Kanaga Thurkkai Amman Hindu Temple procession this morning. They parade a chariot carrying their goddess around a circular route that goes clockwise out of their front door in Chapel Road in West Ealing, down the Uxbridge Road, right again into Culmington Road and right again into Mattock Lane.

People were starting to arrive at 7am this morning around my house for the 9:45am kick off. Apparently last year there were 10,000 people. This year there were maybe fewer people although it was pretty busy.

I guess there were about 400 people taking part in the procession, there were three parties of 50 or so leading the way. Two waves of guys impersonating horses with silver bits in their mouths and hooks in their backs pulling along “riders”. Then another group accompanied by drummers dancing with urns on their heads.

There were about 100 women walking backwards with pots on their heads. The chariot itself was pulled by 50 or so people and from the chariot priests were blessing bowls of food which people bought up. Finally, some 50 or so guys were rolling behind the chariot. It would be interesting to hear more about what the various parts of the parade mean.

The organisers were twice refused a Traffic Management Order by the council to close roads because they couldn’t get their act together. Talking to both council officers and police officers present both are pretty unhappy about the way the organisers are not playing the game. The crowd are obviously family groups observing their religion and enjoying their culture. One of the organisers told me that the vast majority of people are Sri Lankan Tamils. There were a lot of stewards on duty and on the whole things looked well organised. Last year it took a while to clean up. If the temple is going to keep the goodwill of local people they need to make sure that the area gets cleaned up quickly and they comply with the requirements of the council and the police. Nothing will wind up the neighbours more than the feeling that the temple isn’t playing by the rules.

I would be interested to hear what the neighbours think – and also to hear from the participants.

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7 Responses to West Ealing chariot procession

  1. Eric Leach says:

    A pretty confusing post this Phil.

    According to you the Hindu Temple:

    ‘…couldn’t get their act together…’

    ‘…..not playing the game…’

    (not) ‘…playing by the rules…’

    Can you be more specific? These dramatic and sporting allusions don’t tell us very much.

    It’s not clear whether you are for or against this annual event.

    If the Police and the Council had not sanctioned this event then why was it allowed to go ahead? Was it a pragmatic decision to allow this event to proceed ‘illegally’?

    Is the Council and/or the Metropolitan Police going to ban this event next year?

    My own monocultural view is that this once a year event should be supported by the local community and the Council, the Police, local residents, local secular and religious groups should work closely to plan the event with the Temple so that it causes the least possible inconvenience to those who are not participating in the event.

  2. Phil says:

    Eric,

    Not meeting the council’s requirements for a Traffic Management Order and then going ahead anyway and blocking roads is not playing the game.

    I think we are in agreement. This procession is to be welcomed as long as it respects its setting. The council have offered the temple the use of one of the parks but they insist on doing it around the temple. Maybe someone from the temple could explain this requirement to us.

    When starting new ventures there is a learning curve and inexperienced organisers can perhaps be given some slack. But as events such as this get more established, as this one now is, they have to play by the rules. That said it is very hard for the police or council to physically stop an event such as this – no-one wants to spend £100,000s to stop religious people observing their religion. The temple is well organised and capable. They can get this right if they want to and they will only have themselves to blame if the authorities lose patience with them.

    I looked around the area last night and it seemed to have been well cleaned up.

  3. rupahuq says:

    I would also like to know more about the background. I asked three people what the signifcance was. The best I got was “hindu festival” and “tamil festival”. The council car removal people seemed out in force airlifting badly parked cars onto a transporter bound for who knows where.

  4. Pingback: Ethnic goings on in Ealing: Boris not spotted « Rupa Huq’s home on the web

  5. Priya Selvadurai says:

    Look I am tamil, I know you people do not understand this holy procession but this is something very important to us if you have a problem please contact me or anyone else e.g Dr Radha, Dr Shiamini Selvadurai,Dr Priya Somasundaram

  6. anon says:

    hey I’m just gonna explain what the chariot festival is about.
    the chariot festival is one of the most important days in a hindu festival called mahotsavam. this festival spans over a period of time which is 9- 25 days dependent on the temple. almost every temple has this festival on the 3rd or 4th last day of this festival is the chariot festival and its celebrated in grand manner. why people at the temple insisted on bringing the chariot around the temple is because, it is a must in every temple for the main deity to be place in the chariot then brought around the temple. now in some cases the chariot goes around the block the temple in because there’s not space in the back of the temple to travel through, usually in this case the chariot takes longer to travel around, when i attend these festivals the chariot usually leaves at 9 and reaches the entrance of the temple at 12 or so.
    here’s a link of this chariot festival being celebrated in a temple in Sri lanka it mite help you realize how important the festival is:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-jFj-PVshM

  7. Marie says:

    I have just come through the area on my way back from church. No real problem just a bit slower lika work day. I saw some of the festival last year and it was interesting. If a few more people were at celebrations like this instead of participating in last weeks events the whole of Ealing would be better off, so work with the event managers and ensure that it goes off smoothly next year Councillor.

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