The first temple of Pujya Shri Jalaram Bapa in the UK, was built at 197 Mere Road, Leicester on 15th August 1979, by Sant Mata Pujya Bhanu Maa from Rajkot, India.
Most popularly known as “Maa” to her fellow devotees in India and abroad, Pujya Maa was approached by many devotees from Leicester, and London when visiting India, with the request to build a Jalaram Bapa temple in the UK. Purely based on this request, the highly devoted Sant set out on her journey to the UK with one sole mission in mind: to build and establish Pujya Jalaram Bapa’s temple in Leicester.
With the help of local devotees, she was invited to a new household every day to perform bhajans and spread Pujya Bapa’s name and awareness as much as she could across the entire country. As per her rules, Pujya Maa would travel barefoot and would only consume milk and fruits once Bhajans were over.
From such gatherings Pujya Maa started to collect donations which went towards buying a property to establish Pujya Bapa’s temple. Having started the property search, Pujya Maa soon found a suitable property for her mission, and convinced the seller to give her possession without receiving full payment, as donations collected were not enough to pay full amount of the property. Pujya Maa gave her passport to the seller as a guarantee, assuring him that she will not leave the country until she has paid the full purchase price of the property. The remaining funds were soon raised as Pujya Maa continued her Bhajans and prayers in various households throughout the country. Upon full payment of the property, Pujya Maa’s mission was almost complete.
Prior to leaving India, Pujya Maa had requested Idols of Pujya Jalaram Bapa and Shri Ram Bhagwan to be specially made in Rajkot, as she was confident that with the grace of God, her mission of establishing their temple in Leicester will be successful. Having finally purchased the property at 197 Mere Road, Leicester, Pujya Maa requested her son Shri Tejas bhai Kakad to bring the Idols from Rajkot, India to Leicester for the grand inauguration of Bapa’s mandir on 15th August 1979.
Inauguration ceremony was performed by Shree Krishna Shankar Shastriji (Pujya Dadaji) from Sola, Ahmedabad - India at 197 Mere Road, Leicester U.K. on 15th. August 1979. After the inauguration of Pujya Jalaram Bapa’s mandir, she handed over all responsibilities to late Shri Shantilal R. Thakkar and Chaganbhai Gosai.
‘Bapa’s Gateway to Leicester’
Narborough Road - Leicester
By 1989 Shri Shantilal R. Thakkar and Chaganbhai Gosai again relying on the generosity of the devotees plus some loan finance, found it necessary to acquire and refurbish a larger property at 85 Narborough Road, Gateway to Leicester - the current site of the temple - to accommodate the growing congregation and devotees of Pujya Bapa.
The Bhumi Pujan and Foundation stone laying ceremony was performed by Smt. Lalitaben Thakkar, wife of President, the late Shri Shantilal R. Thakkar. Present were Bhagwatacharya Shree Krishna Shankar Shastri, a renowned Gita scholar who blessed and participated in the foundation laying ceremony, Mahant Shree Dwarkesh Bava, Shree Ram Bapa, Shree Bhagwat Bhai, Pujya Maha Mangleshwar Swami Arjun Puri and other distinguished visitors from India. The occasion was also graced by Leicester East MP Keith Vaz, the Rev Michael Ipgrave representing the Bishop of Leicester and the leaders of various local religious groups.
Charitable Trust status was obtained and the temple donates annually towards various UK and overseas charities.
After the sad demise of Shri Shantilal. R. Thakkar in 1991, Mr. Thakershibhai Morjaria was elected president and continued to serve diligently with the assistance of the committee.
Under the chairmanship of Shri Pramodbhai Thakkar, son of the late Shri Shantilal R. Thakkar, and Mr. Bhadrasil Trivedi, a building committee managed the creation of a purpose-built temple at the cost of approximately £1m. Funded through loan funding and donations from devotees, City Challenge had granted £80,000 towards building the community hall on the ground floor which is for both the elderly and young devotees.
In 2015 the acquired Jalaram Community Centre was designed externally to have Bapa’s pagdi and built to a high standard for the benefit of the community and the multi faith society of Leicester. Hence Bapa’s Temple is commonly known as ‘Bapa’s Gateway to Leicester’
Sant Mata Pujya Bhanu Maa and a group of devoted ladies who laid the seeds for Bapa’s first Mandir in Europe will always be remembered.