HINDU followers from across the region took part in a ceremony today (Thursday, April 10) to  mark the installation of a statue at a temple for Gurkha soldiers.

Shivalinga, the representation of the Hindu god Lord Shiva, was erected in an annex to the Gurkha Temple at the Infantry Training Centre (ITC) in Catterick Garrison.

The statue was donated by Swami Shri Gopal Sharan Devacharya Ji Maharaj, a high ranking Hindu priest who visited the ITC in 2012.

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The annex was built earlier this year by a construction team from the Queen’s Gurkha Engineers.

Pundit Atmaram Dahal, Gurkha Company religious teacher, said: “The staue was constructed in India before being donated to our temple.

"Before it can be worshipped a ritual must take place first.

“From tomorrow we can worship the statue but until the ritual it’s just a stone.”

Captain Rajeshkumar Gurung, from Gurkha Company, said religion played an important part in the development of recruits, with religious teachers using examples of Lord Shiva to explain the moral component and duties of a soldier in combat.

Capt Gurung stressed that the temple and new statue were not just for use by Gurkha recruits.

“It’s also for the permanent staff at the ITC and the wider Hindu community so they all have a place to worship,” he added.

Richmondshire district councillor Peter Wood was one of several local dignitaries invited to watch the ritual.

He said: “I’m delighted to have been invited – this is the first time I’ve ever been to the temple even though I’ve lived in the area all my life.”

Hindus from across the North-East and North Yorkshire visited the ITC to take part in the ceremony.

Members of the region’s Hindu community also helped to ensure the event ran smoothly, with the Hindu Cultural Society Middlesbrough contributing towards the cost of the food.

Colburn town councillor, Dr Jagatnath Sharma, who works as a physiotherapist in the ITC rehab dept, helped with signage and support during the preparations.

Hindus believe that three Gods combine to create, preserve and destroy life.

Shiva is the third God responsible for destruction.