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Hindu pilgrimage to Ganges of the North; We'll be back with 5,000 in culture year.

Byline: BY LARRY NEILD and LIZ SULLIVAN Daily Post Reporters

HINDU followers converged on Liverpool for a religious celebration yesterday - with the Mersey revered as the River Ganges of the north of England. Hundreds gathered on Mersey Ferries for a Ceremony of Immersion performed on an idol of the Elephant God, Lord Ganesh.

Last night spiritual leaders revealed they want to return to Liverpool in 2008 Capital of Culture year, with 5,000 followers. It would make the Mersey pilgrimage one of the biggest gatherings of Hindus in the UK. The River Mersey is worshipped by British Hindus as their own Holy River Ganges, said Dr Shiv Pande, secretary of the Indo British Association in the North which helped organise the ceremony.

For many Hindus the journey to Merseyside is one of the highlights of their calendar. Yesterday's event started at Liverpool Town Hall with Hindu leaders greeted by Lord Mayor Cllr Paul Clark.

Also present were the Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Rev James Jones, Lord Lieutenant of Merseyside Dame Lorna Muirhead, Prof Philip Love, the High Sheriff of Merseyside, Chief Constable Bernard Hogan-Howe and civic leaders from across the region.

Coaches brought hundreds of Hindus from Birmingham, Manchester, Leicester, Preston and Blackburn to Liverpool for the ceremony where the idol was submersed in the River Mersey from the ferry Snowdrop.

Ganesh is one of the most revered idols in India, and one of the most popular because it crosses all religious divides and sects. He is described as the most colourful of the Gods, being the symbol of prosperity and the remover of obstacles.

Simultaneous ceremonies, involving millions of Hindus, have been taking place across India and the rest of the world.

Mahendra Dabhi, president of the Shree Hindu Community Centre in Birmingham, threw down the challenge to Liverpool to host next year's ceremony.

He said Hindus from across the North and Midlands had developed an affinity for Liverpool - making it the Ganges of the North. "We can make the Ganesh Visagen (immersion ceremony) one of the most memorable events in Liverpool's culture year calendar. We could easily bring at least 5,000 Hindus to Liverpool," he told Lord Mayor Paul Clark.

SEE a video of the ceremony on www.liverpooldailypost.co.uk

OPINION: PAGE 10

larryneild@dailypost.co.uk

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Part of the ceremony on board the ferry of the Immersion of Hindu God Lord Ganesh's idols in the River Mersey Pictures: COLIN LANE/ cl250907hindu-7; Lord Ganesh's idols are made ready Code: cl250907hindu-4
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Sep 26, 2007
Words:417
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