The former methodist church in Bristol now at the heart of Diwali celebrations

Watch Richard Payne's report

A former Methodist church in Bristol is set to be at the heart of Diwali celebrations this week across the southwest.

The Hindu Temple began life as a derelict former church in the late 1970s but despite some opposition was acquired by the Indian community in 1981.

When the sale was secured, crowds filled the streets in celebration.

Although now chairman of the temple, Rasik Patel took part in countering initial resistance to the site, sleeping in it overnight to protect it from attack.

He along with several other people who had helped found the temple then travelled across the UK raising funds to redo the site and convert it into the city's only Hindu temple.

Plans to create The Hindu Temple (Bristol) initially faced some opposition in the late 1970s

Speaking about its origins, Rasik said: "We worked so hard, worked hard and we had to go to like, Leicester, London, everywhere to collect some money from our community to refurbish [the site]."

This was, he said, "because our wages was too small [sic] and we had to support our own families, plus get the religious place here ready."

The five-day festival of light is celebrated by millions of Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains across the UK and brings together friends and families for feasts, prayers, and celebration.

In Bristol, several thousand people are expected to visit the temple across the week in what will be the first Diwali without restrictions since the coronavirus pandemic.

The festival of light will see thousands of Hindus in Bristol come together with their friends and family

But people of all faiths are welcome, according to Kamlesh Vyas, a priest at the temple.

He said: "Come and join us! When you come to the real celebrations, you'll find a real multicultural community here, because our new generation, many of them have got married outside the community.

"So, you'll find lots of non-Indians and non-Hindu faces as well," he added.

The building itself has retained some multicultural features such as Methodist stained-glass windows still in place.

Meanwhile, the community attending the temple has also changed.

The building has retained some of it's original features in a nod to it's inclusivity and openness to all

While many of the city's Hindu community originally fled Uganda in the 1960s, one of the temple's trustees, Pankaj Pandya, said there is now an increase in the IT specialists coming from India for work.

He said: "They've moved over here, [they] may be transient - here for a few years and then going back - but they add to the number of people we have who take this place as their centre for praying, plus also a community centre."

While today (October 24) has seen the first full celebrations grace the temple since the pandemic, it's likely many more will be held not just this week, but in the many years to come as well.