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History of: Bharat Bhavan Mill Road (by Railway Bridge), Cambridge CB1 2AZ

Cambridge was one of the first towns to adopt the Public Libraries Act of 1850, when town councils were made responsible for building and maintaining 'Free Libraries' for the use and benefit of the growing population.

Mill Road Library

It seems that this purpose-built branch library was erected in Mill Road in 1897, from designs by architect Frank Waters. This was a typically grand Victorian library, Red brick, Single storey. Divided into 8 bays by paired and single Corinthian pilasters. 84 - light windows with brick mullions and transoms; drip-moulds over, with swag panels above them.

North facing front entrance has a Central panelled round-headed door with date in gable above, Consoles and lions bearing arms on either side. Double pitch slate roof with skylight between, the west side of the building facing Mill Road bridge has a Baroque church type facade, 2 windows with pilasters pediment above supported by consoles, in the pediment the words 'Free Library'.

In 1996, just short of its hundredth anniversary, the Cambridge City Council closed it down, to save money. Cambridgeshire County Council boarded up the windows of this (listed Grade II) building. The reason given for closure was a lack of money, both for normal operations and for building maintenance. The white boards along the top hide what were originally windows that provided natural light into the building.

In 1996 the building's landlord, Cambridge County Council, invited various local community groups to submit proposals for use of the building. The Indian Community and Culture Association's (ICCA) proposal was one out of 35 groups who submitted presentations for the use of the former library building. ICCA's proposal promised that though we will remain the custodian of the building and use it to further our culture. We will also make the building available to other community groups in the neighbourhood.

ICCA was short-listed and in October 1999, Cambridge County Council provided a 25 year long lease on the property, which required extensive internal and external repair work committing ICCA to refurbishing this building to its original state.

Vision for refurbishments of the building

The 1897 Victorian red brick building still survives and is used today as the 'Bharat Bhavan' community centre, and has undergone a new internal structural re-fit (not yet complete), and has already been transformed into becoming an inspiring space and will no doubt become one of the architectural highlighted building of inner beauty as well as culture based right here in the heart of Cambridge.

General renovation work on the building started in August 2005. Even more exciting for the Hindu community was the start of the installation of a Hindu shrine to the East side of the hall. The delicate local pink sandstone work (hand carved in Jodhpur in Rajasthan, Western India) took 25 stone masons (almost 4 months) to hand carve the intricate stone design (including elephant-trunk supported brackets to garlands (toran), incorporating devotional wheels forming an impressive arched Shrine enclosure to the Altar supported by 4 tall columns. The work on the Shrine was finally completed in time to celebrate Diwali/Ankot in November 2010. The remainder of work and maintenance to the building is an ongoing activity which will take extensive resources which the ICCA will have to raise through internal and external funding.

21 September 2010: Prabhuji's Swagat

With the blessings of Lord Ganeshji and wishes of the members we managed to welcome our Hindu idols worshiped by all Hindus on Tuesday 21/09/2010. Over 100 people attended the welcome ceremony. This was the historic moment for our members and their dream came true after more than 25 years. Children, youngsters and elders were very happy; the feedback is that this is the moment they will not forget in their entire life. Many elders could not control their tears which was of joy and thanked the all mighty for this joyous occasion.

6 November 2010: New Year (Bestu Varsh) Ankot

We celebrated our New Year (Bestu Varsh) after Diwali on Saturday 06/11/2010. This year we used this special occasion to unveil the Murties. The honour of unveiling the Murties was given to two of the most dedicated youngsters of our community Nirali & Rajesh Ladva. There was deep emotional outpouring from members as the curtain was unveiled, a moment members have waited for, for many years.

The credit goes to all past committees, all those who have made donations over the years, our funders and other supporters from around Cambridge and beyond. It goes without saying that the success is down to the unity and full support of our membership.

The Altar dedicated primarily to the Hindu Deities as a focus for prayer is adorned with all the various marble carved statues of the revered deities (Ganesh, incarnations of Vishnu - Krishna and Ram) hand carved by families (in Jaipur) of stone carvers practising their traditional trade for centuries.

The intricate enclosure is sectioned off by a large curtain divider (installed to create the best visual perspective within the limitations of the suspended ceiling) as a separation between the worship area and the rest of the community centre. It provides security and protection and creates 2 separate functional areas, so that when the curtain screen is closed the rest of the room can be used for other activities.

30 January 2011 External viewing

An event was organised to invite the broader community to view the progress made in developing our Shrine. The event was well received with many positive comments received from all guests. The Mayor and MP made a speech congratulating our community on such an achievement. The visitors came from far and wide. There were representations from Cambridge City Council, Cambridge County Council, Huntingdon Council, the Police, the local schools, other charities and other faiths as well as a small cross section of our membership.

As explained this event was organised with only one purpose in mind, that is to build a closer relationship with the broader community of Cambridge and beyond and involve them in what we are trying to achieve as a Hindu Community. And judging from comments received it is our firm belief that through this event we have achieved this.

23 May 2011 Maha Murti Pooja

Bharat Bhavan was a place of historic occasion as ICCA celebrated Maha Murti Pooja, performed by Pujya Shree Kaushikmaharaj of Peterborough, on Sunday 22 May 2011. An occasion that the members have waited for many years, this joyous occasion was enjoyed by over 100 people through the day with over 50 bhakto's actively participating in the Pooja.

Our MP Julian Huppert and Deputy Mayor (Councillor Ian Nimmo-Smith) with his wife helped us with our celebration by their participation. It was an emotional day for all.

The building

This building is a valuable asset to Cambridge and should benefit all of its diverse community, by re-opening the building as a community resource and information facility– it will hopefully be of educational value to be used by all Cambridgeshire schools, colleges alike to educate the next young generation and all visitors via stories of the Great Ramayana and the Epic Mahabharata and promote traditional styles of culture of the community.

The 200sq ft space comprising of a main hall space and the rest is partitioned into subsidiary space to accommodate basement storage, toilets, shoe racks and a serving kitchenette.

The removal of the false ceiling which concealed iron trusses and roof lights revealed an impressive high barrel vaulted ceiling allowing natural daylight to filter through its central high domed lantern windows.Placeholder ...