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Barley seeds were planted, food was eaten and mantras were chanted at a Hindu temple as a nine-day festival kicked off.

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The seeds, which are considered to be precious, were planted and placed in front of a statue of goddess Durga at the VHP Ilford Hindu Centre, Cleveland Road, Ilford.

Some Hindus will fast during the festival of Navratri as an act of devotion to Lord Vishnu.

The festival, which started last week, marks when Lord Rama, an incarnation of Vishnu, came down to Earth in human form.

Vijay Khetarpal, secretary of the temple, said: “Barley seeds are the most precious seeds of them all. After nine days they will grow into long grass.

“They are planted in a small pot in the temple and placed in front of Goddess Durga. She’s the goddess of truth and power.”

More than 300 people went to the temple on Thursday of last week but numbers reached up to 1,000 over the weekend.

Mr Khetarpal said: “We visit the temple during the festival.

“When the seeds grow it means the gods are happy with the offering and it has been accepted. It makes you really happy, healthy and brings prosperity into everybody’s home.”

The temple’s priest Dharmeh Mista performed the opening ritual, together with some of the members of the congregation.

“It started with the recital of Ganesh’s mantra and then the priest explained why we are celebrating,” Mr Khetarpal added.

“After that sweets, fruits and nuts are eaten, which is a tradition.”

People visiting temples sing and chant mantras and devotional songs and there are also prayers and food is prepared for everyone.

After the ceremony, members of the congregation ate a vegetarian meal together – something which will be repeated on each day of the festival.

Mr Khetarpal said: “It’s a joyful festival and people greet and visit each other and wear colourful clothes. There’s lots of laughing.”

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