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Dragons and sacred statues – we go inside a hidden Birmingham temple

There’s a hidden temple complete with life-size dragons and a golden turret right in the heart of Birmingham.

Tucked behind a fire station and close to a busy leisure centre, this Buddhist pagoda sits in an oasis of calm backing onto Edgbaston Reservoir.

Created to look like an oriental sacred tower, the Dhamma Talaka Peace Pagoda opened in 1998 – and was the first of its kind in Western Europe – but you’ve probably driven past it many times with no idea that it was there.

Read moreSeven hidden places to discover during Birmingham Heritage Week

It is a replica of the Shwedagon Pagoda, also known as the Great Dragon Pagoda, which is the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in Myanmar in Burma.

“We are from Burma and we practise Theravada Buddhism,” said Maung Maung Kyi, a retired doctor and trustee of Birmingham Buddhist Vihara Trust.

He added: “The place was built by Dr. Rewara Dhamma who came over to Birmingham in 1975 and was a multi-faith spiritual leader. Buddha’s relics came over to Birmingham and there was a procession.

“He started off the Vihara in Carlyle Road, Ladywood. MP Clare Short and the City Council helped with establishing the present place, firstly the Pagoda – the first of its kind in the whole of western Europe.”

Dhamma Talaka Peace Pagoda, in Osler Street, Ladywood, is opening for people to visit as Birmingham Heritage Week, which runs from September 9 to 19. You can book onto a free tour each afternoon from September 11 to 19. Find out more and book here

Several major attractions are offering free entry during Heritage Week too.

Dhamma Talaka Peace Pogoda in Osler Street, Ladywood, Birmingham, opening for Heritage Week
You can see inside the Dhamma Talaka Peace Pagoda during Heritage Week

The Dhamma Talaka Pagoda, known as the ‘reservoir of truth’ pagoda, has three purposes: to be a shrine for Buddhists to perform their traditional ceremonies, a focus where non-Buddhists can learn about Buddhism and a sanctuary where both may find peace and tranquillity.

Symbolising peace and compassion, the pagoda site is also home to Sangharama Vihara monastery, where the resident monks live, and the Rewata Dhamma Hall, where Buddhist teachings are given. The Dhamma incorporates the Birmingham Buddhist Academy.

Ornate decorations around the windows, the tops of the walls and the pillars were made on site by two experts who came over from Burma and painted it in gold leaf that has since been repainted with ‘expensive gold paint.’

“The Pagoda is a shrine for religious ceremonies, where people can learn about Buddhism and a sanctuary of peace and tranquility,” he added.

“Vesak day, the Pagoda anniversary and Kathina ceremonies take place yearly. Birmingham City Council holds Vesak day celebrations in the religion section of the museum.

Religious full moon day chantings and meditation classes are also held, together with ordination ceremonies, weddings, water-libation and merit sharing ceremonies.

“We are also part of the LIEP, Ladywood Interfaith Education Project and every year we have 50 to 60 schools visiting the pagoda from within the city, the region and outside of the region.”

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