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Gayatri Mantra

Written by Debarati Sanjay, CIF Committee Member

It was the year 1977, when my brother was having his ‘sacred thread’ ceremony that I heard ‘The Gayatri Mantra’ for the first time. I was 5 years old then and I remember the family priest telling me that girls are not allowed to chant the mantra. In those days, when you were told not to do something, you just listened; no questions asked. In fact, asking questions was deemed to be rude. However, later I read that in the Hindu Sanatana Dharma, nowhere it is mentioned that girls are barred from chanting the mantra. Later that day, with my mother’s permission, I did chant the mantra with my brother.

Chanting the Gayatri mantra, has given me solace, hope and an overall feeling of positivity. The tune associated with it adds to the beauty of the verse.

Originally in Sanskrit, this mantra has its mention in the Rig Veda (the oldest Hindu scripture) written about 2500 to 3500 years ago. Goddess Gayatri is the mother of the Vedas who ushers in light and eliminates darkness. The verse has 24 syllables inside a triplet of 8 syllables.

Gayatri Mantra

Sanskrit version–     

OM bhur bhuvah swah

Bhargo devasya dhimahi

Dhiyo yo nah prachodayat

English translation–  

We mediate on the glory of the creator,

Who has created the Universe;

Who is worthy of worship;

Who is the embodiment of knowledge and light;

Who is the remover of all sin and ignorance;

May he enlighten our intellect.

Benefits of chanting

Improves concentration and learning

Removes negativity

Calms mind, reduces stress and anxiety

Best time to recite

4am to 8am and 4pm to 8pm have the sātvic quality
8am to 4pm have rājasic quality
8pm and 4am have tāmasic quality

In fact it may be chanted anytime of the day.

Reference:  Astrology, TOI, 2020 ‘Gayatri Mantra-Meaning and Significance’, Times Of India, April 9, 2020

Leicester and Beyond/Belief in Dialogue Interfaith online Forum.

The next online interfaith forum is 7pm UK time Sunday 18th July. 

Theme:  Religion and the Climate Emergency.

We have a fabulous panel:

Arzoo Ahmed  Researcher at the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, Oxford, Muslim

Uri Gordon – Jewish Climate and Peace ActivistLeicester

Caroline Harmon – Founding member Christian Climate Action/ Christians in Extinction Rebellion, Loughborough

Ariadne Tampion  Humanist and Secularist, Loughborough

Ryan Comins is again the skilful, kind, and thoughtful moderator.

Attached is a flier for this latest event giving details.  Please feel free to share this flier with others.  Your friends and others who might be interested are also warmly invited to attend.

Please REGISTER by sending an email to Andrew Bolton with the words ‘Interfaith Forum 18 July’ in the subject title. You will then be sent a Zoom Meeting ID and password.

IFN news bulletin

The latest issue of the Inter Faith Network for the UK’s e-bulletin is published today.  You can read it at   Among the topics covered:  

•    Faith communities and COVID-19
•    Faith communities, climate change and the environment
•    Great Get Together 18-20 June and Thank You Day 4 July
•    Places of worship and security
•    Inter faith projects and developments
•    Inter Faith Week
•    Inter faith resources and training
•    Special Weeks and Days
•    Inter faith events

Words of Connection

   Dear Rev Mark  
Are the days of darkness on the way out? We won’t know for a while. Apparently pandemics rarely last more than two years, so we may be over the worst. Meanwhile many of us have already started to celebrate; maybe the sunshine has affected us all, along with the loosening of the rules… so it seems a great time to offer up our thanks, and adopt a note of optimism.

Building on the idea of celebratory thanks, it seemed so right to open with the beautiful 30th Psalm, which closes with the lovely words… “you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy…”

And still going with the theme of joyous appreciation, a request to “Praise the world to the angel…” by Rainer Maria Rilke, from The Ninth Elegy. This is followed by Thanks a powerful and ironic work by the Buddhist environmentalist poet W.S. Merwin. In total contrast to all the previous readings, a very recent blessing and prayer of Thanks, written for our local Health Watch Volunteers. The last reading is How the Grass and the Flowers Came to Exist, A God Tale, by the great Mary Oliver.    This week’s Words of Connection includes a publicity poster for the Dialogue Society’s Virtual Ramadan Event, which will be held on Sunday 25th of April at 7pm. It arrived too late to make it into our news update. The link this week is a sweet and gentle version of Howard Goodall’s 23rd Psalm sung by the Australian boy soprano, Austin Haynes.  

Stay well, stay harmonious and enjoy the spring sunshine!
Very best wishes,

Chair IFCG


Psalm 30
(New International Version)


I will exalt you, Lord,
for you lifted me out of the depths
and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
Lord my God, I called to you for help,
and you healed me.
You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead;
you spared me from going down to the pit.
Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people;
praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favour lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.
When I felt secure, I said,
“I will never be shaken.”
Lord, when you favoured me,
you made my royal mountain stand firm;
but when you hid your face,
I was dismayed.
To you, Lord, I called;
to the Lord I cried for mercy:
“What is gained if I am silenced,
if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it proclaim your faithfulness?
Hear, Lord, and be merciful to me;
Lord, be my help.”
You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
Lord my God, I will praise you forever.


From the Ninth Elegy


Praise the world to the angel, not the unutterable world;
you cannot astonish him with your glorious feelings;
in the universe, where he feels more sensitively,
you’re just a beginner. Therefore, show him the simple
thing that is shaped in passing from father to son,
that lives near our hands and eyes as our very own.
Tell him about the Things. He’ll stand amazed, as you stood
beside the rope-maker in Rome, or the potter on the Nile.
Show him how happy a thing can be, how blameless and ours;
how even the lamentation of sorrow purely decides
to take form, serves as a thing, or dies
in a thing, and blissfully in the beyond
escapes the violin. And these things that live,
slipping away, understand that you praise them;
transitory themselves, they trust us for rescue,
us, the most transient of all. They wish us to transmute them
in our invisible heart–oh, infinitely into us! Whoever we are.
Earth, isn’t this what you want: invisibly
to arise in us? Is it not your dream
to be some day invisible? Earth! Invisible!
What, if not transformation, is your insistent commission?
Earth, dear one, I will! Oh, believe it needs
not one more of your springtimes to win me over.
One, just one, is already too much for my blood.
From afar I’m utterly determined to be yours.
You were always right and your sacred revelation is the intimate death.
Behold, I’m alive. On what? Neither childhood nor future
grows less…surplus of existence
is welling up in my heart.
Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)




with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
standing by the windows looking out
in our directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks we are saying thank you
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
taking our feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
thank you we are saying and waving
dark though it is

W.S. Merwin (1927-2019)

Prayer of Thanks to Volunteers


You are among us
We see you, hear you,
Feel your comforting touch

You are among us
Spirits that ask nothing
Giving everything
Without accolade
Reward or thanks

I call you angels…
Others call you volunteers
Your generosity is beauty
Your gifts defy language

In these strange times
Your dancing souls
Move freely amongst us
Supporting the weak and the sorrowing,
Feeding the hungry, caring for the sick and dying
Picking up rubbish, stirring pots of soup
Wiping the soil of life and our tears
Rewarding us with loving kindness

But then… giving is your speciality
You give without accolade,
reward or thanks
And we look up at you,
and smile and say
“How can I thank you?”
“How indeed?”

Free-spirits and angels; it is you that fly
You come from a high place and care for us
Loving and listening to earth-bound souls

And so we bless you
Givers, angels, volunteers
Your generosity is beauty
Your gifts defy language
But then… giving is your speciality
You give without accolade,
reward or thanks

We thank you
We bless you
And we thank those that created you
For you are the most special
And so you are blessed


How The Grass and The Flowers
Came to Exist, a God-Tale

I suppose
the Lord said:
Let there be fur upon the earth,
and let there be hair upon the earth,

and so the seeds stuttered forward into ripeness
and the roots twirled in the dark
to accomplish His desire,

and so there is clover,
and the reeds of the marshes,
and the eelgrass of the sea shallows
upon which the dainty sea brant live,

and there is the green and sturdy grass,
and the goldenrod
and the spurge and the yarrow
and the ivies and the bramble
and the blue iris

covering the earth,
thanking the Lord with their blossoms.
 (Mary Oliver 1935-2019)

Interfaith Week

 We’d love to invite you to join us for this year’s National Interfaith Week event sponsored by Cheltenham Interfaith, the University of Gloucestershire and Cheltenham Borough Council.


This year we are reflecting together our experience of the pandemic so far. How has this affected our faith and our faith communities? What has been challenging for our faith? How has our faith helped us?

We will watch a number of short videos from members of different faith communities, and have an opportunity to discuss these together in break-out groups, as well as offering our own reflections.


The event will take place online on Weds November 11th from 7.15pm – 8.30pm. In order to take part you need to register for your free place through Eventbrite, using this link: You will then be sent the Zoom link so you can join the meeting between 7.00pm and 7.15pm.


Usually, when we meet together, sharing food is an important part of the occasion. This year, when you register and during the meeting we’ll be giving information about how we can support the Mayor of Cheltenham’s Foodbank Fund, and we’re delighted that Cheltenham Borough Council have agreed to match the donations which we make up to the value of £400.

We do hope you can join us at this event. Even though it will be very different it seems more important than ever for us to come together and share our thoughts and feelings, whatever our beliefs or faith community.


Revd Simon Witcombe
Senior Chaplain, University of Gloucestershire
FCH Campus
Swindon Road,
GL50 4AZ
T:  01242 714592
M: 07715 041525

Peace Together Walk


To celebrate the UN “International Day of Peace” ( )
CIF held a “Peace Together Walk” through Cheltenham town centre, starting at Winston Churchill Memorial Gardens (gather from 9.45am) and ending at 2pm at Pittville Pump Room for a Peace Walk Together celebration.

Just a note to say we had a powerful and lovely day today. It was wonderful to have members of the Hindu community with us and the beginning of an annual event feels very much in the making .
Here are some words inspired from today. 

Spirit of Peace 
Here I am today                                                     Humbled before the Spirit of Peace.
Here I breathe today                                           Hopeful inside a Spirit of Peace.
Here I cry today                                                    Tears for need of a Spirit of Peace 
Here I smile today                                               To excite a Spirit of Peace.

Spirit of Peace
Bless our planet in its strangeness and glory
Spirit of Peace  
Bless our journey as a simple story 
Spirit of Peace 
Within and beyond me
Spirit of Peace  
Give us all the eyes to see 
Exactly how a Spirit of Peace could be. 
Many blessings in Peace 

Here is a link to the radio interview Mark gave about the walk

Listen from 1 Hour 17 minutes in.

Remembering Srebrenica

25th Anniversary Commemoration
South West
This year marks both the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and the 25th anniversary of the genocide in which 8,372 men and boys in the UN-protected area of Srebrenica were killed purely for being Muslim.
It remains important that we remember these events – Srebrenica Memorial Week is 5th-12th July 2020.

In these unprecedented times, there is a pressing and increasing need to ensure that we stand up to hate, intolerance and prejudice.  Between the events which prompted the Black Lives Matters movement across many countries to the hate crimes committed in the wake of Covid-19, we are seeing more and more public expressions of hatred and injustice and more focus on what divides us.
In response to the Covid-19 situation we have moved our Srebrenica genocide commemorations for the South West (including Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Wiltshire) online and invite you to join us marking this reminder of man’s capacity for inhumanity and our ability to learn the lessons from this.  The commemoration will remember all those killed in the Srebrenica genocide, all those killed in acts of inhumanity during the Bosnian war, the 50,000 women and girls who were genocidally raped and all who stood for and stand for stronger communities, understanding, solidarity and peace across the world.  This interactive online event will take place on Friday, 10th July at 18:30:
Register here
As the founder and Chair of Remembering Srebrenica, Dr Waqar Azmi OBE has said:
Though it has been very hard to cancel face-to-face events it has been inspiring to see the various online ideas and innovations our team have created to still commemorate fitting for those victims who were murdered for no other reason than their identity.   We continue to draw strength and inspiration from those who, during the genocide and ethnic cleansing in Europe’s worst atrocity since the second world war, were bold enough to resist an ideology of division, protect their neighbours and speak out for truth and justice.”

Remembering Srebrenica is the UK charity which works to bring the lessons from the Bosnian genocide to the UK.  We work within communities to celebrate upstanders, equip people to challenge hate and intolerance and to remember that, as our theme for this 25th anniversary states, Every Action Matters.

We also have a range of activities available to different organisations and local areas including:
  Publishing the Srebrenica Memorial Statement on your web pages and social media during Memorial Week. Sharing and doing the 11 Every Action Matters personal challenges. Hold a candle lighting and read the Srebrenica prayer Ask your local authority to adopt or reaffirm your commitment to the Srebrenica Council Motion. You can order a Srebrenica flag and fly it (we suggest at half-mast) for this year’s memorial week which runs from 5th-12th July or on Memorial Day itself which is 11th July. Ask your Library Services to have an exhibition in their open spaces when they re-open – materials are available on our website. Inviting a speaker from Remembering Srebrenica to your faith, community or social group. Hold a creative arts and crafts session around the Srebrenica flower and share the results on social media. Email for more ideas and suggestions. 

Gay Pride Picnic: Cheltenham May 17 2020

Click here for a list of our LGBTQ+ supporting communities/churches

Like all large gatherings planned for spring and summer 2020, the Gay Pride family picnic planned for May 17 in Pittville Park was cancelled. Which was a shame, as Cheltenham Inter Faith had been hard at work planning a “Inter Faith Space” for the picnic. Right from the start we were delighted with an enthusiastic response from many churches, faith and non-faith/beliefs-based communities within Cheltenham.

We were planning a large (double-pitch) stall with a tented zone for quiet conversations, comfy seating, a craft area and lots of information about faith-related LGBTQ+ support groups online and local. We were thinking of running a couple of meditations, and mostly just hoping to have a stream of volunteers hosting the stall with welcoming smiles and hopefully some meaningful chats.

But then it was cancelled… was that the end of it? No!  Our group continued to expand as we networked and found more supporters. Particular thanks to Sharon at Highbury Church and Stephen and Rachel from the Humanists who had been there at the Pride picnic last year, and who had great contacts. And then … the organisers decided to hold it ONLINE!

What could we do?  At very short notice we gathered those we could into a Zoom hyperspace and managed against all odds to agree a “Welcome Message” from all of us to be posted onto the Pride in Glos facebook site, plus Tom created a Video of us saying “We miss you! We love you! We’ll see you soon.”  Click here to see the video or Click here to see the post on our own Facebook site. 

Click here for the list of Supporters who so enthusiastically supported the venture.

We’ll report back when we have a date for the “actual” picnic and how we get on!

In friendship, Ginny.