Riazat Butt visits the Hindu temple at the British army base at Lashkar Gah
• View a gallery of the Gurkhas’ Hindu temple
“This is the goddess Durga,” says Lance Corporal Prithvi, gesturing towards the shrine containing a statue of the Hindu deity. “She represents power. At this moment we pray to her because we think she gives us power to defeat evil forces.”
Above the shrine is a hanging featuring the god Hanuman, to its right a poster of the Lord Shiva, to the left another poster of the goddess Durga and, next to her, a poster of Lakshmi.
This is the only temple of its kind. Many Gurkha units and soldiers will make do with a photograph of a god or goddess or a poster in a box.
The temple is in Lashkar Gah and has only been open a few months. “It was one of the first things we did when we got here in April, as soon as our freight arrived,” says Prithvi, from 2nd Battallion the Royal Ghurka Rifles, who is originally from Nepal.
Every morning the 20 Gurkhas say prayers, light candles and apply the tika to the statue.
It is Prithvi’s second tour of Afghanistan. “In my first tour we were ground-holding, we were fighting and it was a different experience. We lost some our friends. Because of the situation, I’m glad there is somewhere to pray.”
Last month the pundit Shankar Mani and the lama Kesang Ghale toured Afghanistan to meet the Gurkhas – all of them – at their various bases. “It was good he came,” says Prithvi; “he was the perfect man to give us advice.”
The smell of sandalwood incense perfumes the air inside and outside the temple. “Whenever we smell that it reminds us of temple.”
When the Gurkhas leave Lashkar Gah, so will the temple.