A HINDU temple in Golders Green has celebrated Diwali this weekend by encouraging its members to give blood.

The Shree Swaminarayan Temple, in Finchley Road, opened its doors for the annual festival of light, in which Hindus are encouraged to give food and money.

However, this year, leaders decided the spirit of giving should extend further than food and money to help give blood supplies among ethnic minorities a welcome boost.

Prem Patel, spokesman for the temple, said: “Diwali is a time of giving, to society as well as to loved ones.

“Normally we have donations of money and food offerings, but this year we thought we would encourage everyone to give blood.

“We have hundreds if not thousands through these doors, and many have take up the service offered by the National Blood Service.”

There has been a longstanding shortage of blood donations from the ethnic minority communities, which is a problem because body tissue has racially specific characteristics, meaning blood transfusions and organ transplants are far more likely to be successful if donor and recipient are of similar ethnic backgrounds.

Mr Patel and the Hendon & Finchley Times spoke to members of the congregation about why they have not donated blood before.

While some could not because they had recently returned from a trip to India, others were simply not aware of the blood donation service.

Mr Patel said: “The primary underlying message was that it was not something they were aware of, how vital it is and what a shortage there is.

“The reasons were not because of their religion, but because they maybe did not know as much as they should.”

In total, 80 people donated blood on the day, with 71 of those registered as brand new donors.

The Diwali celebrations are culminating this evening at the temple when the food offerings will be shared among the congregation.

Earlier today, around 2,000 heard speeches from the temple leader before joining a mass embrace, to signify unity and sharing.