It was a historic week at the Sunnyvale Hindu Temple & Community Center as thousands of devotees and patrons participated in the inaugural celebrations of the newly renovated temple premises.
The week-long “Maha Kumbha Abhishekam” ceremony, which began May 8 and continued till May 12, presented an opportunity for the Bay Area Indian American community to experience the grand Hindu religious festivities in a unique fashion.
“It is gratifying to see our dream of 20 years finally fulfilled with such success,” Raj Bhanot, co-founder and treasurer of the Sunnyvale Hindu Temple, told India-West. “We have been able to create one of the largest community temples in the heart of Silicon Valley with enormous support from both the South Indian and North Indian community, as all deities are worshipped here and all major religious rituals are also performed here,” Bhanot added.
What began as a modest venture in 1991 by visionaries Raj Bhanot and Naranji Patel, amongst others, saw its first milestone being accomplished within two years as the temple opened its doors to the public at a 3.15-acre facility in Sunnyvale on Dec. 23, 1993. Ever since, the temple has attracted thousands of visitors every year.
With the influx of visitors continuing to grow exponentially every year, the board of trustees took yet another bold step and embarked on a project to rebuild the temple in order to better serve the community. Despite the estimated cost of construction being $3 million, the temple was able to raise more than 50 percent through cash reserves and generous donations, and a loan for the remainder from Wells Fargo Bank.
The groundbreaking ceremony was performed on Mar. 23, 2012 and construction followed. Within a year, the temple was able to reopen the newly renewed worshipping complex that has a seating capacity of 1000 people.
The new facility also includes a hall for senior citizens to meditate and a kitchen with state-of-the-art amenities that serve up to 500 people at once.
The temple has also added 32 new “Vigrahas” all the way from Jaipur, Puri and Kanchipuram in India, including exclusive ones like Parushuram, the first of its kind on the west coast.
The inaugural ceremonies last week commenced every morning by invoking Lord Ganesh’s blessing and with a “Punyahavachana” – a purification ritual performed at any auspicious occasion. The 15 temple priests performed various “homas” or offerings into a consecrated fire, like “Deekha Homa,” “Chandi Homa,” “Lakshmi Homa,” “Navagraha Homa” and “Rudra Homa,” over four days culminating in the final rituals of “Maha Poornahuti” and “Maha Kumbhabhishekam,” establishing the deities in their new abode.
Accompanying the religious ceremonies were diverse cultural programs in the temple auditorium that were presented by Indian classical music and dance groups in the Bay Area. Priya Mandalika and group rendered a prayer song May 10 to start off the cultural line-up of the weekend. Students of Guru Vishaal Ramani, Shri Krupa Dance Company, and Indumathy Ganesh’s Nrithyollasa performed various elements of Bharatnatyam, a traditional South Indian dance. Students of Jaya Sharma’s Dance Karisma and Anuradha Nag’s Tarangini School performed Kathak, a traditional North Indian style of classical dance.
In addition, students of Himabindu Challa, Madhuri Kishore and Gayatri Joshi performed Kuchipudi and Odissi dance, while students of Asha Ramesh presented classical vocals.
The cultural program closed May 11 with a masterful performance by Padma Vibhushan Mangalapalli BalaMurali Krishna, who mesmerized the audience with myriad devotional hymns set to classical Carnatic music melodies. Accompanying him on the tabla was Ravi Gutala, while Manoj Tamhankar played the harmonium and Satish Kumar Raghunathan and Parthasarathy Kaliyamoorthy assisted the maestro. The living legend of Carnatic music left the audience spellbound with his exhaustive range of songs and eclectic vocals that charmed with its melody.
Padmashree Anup Jalota closed the curtain on the weekend’s cultural program with a concert of powerful bhajans and devotional ghazals, including “Jag Mein Sundar Hai Do Naam,” “Rang de Chunariya Shyam Piya Mori” and “Ye Daulat Bhi Le Lo” to a packed audience who listened in spiritual enrapture.
Gracing the occasion were local leaders in the Bay Area including Milpitas Mayor Jose Esteves. “It is always a great experience to participate in the events of Indian American community. It’s such a rich and vibrant culture,” Esteves told India-West.
The attendees were also extremely pleased with the construction of the new temple premises. “It’s so beautifully made and well organized. It feels like the temples back home in India,” Nalini Shah, a resident of Cupertino, told India-West.
“The next big project for us is renovating the temple hall and converting it into a state-of-the-art auditorium for everyone to use,” Bhanot told India-West.
For more information on the Sunnyvale Temple, call 408-734-4554 or visit www.sunnyvale-hindutemple.org.
(See separate photo-spread for additional photos and visit the photo gallery at www.indiawest.com.)