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Florida gets new temple

June 01, 2007 01:33 IST
The new temple of the Hindu Society of North East Florida was inaugurated recently with a five-day grand celebration of Pranaprathista Mahotsav, fulfilling a long-awaited dream of the Hindu community in Jacksonville, Florida.

The ceremonies were conducted in an elaborate tent outside the temple building, with five homakundas and six priests, assisted by volunteer priests chanting mantras from holy texts, according to Society spokesmen Sarath Kuravi and Krish Seetharaman.

The religious ceremonies were supervised by Pradhanacharya Pandit Kadambi Shrinath with the help of priests visiting from various temples in the United States. The Vedic rituals were conducted according to the Agama Shastras to consecrate and install the deities in the worship hall, the spokespersons said.

The presiding deity Lord Ganesh along with Lord Balaji (brought from Tirupati) and the Shivling, made of granite, and Shri Laxmi-Narayan, Shri Ram Parivar, Shri Radha-Krishna, Devi Durga and Mahavir Swami (all procured from Jaipur) made of marble, were installed during this ceremony. Utsav murthis were also installed.

A Mahavir Swami deity was installed as well, to include the Jain community in the area, the spokespersons said.

The Society, which administers the temple, was incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 1989. With donations from benefactors, a building in Orange Park area was bought in 1994 and converted as a temporary location for the temple. A group of volunteers took turns to perform religious duties during the weekends.

Prior to this, the Indian community, then about 100 to 300 families strong, gathered in a rented hall for the weekends. In 1997, the first board of trustees and executive committee of the Society were elected.

In April 1998, Pandit Shrinath came to Jacksonville to work as the head priest. In April 1999, a statue of Lord Ganesha was shipped from India. The inauguration of Lord Ganesha was performed at a grand ceremony in September 1999. The next year, Utsav murthis of Lord Rama's family and Lord Balaji's family were welcomed in the temple.

The search for a permanent location for the temple started in 2001, and in 2002 a plot of land was purchased in Greenland Road, Jacksonville. The drive for donations from the community started soon after. The new temple construction was started in June last year and the deities were brought from India in January this year.

The consecration of the new temple's sanctum and installation of deities, called Samprokshana and Pranaprathistapana respectively, started March 21.

On the first day of the ceremony, the yagashala was sanctified with the deities placed inside and 75 kalashas (pots) -- arranged in three sets of 25 each for Lord Ganesha, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva -- were filled with water to be sanctified over the five-day period.

Ganapathi Homam and other rituals were performed.

On the second day, several religious rituals were conducted with the priests sitting around the homakundas and filling the air with holy chants. The evening session added color with garba dance performances.

The third day, while the havans continued in the yagashala, the rituals for Mahavir Swami Prathista were conducted by a Jain priest flown in from California especially for the occasion.

The prathista began with Mahapravesh and continued with lectures by Jain scholars later in the day. In the evening, devotees took part with the Ratna Nyasa, which included placing precious stones in a small hole on the pedestal on which the deities would be installed. People turned out in big numbers to take part.

The Pranaprathista celebrations reached a crescendo on the fourth day. Starting at 5 am, all the deities were taken from the yagashala and placed on their respective platforms in the worship hall. That evening, when devotees got a chance to see the deities in their positions with the priests performing the first abhishek, there was all-round excitement and people reacted with loud applause, the spokesmen said. A cultural programme in the afternoon included Eko Narayanam, a musical performed by young students of the Bala Vidya Mandir (the temple's school) acting as different deities installed at the temple.

The celebrations culminated with great religious fervor on the fifth day, which started with procession and prathista of Mahavir Swami. Later on, the priests and devotees brought the utsav murthis and kalashas in a procession into the worship hall.

While the priests did the Pranaprathistapana behind the screens, devotees sang bhajans. The deities were unveiled to the community at an auspicious time, with priests chanting mantras.

First published in India Abroad
A Correspondent