BY MAHADEV DESAI
Photos by Krish Photography & Mahadev Desai
Atlanta,GA, January 10, 2018: Despite freezing cold weather, more than 8000 devotees and visitors from all over Southeast thronged the Hindu Temple of Atlanta (HTA)Riverdale,Georgiaon Monday, January 1 to celebrate a joyous and spiritually suffused Navodaya 2018 festival.
All the deities in the Balaji and Siva Temples wore a dazzling look in their ornate fineries and colorful garlands. The priests cheerfully and reverently performed Suprabhatam, Siva abhisekham and Lord nataraja abhisekham, followed with Arudra darshan and then half-hourly archanas throughout the day, blessing all the devotees who came to offer their prayers. Throughout the day, both temples echoed with soul-soothing prayers, chantings of shlokas, and devotional songs. Around 11 a.m. Priest Sri Muralikrishna performed a pooja ceremony inside the auditorium, chanting shlokas and conferring his blessings for the New Year to the vendors.
As the day progressed, more and more devotees arrived inside the two temples and after offering prayers, went around visiting and shopping at the HTA gift shop and also at various booths inside the auditorium, which were selling Indian apparel, household appliances and gadgets, jewelry, beads, devotional music CDs and DVDs. Among the first-time vendors was Banyan Way (www.banyanway.com), a matrimony site that combines traditional and modern matchmaking for Indian-Americans in the U.S.
Festivals and food go together! The varied menu of South Indian vegetarian splendors like spicy idli sambhar, masala dosas, tamarind or curd rice, upama, boondi ladoos, and snacks were lovingly prepared in the temple’s kitchen by the kitchen staff under the supervision of Food Committee Chairperson, Padma Koganti. A team of volunteers including Ravi Chander, Ram Maddi, Vaisheshi Jalajam, helped at the spacious banquet hall. In the evening, devotees filled up the Balaji Temple to participate in Satyanarayana Pooja.
HTA President Kusuma Kotte, an ardent and long-time devotee, and official in the Hindu Temple, reflected on her first year as President and effusively commented,” I am very happy with the unprecedented turnout of over 8,000 devotees today to seek God’s blessings on ‘Navodaya’, New Year’s day. Kusuma Kotte further commented, “2017 was a very blissful and fruitful year for HTA and our community. HTA celebrated a momentous and spectacular Rajatotsavam in May 2017 for Balaji and Durga Prathistapana conducted meticulously by His Holiness Srisiddheswaranandaji and 19 priests fromIndiaand otherHinduTemplesin theU.S.In August, HTA celebrated another mammoth and joyous Ganesh Utsav. This year the elephant Anna added sparkle to the celebrations! We also celebrated rituals –studded, spiritually elevating, Maharudra Yagam with Lalitha Sahasra Nama Homam in November, with participation by more than 100 rithviks and 125 devotees respectively. HTA also celebrated Vaikunta Ekadasi on Dec.29.with a record number of devotees participating as early as 6.00 a.m.
In order to ensure that theTempleremains a great venue for community worship the HTA board of trustees decided to implement a dress code for HTA visitors. Going forward, Indian clothing will be the preferred attire – in addition, clothing such as shorts, athletic gear, torn jeans, and short dresses (e.g., shorter than knee length) will not be permitted. I would like to request all devotees to spread the word in making sure friends and family participate in the temple’s activities in appropriate attire.”
Kotte said endowment funds are doing well due to the strength of the financial markets as well as generous contributions from HTA devotees. Key areas of expenditure worth noting include: Community Support and Outreach. HTA provided shelter to hurricane victims in need; scholarships for students in October; helped build a home for Habitat for Humanity; assisted people who are in dire need for health and financial aid.
Another key area of expenditure was the temple security and perimeter wall efforts: In order to continue to ensure visitors a safe and peaceful experience, HTA has plans for the construction of a perimeter wall in early 2018. A highly successful Kuchipudi ballet Sri Pattabhishekam choreographed by Smt. Sasikala Penumarthi was staged on December 10, to help raise funds for the perimeter wall. (Report in Khabar magazine Jan.2018 ed.)
“We welcome your additional donations for this critical project,” Kotte said.
“With God’s grace, we are bidding to a very eventful and successful 2017,” the HTA president added. “More than 8,000 people celebrated Navodaya 2018. Our parking lot reached capacity by 11 AM, and due to the cold weather, we enhanced the visitor’s joyous experience by utilizing five transport shuttles (up from 2 shuttles in previous years). Our various parking and crowd control volunteers worked tirelessly in the cold.”
“A very special thanks to the parking crew, dedicated priests, temple staff, EC members, Volunteer Committee Chairman Ravi Chander, Food Committee’s Chairperson Padma Koganti, HTA cook Sreenivas Garu, Pooja Committee Chairperson Phani Tummala, our security personnel, and finally, the Clayton county police. “
“We appreciate your continued support and involvement for so many years and look forward to working with all of you for years to come. The temple continues to offer Bala Vihar, Yoga, dance classes, language and spiritual education classes. Please consider enrolling your children and grandchildren in any of these classes as these skills are defining elements of our rich culture.”
The President Kusuma Kotte concluded, “My thanks to all the devotees who celebrated Navodaya 2018 with great enthusiasm, and joy and deep reverence. My heartfelt wishes for a happy, healthy, spiritually enriching and prosperous New Year to all.”