BY MAHADEV DESAI
Atlanta, GA: Thanks to sunny weather an unprecedented record of thousands of devotees and visitors from all over South-East thronged the Hindu Temple of Atlanta (HTA) Riverdale, Georgiaon Sunday, January 1st to celebrate a joyous and spiritually suffused Navodaya 2015 festival.
All the deities in the Balaji and Siva Temples wore a dazzling look in their ornate fineries and colorful garlands. The Temple had recently celebrated Nandishwara and Dwajasthamba prathistapnas. The garlanded Nandishwara had a majestic look and attracted many admiring devotees. The dedicated priests cheerfully performed 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 eleven a.m. Priest Sri Gopal Bhattar 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 exchanging Happy New Year greetings,visiting and shopping at HTA Gift Shop and also at various booths inside the auditorium, which were selling sarees, household appliances and gadgets, jewelry, beads, artwork, travel information,devotional music CDs and DVDs. Madurai Foods Inc.was selling Idly and Dosa batters and masala powders. One of the booths gave information about Avalon University School of Medicine inCuracao. As in previous years, Gaudiya Vaishnava Organization had also set up a booth to disseminate information about their upcoming events.
Children were engaged and entertained by a clown. Face, nail and palm-painting,balloon-twisting and popcorn also added to children’s fun activities.
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, Mysore Pak, and savories lovingly prepared in the Temple’s kitchen, by Kitchen staff under the supervision of Food Committee Chairperson, Smt. Janaki Harati and served in the spacious banquet hall, by the cheerful and enthusiastic youth volunteers was relished by all.The banquet hall remained packed with devotees enjoying mouth-watering food.
Narender Reddy whose two-year tenure as President is over commented,” My two years as President have been exciting and fulfilling. My team and I with the help and support of the Trustees,Templeofficials, and fiscal discipline have enabled us to substantially increase the Endowment Trust Fund. All the priest’s quarters have been thoroughly renovated and equipped with new appliances. The rest rooms in the main building has been rebuilt with latest hygienic oriented fixtures. Both Balaji andShivaTemples, cafeteria, book store and lower level corridors have been repainted andEducationBuilding’s interior and exterior has been painted. We also did capital improvements. Nandishwara and new Dwajastambha prathistapanas have been completed. Our Nandi, a landmark attraction facing theShivaTempleand weighing 6 tons is probably the biggest among the temples in theUSA. We have installed video systems in both the temples and cafeteria for the convenience of our devotees. During very hot weather, asphalt road on upper level became hot and uncomfortable to walk so we converted it into a concrete road.We have brightened the parking area with new LED lighting. We have installed new sound system inShivaTemple. The new sound system and new flooring in the auditorium will greatly help in hosting performing arts events, weddings, arangetrams etc. We have also installed new furniture in the dining hall.
Among few noteworthy events we can mention Ganesh Chaturdhi;Shiva Temple Brahmotsvam and Udaya-Ashthamana Seva for Sri Venkateshwara. Recognizing that 80% of the devotees are in the age group of 25 to 40 years,for the first time in 2013,we celebrated ‘Ganesh Nimajjanam’ in Lake Jackson.Now we have begun to celebrate Ganesh Navarathri with huge Ganesh idol imported from India. We have introduced ‘Robo Phonecalls’to inform our community of various festivals. This has resulted in increased attendance at the Temple.Our logo design competition for a unique captivating logo for HTA brand attracted over 40 designs from U.S.,Canada and India.In November, ‘Ati-Rudra Maha Yajnam’ will be performed at the Temple.The Board has appointed a Committee and seed money has also been raised for the Yajnam.
Reddy enthused, “The income and attendance of devotees during these two years of my Presidentship has broken all records.”.I wish the incoming President Dr. P B Rao and Executive Committee all the best.Our Temple has tremendous growth potential and by working together and remaining committed,dedicated and focused we can make it the best temple in the U.S.
The in-coming President Dr.P B Rao commented, “I am very happy with the unprecedented turnout of over 9,000 devotees today to seek God’s blessings on ‘Navodaya’, New Year’s day. I wish to thank all the sponsors, trustees, past Presidents, Executive Committee, vendors, dedicated office staff and all the devotees. My deep thanks to P Krishnamohan, Sai Surappaneni, Ashok Kumar, Karunakar Asi Reddy and scores of volunteers, who worked hard to make these celebrations memorable and enjoyable. The volunteers did a superb job in maintaining order and moving the lines smoothly and fast. We can only pay them in 6 figures (smiles). The Food Committee under the leadership of Smt. Janaki Harati together with young band of volunteers served delicious variety of food to thousands of devotees.
As always, we will also strive to help the community by supporting humanitarian causes like disaster-relief, helping the home-less, Sai Health Fairs, blood drives, yoga and meditation classes, Bal Vihar classes, and other worthy causes. My thanks to all the devotees who celebrated Navodaya 2015 with great enthusiasm, and joy and deep reverence. My heartfelt wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year to all”
The Hindu Temple, an iconic resplendent landmark in Riverdale,Georgia, is well known for its spiritual, cultural, and educational services to the Indian community. The Temple has played a sterling role in enriching the religious diversity and enhancing the multi-cultural image of Georgia.