Posted by Vishva News Reporter on February 19, 2005

Orlando Temple Nears Completion

From Hinduism Today: ORLANDO, FLORIDA, February 17, 2005:

Along a stretch of Lake Drive, just outside the town of Casselberry, less than thirty minutes from the Orlando metro, lies a massive building with its ornate towers reaching towards the heavens in its final stages of construction. While the structure's exterior conveys a sense of strength and thoughtfulness, the interior exhibits a feeling of beauty and serenity. It is a Hindu temple with such unique features that its sponsors are hopeful that it will attract Hindus from around the world to this Seminole County spot.

Supervising the construction is Mr. Muthiah Sthapathi, who came from India to choose the site and floor plan for the temple on the ten acres of land owned by the Hindu Society of Central Florida (HSCF). Sthapathi is the seventh generation of a family of temple builders. This is the 28th temple he has worked on in America. The Casselberry temple is a 13,000 square foot solid concrete core structure, designed by Mr. Kishore Pathare and Mr. Subhash Nadkarni of Archiform and completed by general contractor Lamm & Co. The ornamentation work was started in November, 2003. Inside are five shrines dedicated to different Hindu Deities selected for the temple. These shrines will house large icons of the Deities of Sree Ganesh, Sree Durga Ma, Sree Balaji, Sree Radha Krishna, Sree Rama Parivar, Navagraha and Siva Linga, all of which were created in India.

A team of 22 craftsmen from India will take approximately two years to construct this temple at a cost of 2.5 million dollars for the HSCF. Once completed, it will resemble a traditional temple in India. Far from home, these Indian craftsmen are united in building a place of worship for Hindus from all over the world. Like countless generations of Indian artisans before him, Nagaratan Nagaratinam, spends his days making delicate, intricate sculptures of Hindu deities such as elephant-headed Lord Ganesh. Crews such as this one from India have built similar temples in Tampa, Miami, Dallas, Chicago, Memphis, Thailand, Singapore, Australia and Great Britain. "We are making history," Ramachandran Gowrishankar, 35, one of the supervisors, says of his men's work throughout the Hindu Diaspora. "We are doing God's work."

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Please click on the next line to continue reading the news item......and also visit the web site of the HINDU SOCIETY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA by clicking on the preceding hilite to see photos of the mNdir construction and read about the programs at the mNDir......

In ancient times, artisans first made skeletons of the figures from bamboo. Then they created the bodies by coating small pieces of brick with limestone mortar, carving the fine details with small tools also made from bamboo. Sometimes plaster was applied and the figures were painted. Today, Nagaratinam explains, copper rods and wire are used for the skeletons, and steel scalpels are used for sculpting. He uses illustrations from Indian temples as models for the figures.

Although the expense of importing a crew of 22 workers for two years is considerable, it is a price many members of the Casselberry society are willing to pay. "These are the people who make the building an authentic Indian temple, a real Hindu temple," says Dev Sharma, chairman of engineering committee, "This is the way they build them back home." These artisans are called silpis in India. The men are all between the ages of 30 and 40, and all but one is married. They reside in the trailers at the site, rotating cooking chores. Occasionally, members of the congregation invite them to their homes for meals. At night they watch Indian television and rent movies. Calling cards and cell phones keep them in close touch with family and friends. "Most people are appreciative of our work," Nagaratinam, 41, says through a translator. Members of the local temple agree. "They are building God's places", says Mr. Gopal Iyengar, a member oh the board of trustees, "that is the satisfaction. How many people in the world get that chance?" Like most of his crew, Gowrishankar, comes from Chennai, Tamil Nadu's sprawling capital city. The state's tradition of building temples emerged in the second half of the 4th century. With their towering spires, the temples are considered by some anthropologists to be the "fulcrum of society," in southern India.

In India, more than a 100 craftsmen would have spent about 5 years to construct a similar temple, carving the ornate figures from stone. In order to keep the budget reasonable, the figures for the Casselberry temple are being made from concrete. Although there is not a big difference in appearance, there is a substantial cost reduction, says Dr. Aravind Pillai, a Sanford physician who is the chairman of the Hindu Society of Central Florida. The group has raised one million dollars so far towards the cost of the temple. According to Mr. Hash Mistry, a senior board member, what makes the temple so unique is its blend of northern and southern Indian architecture. Most temples represent only one type of architecture. "The deities of the temple's five shrines represent a balanced mix from both the northern and southern parts of India," Pillai stated. It is important to have a temple that meets the needs of all Hindus in the area he added.

This temple has been specifically designed to last for hundreds of years. The poured concrete walls are built to withstand winds of up to 150-200 mph. "This is a monumental structure," said Anil Despande, a society trustee and Orlando builder. "It is a 'class A' institutional type building," he added. This temple has all the modern conveniences of today, while keeping very traditional roots. For example, a temple in India would be open to air, without air conditioning. Temples also do not typically have restrooms, which is a must here to meet the county's zoning requirements. To accomplish this, two extra rooms were built on opposite sides of the temple's entrance. One structure houses rest rooms and the other is an area for private worship or meditation.

The 2000 census shows more than 4,500 families of Indian origin are residing in Central Florida's seven counties. The HCSF has more than 2,000 families on its mailing list, 850 living within 15 miles of the temple's zip code. Pillai also added that the temple is, "mainly for our children. We want to show them what Hinduism is all about. Here they will experience Indian culture, traditions and customs."

Completion of the temple will fulfill a life-long dream of many of the society members. Since 1992, the Hindus living in this area have worshiped at temporary shrines in a community hall next to the new temple. Once the temple opens, work will start on the renovation of the hall. The society plans to use it to meet other needs, such as day care activities, class rooms for music, dance, Hindu philosophy, and a kitchen to provide meals.

Pillai predicts the new temple will have a dramatic impact on Central Florida's Hindu community. In the past, he says, many have been reluctant to attend services at the nondescript facility that houses the old center. That will change, he says, when the new temple opens in June of 2005. According to Pillai, the members of the Casselberry congregation believe in one faceless, formless God, a "unitary consciousness"- and that the faith's deities represent different aspects of the divine personality. This temple will impart spiritual and social wisdom to the seekers.

Work on this temple is expected to continue for most of this year, but it should be substantially finished in time for a gala celebration in June, according to Pillai. Five days of highly spiritual rites, services ( pujas) and rituals will culminate on June 19, between 11 am and noon, when installation of the deities and Kumbhabhishekam (bathing deity using consecrated water) will take place. A huge tent adjacent to the northern gopuram (tower) of the new temple will lodge the yagna sala (special area for worship), where seven homa-kundams (fire pyres to offer to God) will be built to perform rites. More than 20 priests and many Vedic scholars will participate in this ritual. The program will start in the early morning of the 15th with Maha Ganapathy Homam (service to Lord Ganesh) and finish by Kalyana utsav (concluding ceremony for world peace and enlightenment) on the evening of the19th. Free meals will be supplied and plenty of cultural events will take place throughout the five days.

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#1 Posted by tarun prajapati on 8/24/2007


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