FORT WORTH — For five days and nights they have prayed, burned wood and incense, and offered fruits and melons, part of the Maha Kumbhabhishekam rituals in which several granite statues are prepared to be consecrated as living vessels.
The ceremonies will culminate Saturday with the opening of the new Hindu Temple of Greater Fort Worth.
“This is a consecration ceremony to start the new temple,” said Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami, who came from the Kauai Hindu Monastery in Hawaii to help with the temple’s opening.
Rituals have been conducted since Tuesday outside the 12,500-square-foot temple and community center building on the 7-acre campus on Longvue Avenue in far west Fort Worth. The temple’s priest, Sri Murali Krishna, and visiting holy men have presided over the ceremonies, which are leading up to the installation of the statues in the almost $3 million temple’s 5,000-square-foot sanctum sanctorum.
“On Saturday, they’ll pour the [holy water] on the statues to bring them to life, infusing them with life,” Veylanswami said.
Swami Chidananda, who came from Mumbai, India, to be part of the ceremony, said the statues will be treated like people.
“We look at the statues thereafter as being alive and vibrant,” Chidananda said. “We give them food, bathe them and dress them.”
The granite statues were made in India and shipped to Fort Worth to become the temple’s idols — including Lord Ganesha, Lord Shiva and Lord Venkateswara.
2,500 Hindu families
But Veylanswami’s associate from the Kauai monastery, Sannyasin Senthilnathaswami, explained that the idols are not the focus of worship, merely the focal points through which worship is channeled.
“You don’t worship an idol. You worship God through an idol,” Senthilnathaswami said. “Think of a telephone. When you talk into one, you aren’t talking to the telephone, you’re talking to someone else through the telephone.”
Around 1,500 families — about 3,000 people — worship through the Hindu Temple of Greater Fort Worth, which has operated in a rented building off Hulen Street for four years, said Dr. Subrahmanyam Boyareddi, president of the temple’s board of directors.
“We have 2,500 Hindu families in the greater Fort Worth area,” Boyareddi said. “We hope the temple will draw more of them in.”
The temple’s purposes include helping the children in those families appreciate Hindu culture, said Murali Vennam, a temple spokesman.
“One of our many visions is to promote the Hindu culture to the Metroplex, especially to the children in Hindu families,” Vennam said. “The next generation should be able to take the best of Hindu culture and the best of American culture to become a blend of both cultures.”
‘God is everything’
The temple will always be open to the public, Boyareddi said.
“ Yoga and meditation will be open to anyone who wants to participate,” Boyareddi said.
The adjoining community center, which has a 2,700-square-foot meeting room with a full kitchen, will be available for community events and receptions.
However, the Hindus who worship at the temple aren’t trying to convert anyone to their religion, Veylanswami said.
“Hindus do not proselytize,” Veylanswami said. “We believe that all religions are good. We’re happy if you’re a happy Baptist.”
Chidananda agreed, saying the temple is intended as an outreach to make people aware of Hindu theology/philosophy.
“We believe a Christian, a Jew or a Muslim will become a better Christian, Jew or Muslim by studying the concepts of Hinduism,” Chidananda said.
Hindus believe in reincarnation and karma (a cause-and-effect relationship between a person’s deeds and destiny). While they believe in one pervasive supreme being, they also believe that they can commune with related divine beings.
“To us, God is omnipresent,” Senthilnathaswami said. “God is everything.”