Utahns gather for ceremonies to rededicate Hindu temple in South Jordan

South Jordan • Five priests, each with a long yellow cloth wrapped around the waist, began Saturday’s ceremonies at the Sri Ganesha Hindu Temple of Utah the traditional Hindu way, with prayers to Lord Ganesha, the remover of all obstacles.

Ganesha — who is depicted as a human with an elephant head — was just one deity to whom prayers and rituals were performed Saturday, as part of Maha Kumbhabhishekam, a four-day series of ceremonies to rededicate the Hindu temple in South Jordan.

“We have lots of gods, but only one supreme being,” said Dinesh Patel, president of the Sri Ganesha Hindu Temple’s board of directors, and a noted Utah venture capitalist and philanthropist.

One highlight of Saturday’s ceremonies was the Jala Adhivasam, or the consecration of the deities. Devotees lined up to pour sacred water over idols of more than a dozen deities — a lineup that includes Ganesha, Shiva the Destroyer, his companion Parvati, the playful Krishna, the warrior Lord Rama, the monkey god Hanuman, and others.

The numerous deities represent different forms of Ishwara, the supreme being of Hinduism, explained Sneha Kasera, one of the temple’s lifetime trustees.

“Everything around you is God,” Kasera said. “The whole of the universe and beyond is God.”

Because of that, Kasera said, Hindus began to worship rivers, trees, or whatever was around — all as manifestations of the different qualities of Ishwara.

The many deities allow Hindus to form a more personal relationship with Ishwara, Patel said. “If you have a form, you are more connected to something you can feel and touch,” he said.

The idols, made of stone or ceramic or metal, were placed temporarily in plastic storage tubs or kiddie wading pools, to keep the water — and, in a ceremony the day before, milk — from spilling onto the temple’s new floor. The idols will be placed in 18 shrines within the temple, after which only the priests are allowed to touch them.

The deities were invoked in prayer sessions, or pujas, held in the morning and evening sessions on Thursday night, Friday and Saturday. The priests also tended to sacrificial fires, called homam, that burned constantly.

The event was expected to draw 1,000 Hindus and curious neighbors to the temple Saturday. Outside the religious services, vendor booths, food and entertainment were also on hand.

More pujas will be performed Sunday morning, leading to the final event of the rededication ceremony: The Maha Kumbhabhishekam, when sanctified water pots are carried to the top of the temple’s new tower, or gopuram, and poured over the shining spires, or kalashas.

In most Indian villages, Patel said, the gopuram is the tallest building in town, and a gathering place for the community. The gopuram in South Jordan, which is still being finished, is 45 feet tall and is the highest structure in the neighborhood — except for the 219-foot spire of the LDS Church’s Jordan River Temple, about two blocks away.

The rededication of the Sri Ganesha Hindu Temple and the adjoining India Cultural Center is the culmination of a three-year expansion plan. The new temple accommodates some 600 devotees, compared to 250 in the old temple, Patel said — a reflection of the growth of Utah’s Hindu and Indian-American community.

The expansion, at a budget of $2.65 million raised by the community, faced a hard deadline of this summer. The temple opened in 2003 and, according to Hindu doctrine, major changes can only happen every 12 years.

The ceremonies are said to unite the powers of the deities within the temple. Patel noted that the priests perform the pujas in Sanskrit, an ancient language few modern Hindus speak — but, much like modern Catholics listening to a Latin Mass, the feeling is still powerful.

“At some point, you start feeling the vibrations,” Patel said.

Source: sltrib.com