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Home   News   Hindus celebrate new temple in Salem, Virginia, USA

Hindus celebrate new temple in Salem, Virginia, USA

August 9, 2013

Shravan Shukla Trutiya, Kaliyug Varsha 5115

MICHAEL SHROYER | Special to The Roanoke Times

Foods are left to the gods during Sunday’s ceremony.

MICHAEL SHROYER | Special to The Roanoke Times

A parade Sunday morning in downtown Salem was in honor of a new Hindu temple.

MICHAEL SHROYER | Special to The Roanoke Times

Worshippers unload a statue of Gunatitanand Swami, a prominent figure in the BAPS denomination of Hinduism, to take into the new temple. The temple is the first for the BAPS denomination in the Roanoke Valley.

MICHAEL SHROYER | Special to The Roanoke Times

Hindu priests throw rice into the air and offer it to the gods.

MICHAEL SHROYER | Special to The Roanoke Times

Women make their way to the front altar to pray after the ceremony ended. The ceremony lasted almost an hour.

MICHAEL SHROYER | Special to The Roanoke Times

A variety of food was left in honor of the gods and on display.

MICHAEL SHROYER | Special to The Roanoke Times

Hemabem Patel, of Martinsville, gives an offering of light toward the end of the ceremony Sunday.

MICHAEL SHROYER | Special to The Roanoke Times

A worshiper raises a candle to give a light offering on Sunday.

MICHAEL SHROYER | Special to The Roanoke Times

Sadhu (priest) Vivekuidhidas blesses the foods offered to the gods. Most of the ceremony on Sunday was in Sanskrit, the primary language of Hinduism.

MICHAEL SHROYER | Special to The Roanoke Times

Sadhu (priest) Yaynavallabh Das blesses a worshiper on Sunday. “The rituals are different in different religions,” the priest said. “But the objectives behind those traditions are to love God and express your love and dedication toward God.”

MICHAEL SHROYER | Special to The Roanoke Times

Statues of Sahajanand Swami (left) and Gunatitanand Swami sit at the center of the altar in the new temple in Salem.

MICHAEL SHROYER | Special to The Roanoke Times

The temple was packed Sunday with worshipers, some of whom came from as far as New Jersey.

MICHAEL SHROYER | Special to The Roanoke Times

A woman takes nuts and raisins out of a bag Sunday and prepares to offer them to the gods.

MICHAEL SHROYER | Special to The Roanoke Times

Dhruv Patel (left) and Shiven Shah of Cherry Hill, N.J., dance behind the lead float in Sunday’s parade through downtown Salem.

MICHAEL SHROYER | Special to The Roanoke Times

Pratik Amin (from left), Dhruv Patel, and Shiven Shah, of Cherry Hill, N.J., dance in the parade. Some people emerged from stores and houses to watch the procession.

MICHAEL SHROYER | Special to The Roanoke Times

The float with statues to represent the gods Shiv, Parvati and Ganesh travel down the parade route. The statues were carved by hand in India.

MICHAEL SHROYER | Special to The Roanoke Times

Children take part in the parade Sunday.

MICHAEL SHROYER | Special to The Roanoke Times

Krishna Patel (from left), of Salem, and Ekta Patel, of Radford, dance down College Avenue.

MICHAEL SHROYER | Special to The Roanoke Times

The parade in Salem kicks off Sunday downtown.

MICHAEL SHROYER | Special to The Roanoke Times

Women clasp their hands at the main altar in the new Hindu temple is revealed.

MICHAEL SHROYER | Special to The Roanoke Times

Vinod Dhanani (left) and Prakash Patel of Manassas pray at the start of Sunday’s service.

Children danced through the streets of Salem on  Sunday morning as the Hindu community celebrated the installation of a  new mandir, or Hindu temple.

It will be the second such temple in the Roanoke  Valley, but the first of the BAPS denomination, in which devotees follow  the teachings of Bhagwan Swaminarayan .

Religious leaders say the new temple on Sheraton  Drive won’t just give them a place to worship,  it will serve as a hub  for the Roanoke Valley’s Hindu community, which is made up of about 400  families.

Dharmendra Patel is an active member of the  BAPS  denomination and a Salem business owner. He said there aren’t many  Indian immigrants in Southwest Virginia, so it can be a challenge for  them to maintain their cultural identity.

“It will help people who immigrated from India —  first-, second-generation kids — it will help them understand the  culture, the religion, what we do,” he said. “Also it will give us a  place to network with each other and make sure we maintain our customs.”

Roanoke’s and Salem’s mayors, Virginia lawmakers,  national Hindu leaders and about 800 religious followers traveled from  as far away as New Jersey to take part in the centuries-old tradition of  installing a new temple.

The event began with an early-morning parade through  downtown Salem. Floats carried  several    white marble statues of  Hindu deities carved by hand in India. Participants, some dressed in  traditional Indian clothes, danced a short loop that started by the  court house. A few people came out of shops and houses along the way to  watch.

Sadhus, or Hindu priests, said the 4-foot-tall  marble figurines were made in the image of God. They were carried  through the streets so they can be introduced to the city and bless  local residents.

After the parade, they were taken into the temple and placed in their permanent home at an altar.

Hindu followers then filled the room as they prayed and made offerings to God.

Most of the ceremony was in Sanskrit, the primary  language of Hinduism, but interpreters explained they were inviting  deities to enter the idols. By the time they were finished, almost an  hour later, God was said to be alive inside the statues.

Coming from an Irish Catholic background, Roanoke  Mayor David Bowers said he didn’t understand everything he saw on  Sunday, but he enjoyed the opportunity to learn about a different   religion.

“It’s important, and it’s a good thing for us to  have this sense of diversity and multiculturalism,” he said. “So I would  say to the Christian community and the Jewish community, you ought to  come and see and understand each other. It’s been a very interesting  experience for me.”

Patel said Hindus believe in one  god who has been  reincarnated in several forms, which were represented by the statues in  the parade Sunday morning.

Sadhu Yaynavallabh Das, who leads the BAPS sect of  Hinduism in North America, said the service may seem awkward to  strangers, but its purpose is similar to ones with which  non-Hindus are  more familiar  .

“The rituals are different in different religions,”  Yaynavallabh said. “But the objectives behind those traditions are to  love God and express your love and dedication toward God.”

Source: Roanoke

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