New Hindu Temple Opening

By Craig,

A new Hindu Temple, Sri Venkateswara Temple, is having its Mahakumbhabhishekam (Grand Opening) June 18 -22, 2014.

The Temple is being constructed in traditional South India style.

For more than a year religious artists called shilpis have been delicately ornamenting the shrines inside the Temple.

They have spent thousands of man hours on the project. The Temple is adjacent to the existing Sri Shirdi Sai Baba Temple in Cedar Park, Texas.

One unique feature of the Temple, seldom seen in the United States, is that the main shrine for Lord Venkateswara is made entirely of granite stones.

Because of the high cost of building with stones, most temples in the U.S. are built with brick and mortar only.

The Sri Venkateswara shrine was hand carved from granite near Chennai, cut into pieces, and shipped, at a weight of 250 tons, to Austin.

Then it was carefully reconstructed by a team of five shilpis over a six month period.

“The feeling inside a stone shrine is much more profound than a brick and mortar shrine” says Craig Sastry, President of the Temple.

“That is why our scriptures say the merit of building a stone shrine is 100 times greater than building a brick and mortar shrine” he says.

He added “Of course, we would like to build all the shrines in stone, but we couldn’t afford it.” The estimated completion cost for the entire project is approximately $4,000,000, including the site development.

The new Temple complex’s size is more than 8,000 square feet. It consists of a main temple, a smaller Navagraha Building, and a building to house the temple chariot, workshop, and the restrooms.

In the main granite shrine is an eight foot granite idol of Lord Venkateswara, in traditional black granite. Lord Venkateswara’s shrine has a vimanam (dome) on the outside roof, soaring another 28 feet above the roof level.

In a separate shrine next to Lord Venkateswara is a shrine housing Lord Venkateswara’s consort Padmavathi, which is a black granite idol showing Padmavathi (Lakshmi) sitting on a lotus.

Next to the Lord Venkateswara shrine is a shrine housing a black granite Sahasra Shiva Linga.

This Linga is unique, because 1000 smaller lingas are carved on the lingam.

When ceremonies such as abhishekam (pouring liquids) over the linga are done, it will give the merit of doing 1001 abhishekams to Lord Shiva.

Next to the Shiva shrine is the Parvati shrine, which will house a granite idol of Parvati Devi, Shiva’s consort.

One widely anticipated feature is the installation of a nine foot Hanuman, or Anjaneya, inside the Temple. A beautiful mandap (four pillars and a roof) covers Hanumanji. Playful monkeys ornament the roof.

Hanuman stands in prayer pose, facing Ram Pariwar, which sits in a shrine directly across the hall. Ram Pariwar (Ram, Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman) are idols sculpted from pure white marble from Rajasthan, India.

Hanuman is the perfect devotee of Ram, so it is appropriate that they both will always face each other. Next to the Ram Pariwar shrine is a beautifully ornamented shrine for Radha-Krishna, which are sculpted from the purest white marble.

All the shrines have been very delicately ornamented by the shilpis. The Ram shrine has small squirrels on the roof, reminiscent of the blessing the squirrels got from Ram in the Ramayana.

The Radha-Krishna shrine has peacocks on the front, the peacock being a sign of wisdom, with Lord Krishna being the wisest of all.

Austin has many devotees of the Divine Mother in the form of Durga Devi. A beautiful four foot white marble idol of Durga Ma will be placed in a shrine near the entrance to the Temple.

The idol will be in Durga’s traditional North Indian form, riding a lion. In the Northeast corner of the Temple is another unique feature, a fountain.

It is considered auspicious to have water flowing in the Northeast of a Temple. Outside of the main temple will be another building, the “Navagraha Building”, which will house idols of Ganapati with Siddhi and Buddhi, Lord Ayyappa, Subramanya with Sri Valli and Devasena, and the Navagrahas (nine planets).

An eight foot wall will enclose the entire complex. “The wall gives a sense of protection to the whole temple, like being in a mother’s womb” says Sastry.

Two features that will not be finished at opening time are the “Rishi Gopuram”, or handcrafted sculpture above the front door, and the “Raja Gopuram”.

The Raja Gopuram will be a 54 foot tower and gate connecting to the wall around the complex. Persons entering the complex will walk through a 15 foot tunnel through the tower.

A twenty three foot gold plated dwajasthambham (flagpole) will adorn the entrance to the temple. Other special touches in the temple include beautifully hand carved solid teak doors for the main entrance and the entrances to the shrines.

Devotees have also purchased costly ornaments for many of the idols, such as Kavach’s (armor), necklaces, and makara thoranas, and Kireetam (crowns).

The Temple is hiring at least two new priests who will work full time at the Temple. One, Phanikanth, is a Rig Veda, Pundit, and the other Sreekanth, is a Sama Veda Pundit.

They join priests Raghunath Bangalore and Badrinath Bhattar, Krishna Yajur Veda Pundit Dattatreya Ganti, and Krishna Yajur Veda Pundit Srinivasa Charyulu, who will also work inside the Sri Venkateswara complex.

Sri Venkateswara Temple is an extension of Sri Shirdi Sai Baba Temple, and sits on the same 9 acre property in Cedar Park.

Sai Baba Temple is best known for its extensive charity projects for feeding the poor in Central Texas as well as India, and its support of programs for universal welfare, such as recent successful “yagnas” (ceremonies) to bring rain to drought stricken Central Texas and the State of California.

Highlights of the five day Kumbabhishekam program will include 108 Samuhika Lalita Sahasranama/Chandi homa on Friday at 6:30 pm, 108 Sudarshana Homa Saturday morning at 11:00 am, and 108 Samuhika Manyu Sahita Maha Rudra Homam at 4:30 pm on Saturday, both done in 108 homa kundas by devotees. Nineteen priests will officiate at the ceremonies.

Kamakshi Swami, a saint from Chennai, and Saint Panduranga Malyala of the Pittsburgh Shirdi Sai Baba Temple, will bless the ceremonies.

Many foreign dignitaries will bless the event, such as TTD Chairman Bapi Raju, (Chairman of the temple in Tirupati Tirumala), and former TTD Executive Officer PVRK Prasad.

The design of the temple and the shilpis came from Silpakala Nilayam of Chennai, a tenth generation firm of staphatis (Vedic architects) from Chennai.

Nagaraj Mahankali, the scion of the family of staphatis, will inaugurate the temple. The building was constructed by G2 Builders, and the local architect was Terry Colegrove. C.S. Samavedula will officiate as the Chief Pundit.

For a complete schedule of events, please call (512) 528-0807 or e-mail info@saiaustin.org.

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