A small temple in garage now grows to $7 million "Haveli" | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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A small temple in garage now grows to $7 million "Haveli"

PTI | ByLalit K Jha (HindustanTimes.com), Minneapolis
Jun 27, 2005 05:54 PM IST

A mandir in a garage has now grown into mammoth temple with a huge followings in Houston, reports Lalit K Jha.

Some 30 years ago Indravadan Desai, an entrepreneur from Gujarat vacated his garage in Houston so that mother Dahi Ben could worship deity Shri Nathji, or Lord Krishna.

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HT Image

Within a few years, the garage-used-as-a-temple became so popular among local Hindus and followers of the Vallabh Sampraday in particular that they started feeling the need of having spacious place to worship as rush of people caused inconvenience to neighbors.

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In 1985, the small Indian Diaspora collected money to build a small temple at the Blintiff Drive, which over the years too proved to be 'inadequate' to accommodate the followers.

Finally on June 24 the idol of Shri Nathji was shifted to a new home, some three miles away to 11731 Bellfort Village Drive in Houston in a colorful religious procession -- called "Shobha Yatra" in India -- in which, the Lord seated in a traditionally decorated "palki", moved through various parts of the Houston city, an event widely reported in the local media.

As the colorful Shobha Yatra accompanied with about 100 cars moved, the traffic police had made special arrangement for smooth flow of the traffic in the city and diversions. A large number of onlookers were curious to see what it was going on in the city and many even stopped their cars to have a glimpse of this procession.

Built by the Vallabh Priti Sewa Samaj at an estimated cost of $7 million (more than Rs. 30 crore), the temple - called "Haveli" by the followers - has 40,000 square foot facility on an eight acre and consists of a Nandalaya, a courtyard, Vallabh Vidyamandir (school for teaching the culture and traditions of Pushti Marg) and a community centre.

The week-long function would continue till July 2.

"It is all because of my mother," an emotional Desai told the HindustanTimes.com. Dahi Devi, who was present at the time of temple foundation laying ceremony in October 2003, died a few months later. "I wish, my mother was here to see all this," he said.

Involved with the temple for personal reasons, before Indian community came forward to give it a grand shape, Desai individually donated $1 million (more than Rs. 43 lakhs) for its construction.

A well known Indian gynecologist, Kokila Parikh who has been involved with the temple for the years, said watching the event was a life time opportunity that too far away from the home country. "It is a dream fulfilled, but shifting the Lord from the smaller place to this large one comes with its own mixed feeling as one leaves old house for a new one," she said. Among the future plans of the temple include construction of a senior citizens home. "It is the need of the hour," he said referring to the fact that large number of first generation immigrants now needed.

As hundreds of people came to the new temple over the weekend to attend participate in the week-long consecration ceremony, many of the local Americans were impressed the manner in which the event went around.

"It is amazing, far away from mother land, people continue to devote so much time to religious activities," said Priyank Jaiswal, a PhD student.

Virendra Parikh, a community leader observed: "Temples are necessary in this society to provide Hindus with anchor points. It also serves ideal places to organize events regularly for second generation kids."

Young attorney, Jigna Dalal said: "It is a way for me to understand my culture and give back to my committee."

Senior officials of the Vallabh Priti Sewa Samaj said the new temple is now the largest temple of the 500-year old sect. There are similar temples in New York and Los Angeles.

Desai said; among future plans include construction of a 150-unit retirement community, a 50-unit assisted living facility, and a 25-unit nursing home.

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