Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Phoenix Ekta Mandir opens doors to devotees

NEW YORK: Ekta Mandir, the first Hindu Jain Unity Temple in Arizona, was inaugurated on Dec 22, 2007 by the Mayor of Phoenix, Phil Gordon and opened its doors to the people of Phoenix with a grand celebration of Pujas, Havan, Chanting of Vedic Hymns, Bhajans and Dances.

Devotees could not help but marvel at the beauty of the temple built in traditional Indian temple architecture. The celebrations attended by over 600 people began with the traditional Grand Shobhayatra in the early morning of Dec 22. Women and young girls took the decorated Kalash with coconut in the shape of Lord Ganesh over their head in a procession from the Indo-American Community Center to the Ekta Mandir site across the street. Following them were 17 families who carried the Utsav Murthies to the temple.

Once the procession reached the temple site, the Priest Satyanarayan Shastri, who led a team of priests and Vedic scholars from around the valley, conducted the main rituals. After the purification ceremony a Navgrah Puja and Havan were performed invoking the blessing of the nine planets. The Vastu Puja, Vastu Havan and Vastu Bali were performed after this.

Vastu puja for a Devsthan is different than Vastu Havan for a house. When we dig the ground, to put a foundation, we disturb many insects and living beings. They are being sacrificed and this puja is done to request their forgiveness and to make the place appropriate for worship. At the end of the puja, to honor their sacrifice, we offer a symbolic Balidan of lemon, coconut, pumpkin etc.After the Navagrah Havan, Mayor Gordon led a procession of the devotees around the temple.

This parikrama, known as Ashtadig Palak Bali, is performed at the eight corners around the building. At each stage, an offering of Lemon is made to feed the gods. In the Hindu belief the Universe is guarded by gods at eight corners. Devotees chanted "Ekta Mandir ki jai jai kar" during the procession.

In his speech, the Mayor, who has been a long time supporter of the community, nostalgically recalled attending the inauguration of the Indo American Cultural and Religious Foundation Hall as a young councilman, and then again as Mayor attending the ground breaking celebrations of Ekta Mandir in 2005.

The Mayor expressed his gratitude and said he felt truly honored to have been given this opportunity to come a full circle and be invited to the temple opening. He said the temple was a true testament to the diversity that exists in the great city of Phoenix and provided a sanctuary for people of two different faiths to worship as one. The two- day rituals included special Jain pujas and Hindu pujas that were performed to all the Gods.

The festivities included delicious food on both days for all and a colorful and diverse cultural program that reflected the diversity of the community. Built on 4.5 acres at a cost of $5.8 million, the 12,500 sq ft Temple is 95% complete. The Temple hopes to become debt free and looks to members of the community for their help in making it debt free. In the week leading up to the temple opening over $300,000 was pledged towards sponsoring the main door, 3 pillars, Maha Prasad and some of the Murthis.

The Board of Directors would be launching a major fundraising drive to make the Temple debt free by February before the Pran Prathista. The Grand Pran Prathista Celebrations will take place on February 15, 16 and 17.

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