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Hindu temple & cultural center in Carbondale

April 23
01:39 2011

Puja in progress

CHICAGO: The Indian community in Southern Illinois has planned setting up a Hindu temple along with a cultural center in Carbondale at a gross investment of $500,000 in the course of next eight months.

The move for the temple and cultural center got a jump start when one Dr Pradeep Reddy of Herrin announced donation of 3.3 acres of land at 1209 E. Walnut St across from the University Mall. Dr Reddy is a front ranking community activist also heading a no-profit organization – the Hindu Temple and Cultural Society of Southern Illinois (HTCS). Members of the Society sought help of other members of the community and collected close to $150,000 for the project.

The real crystallization came last Sunday April 17 when HTCS organized a groundbreaking ceremony with a priest from the St. Louis Hindu temple, Vedantha Sharma, and his son, Teja, coming in to perform the ceremony for invoking blessings of the deities. Close to 150 community members from Carbondale and surrounding areas gathered to be part of the nearly four hours ceremony and the celebrations thereafter.

Dr Reddy in a talk to this paper said, “The event in a way turned out to be a mini fundraiser and we raised close to $20,000 cash and $80,000 in pledges. With nearly $150,000 already collected, this will help HTCS to start construction in June and finish the job by early 2012. “We plan to set up the temple first. Although the establishment of cultural center too would start but wholesome attention would be to complete the temple first and then speed up the cultural center,” he said. The approximate built up area would be of 5000 sq feet, he said.

The temple, he added, would house 10 deities starting with Lord Ganesha. There would be idols of Lord Shiva, Lord Balaji, Lord Ram, Lord Krishna and Lord Subramanium. The idols of Goddesses Saraswati and Laxmi would also be installed. The temple would initially house a library and office till the cultural center gets completed. The cultural center would conduct many cultural activities, including sessions for bhajans, religious discourses and the like.

For decades, the hundreds of Hindu worshippers in the region have been either worshipping in their homes, or travel to St. Louis or Nashville, Tenn., the nearest communities with temples, for rituals. “There is always a ritual,” said Dr G.V. Naidu, a board member of the St. Louis Temple who attended the groundbreaking, “when a child is born, when it eats solid food for the first time, when a family enters a house for the first time” and countless other occasions. The rituals, he said, are “seeking the blessings of the Lord.”

Vice president of the HTCS, Naresh Patel of Harrisburg and his wife supported the groundbreaking ceremony. Other board members, all from Carbondale, are Padma Chandrasekar, secretary; Vardendra Panchamukhi, cultural secretary; Arjun Sadahalli, a Ph.D. student at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, student representative; Subhash Sharma, treasurer; and Dr. Sushil Tibrewala, member at-large.

Tibrewala said having a Hindu temple in Carbondale “should help with the recruitment of students to SIUC and professionals to the area.” He and board treasurer Sharma said at present, 10 to 15 families gather in someone’s home to mark religious days because there is no temple nearby.

Having such a religious and cultural center in Carbondale, they said, would be an inducement for Hindus to make Southern Illinois their home. The site will be convenient for SIUC students, Tibrewala said, because Saluki Express buses stop at University Mall, just across Walnut Street. Reddy said that about 250 to 300 students from India are expected to use the site.

Carbondale in Jackson County was founded in 1852 and is known as “Capital of Southern Illinois.” Brad Cole and Allen D. Gill are Mayor and City Manager respectively and they have been very supportive, added Dr Reddy.

Ramesh Soparawala
India Post News Service

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