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Wednesday, July 30, 2008 01:40 am

A new sanctuary

Area Hindus prepare for temple dedication in Chatham

Krishna Brahmamdam
The new Hindu Temple of Greater Springfield

Krishna Brahmamdam gives kudos to his fellow community members. Without them, he says, the Hindu Temple of Greater Springfield wouldn't exist.

After a year of planning, fundraising, and searching for the perfect location, the Hindu community has found its home in the former site of Judson Baptist Church, 1001 W. Walnut St., in Chatham. The organization purchased the property on May 9, and since then its volunteers have been hard at work, renovating the building's interior and readying it for the temple's inauguration ceremonies, Aug. 4-7.

"We have all had the same vision and goal for a long, long time," says Brahmamdam, chairman of the interim governing board. "Unless you have a good number of people with the same vision, there is no way you can have this temple."

The HTGS was incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in April 2007 and welcomed Priest Sri Vasudev Ravuru from India last October. The community soon began conducting its traditional pooja services in rented space at the Indian Association House, on Peoria Road. As its population increased to more than 500 members, Brahmamdam says, the HTGS decided that it needed more space.

The new building, which sits on a 9.4-acre lot, will serve as an interim home. Once funds are in order, the organization plans to construct a permanent $1 million temple complete with stone statues of its murthi, or gods. It'll be the closest temple to Springfield — others are as far away as St. Louis, Peoria, and Chicago.

"This gives us a good start," Brahmamdam says. "We have a good amount of land, we have a building, we have a priest, and we have very dedicated volunteers and members who really want this project to be successful."

The HTGS chose Chatham for its small-community atmosphere, Brahmamdam says, and is thrilled by the support of Mayor Tom Gray, the Chatham Village Board, and other village officials. Although acceptance is a problem in some places, he adds, the HTGS has never experienced that obstacle [see Manjula Batmanathan, "Keeping the faith," May 10, 2007].

Gray will join in the temple's initial inauguration ceremonies at 9 p.m. Monday. The mayor will preside over the ribbon-cutting, and immediately afterward the Hindu community will complete the ritual of bringing their utsav moorthies, 2-foot-tall god statues made of lead, copper, zinc, silver, and gold, into the temple.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the HTGS will conduct the sanctification of the utsav moorthies, which Brahmamdam explains as giving the idols divine energy and life, and then will place them on their mandir, or sacred platform.

The final event and a highlight of the ceremonies, Brahmamdam says, is a visit by Bhagwan Sri Sri Sri Viswayogi Viswamji to the temple. At 7 p.m. next Thursday, the spiritual guru from India — who, Brahmamdam says, has divine energy — will inaugurate the mandir and permit the HTGS to conduct regular services.

The public is invited to all of the services. For more information, visit www.springfieldtemple.org.

Contact Amanda Robert at arobert@illinoistimes.com.

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