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Despite heavy rains, over five thousand devotees and visitors from all over the South-East thronged the Hindu Temple of Atlanta (HTA) Riverdale, Georgia on the morning of Saturday, January 1st to celebrate a joyous and spiritually suffused Navodaya 2011 festival.
All the devotees in the Balaji and Siva Temples wore a dazzling look in their ornate fineries and colorful garlands. The dedicated priests performed archanas throughout the day blessing all the devotees who came to offer their prayers. The chief priest Sri Gopal Bhattar performed a ceremony chanting shlokas and conferred his blessings on the newly elected HTA President, Dr.Jayasree Moparthy and her executive committee. Priest Rangachari performed another ceremony in the auditorium, with shlokas, conferring his blessings on the vendors and temple manager Lakshmi Narasimhan wished a happy New Year and good luck to the vendors.
As the day progressed and the the weather improved, more devotees arrived inside the two temples and after offering prayers, went around visiting and shopping at the HTA gift shop and also at various booths selling saris, household appliances and gadgets, jewelry, beads, artwork, maths, tutoring, devotional music CDs and DVDs. Service booths also kept busy helping visitors with travel bookings or auto insurance. Some prominent not-for-profit organizations- Art of Living Foundation, Amma Center of GA.,Isha Foundation, and Gaudiya Vaishnava Organization had also set up their booths to disseminate information about their organization and forthcoming events. One of the booths, manned by Meherchand Lanka displayed beautiful paintings by Atlanta’s talented artist Dr.Sivananda Nyayapathi. Dr.Nyayapathi is an accomplished portrait, landscape and still life artist, who has exhibited his paintings in many galleries and also won awards. He also conducts art classes in Atlanta. The paintings at the booth were kindly donated by him to the HTA for silent auction. The prolific author, researcher and Editor of ‘Vidya’ magazine, Dr.Kumar Annavarapu, his wife and son were busy promoting literature and a glossy captivating album on India’s spiritual guru, Sri Sai Baba.
Festivals and food go together! The varied menu of South Indian vegetarian splendors like spicy idli sambhar, masala dosas, tamarind or curd rice, upama, boondi ladoos, Mysore Pak, prepared in the temple’s kitchen, under the supervision of the food committee chairperson, Geeta Raghu and community services chairperson, Dr.Sujatha Reddy and served in the spacious banquet Hall, by volunteers was relished by all.
Hema Bhattar (Hindu Temple Balvihar) and clowns of Atlanta’s Sherry Ross ensured plenty of fun and frolic for the kids, hosting activities like popping balloons, bubble-blowing; face-painting, quizzes and competitions.
The past President, Hyma Mikkilineni who just completed her two-year term, congratulated and complimented the current President Dr.Jayasree Moparthy and her team. “I am very happy with the Navodaya celebrations today. Despite rains, about 200 devotees already arrived for Suprabhatam and within an hour about 500 more devotees were waiting for darshan. During the last two years the Temple has made substantial progress. In spite of economic down devotees attended and generously supported various festivals and activities of the HTA. The crown jewel among the festivals was the three month long Sri Mahalakshmi Koti Kumkum Archana in May, 2010. It is the first time HTA performed this festival in the Southeast. Smt.Sasikala Penumarthi’s dance- drama, ‘Andal Kalyanam’ a fundraiser for the HTA’s Yogsala project was also a huge success.HTA also carried out humanitarian efforts like the blood drive, Sai Health Fair, and commendable activities like free yoga and meditation classes,BalVihar, etc. I wish to thank the HTA Trustees, past-Presidents, Executive Committee, volunteers and devotees for their immense help and support and to convey my best wishes to everyone for the New Year.”
The current President Jayasree commented,’ I am very happy with the massive turnout of devotees today. I wish to thank all the sponsors, trustees, past Presidents, Executive Committee,vendors, devotees and volunteers for their invaluable support today. My special thanks to Dr.B.K.Mohan and Mr.Pinnamaneni Krishna for arranging organized parking and also shuttle service during rainy period. I am happy that everyone has enjoyed delicious food items both on Friday and Saturday. The surplus from food proceeds will be donated to non-profit organizations. My thanks to Aravind Goli for looking after the vendor booths and to the Temple Manager,Mr.Narasimhan for the overall supervision and success of the festival. The cultural program in the afternoon was also entertaining and well attended. On behalf of the Executive Committee, I wish all a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.”