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Atlanta


Triple Celebration At Hindu Temple Of Atlanta Attracts Thousands Of Devotees

BY RAVI R PONANGI



A large number of devotees thronged the Hindu temple of Atlanta (HTA) for six days of annual Brahmotsavams, 20th anniversary of Hindu temple of Atlanta and 8th Varshikotsavam of Siva temple. The triple celebration was held in the temple from May 23 to 28 at Riverdale, Georgia. 

Six days annual Brahmotsavams, 20th anniversary of Hindu Temple of Atlanta and 8th Varshikotsavam of Siva temple began with Dwaja Arohanam (the hoisting of the flag) on May 23. Several hundreds of devotees participated in 6 day festival from May 23 - 28 with devotional fervor. The white colored sacred flag, Dhwajapatam carrying the image of Garuda, the celestial carrier of the Lord, was hoisted atop the Dwaja Stambham by the priests in the auspicious hours of the morning of May 23. The hoisting of the flag (Dwaja Arohanam symbolizes an invitation to the celestial Gods and demi-gods to witness the grand celebrations (Brahmotsavams) of the Lord.



Scriptures indicate that Lord Balaji is utsava Priya (very pleased with festivals). Lord Balaji and Tirumala Tirupati are very popular for every day festivals. Following this tradition, in Atlanta, the Hindu temple of Atlanta at Riverdale (HTA) observes the six-day 20th annual celebrations of the HTA during the Memorial Day weekend attracted over a couple of thousand devotees from all parts of the southeast.

The annual celebrations included Sri Lakshmi and Vishnu Sahasranama homas, rituals, Sthapana Thirumanjanam, Sri Padmavati Srinivasa kalyanam, cultural programs, bhajans and processions for the utsava murtis on different vahanas (chariots) at the temple. 

Every day, the utsava vigrahas are decorated with different alankarams and utsava vigrahas are taken in a procession around the temple premises on different vahanas like Hamsa vahana, Simha vahana, Garuda vahana, Aswa vahana and Chandra Prabha vahana based on Lord Vishnu legends. This is a feast for the eyes of the devotees who believe that this sight heralds prosperity to those who gather there. Each vahana has its own significance, and conveys the Lordís message in its own way. 

On May 26, the Lord is taken on a procession seated on a decorated chariot also known as Rathotsavam on the fourth day of Brahmotsavam. The idols of Daruka (the charioteer of Lord Sri Krishna) and the four horses (Saibyam, Sugreevam, Meghapushpam and Valahakam) are placed before the decorated idols of the Lord and his consorts. The chariot is pulled along by devotees chanting Govinda! Govinda! The deities are taken in the Aswa (horse) Vahana. Aswa, a symbol of energy, means 'one who runs fast'. It is believed that those who witness Rathotsavam will not be reborn. 

On May 27, the fifth day of the six-day annual celebrations, Pallaki Seva and Chakrasnana Mahotsavam in the morning and Dhwaja Avarohanam are performed in the evening. The Balaji vigraha in the main sanctum sanatorium are anointed with oil, turmeric powder and other auspicious ingredients and Abhishekam was performed. Sudarsan Chakram is given a bath in the specially erected place and devotees enjoy vasantosavam. The Garuda flag is then lowered. After alankarams and pujas, a large congregation of devotees enjoyed Sayanotsavam, a ceremony putting the Lord to sleep at 9.30PM. Melodious annamacharya kirtans and jola patalu are sung by devotees to the Balaji and her divine consort, as priests gently rocked the cradle in which they are sleeping.

8th anniversary of Siva temple in Hindu temple of Atlanta was held from May 25-27 with Ganapati, Rama Lingeswara Abhishekams, Ganapati, Rudra homams, Sata Rudra yagam, durga deepa puja, Sri chakra Puja, Siva parvati kalyanam and prakarotsavam. 6 day annual celebrations concluded with group Satyanarayana puja on May 28 followed by trustees and officers of the temple accompany temple priests in procession while musical instruments are played left the priests at their quarters on conclusion of festivities as a mark of honor to the temple priests.

On this occasion temple priests and employees were recognized and honored for their committed services in the presence of temple community. The six-day annual celebrations of the HTA during the Memorial Day weekend attracted over a couple of thousand devotees from all parts of the southeast.

Hindu temple of Atlanta in Riverdale is the most popular Hindu temple which was built two decades ago in the Atlanta region. It has two separate temples - one for Lord Balaji and the other for Lord Siva. The both complexes have shrines for other deities also. For several years now, the towering pristine white Rajagopurams of the Hindu Temple of Atlanta in Riverdale (HTA) has beckoned devotees from all over Georgia and the South East. 

The HTA complex has evolved over the years, to fulfill the spiritual needs of an ever growing Hindu community. Temple priests apart from performing daily rituals, periodic celebrations and festivities in the temple, they also go out to individual homes and community gatherings to perform samskaaras like naming ceremonies, birth ceremonies, marriages, antya kriya karmas (last rites). 

Over the years, the role of the HTA has evolved to a more than spiritual one. Since 1993, the temple has been organizing classes to impart religious teachings and cultural values to children as well as adults. What started off as weekend classes in the living rooms of priests has become an institution in itself, thanks to the communityís growing needs. The numerous classes are now held in HTAís modern education complex that houses 17 rooms, a seminar hall and an expansive auditorium. 

HTA conducts Bal Vihar classes for kids between the ages 4 and 16. HTA education program also has programs for adults, including a Sanskrit class, an Upanishad class, a Bhagvad Gita class, Bhagavatam and also yoga and meditation classes. Private dance and music classes are held at a nominal charge. Local Danseuses impart dance lessons to various groups, while other prominent local maestros conduct violin and vocal music classes.

HTA works closely with the Carnatic Music Association of Georgia (CAMAGA), in terms of providing the temple auditorium for visiting artistes. The temple also hosts periodic discourses and performances by visiting saints, scholars and artistes.

Besides its role in meeting the growing religious and cultural needs of the community, the HTA also undertakes charity work with zeal. The temple raises funds during national and international disasters. The funds are sent to the affected areas through local organizations. 

The HTA, like several other temples in North America, serves as more than a spiritual ground for the community. It is a cultural experience, a community meeting ground, an educational center and more. 





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