BY MAHADEV DESAI
Photos by Dr. B. K. Mohan & Ravi Ponangi
Atlanta, GA: The Council of Hindu Temples of North America (CHTNA) meets annually at one of the temples in the United States. This year, the Hindu Temple of Atlanta, in Riverdale, Georgia, hosted the annual meeting on Saturday April 19, 2014.The meeting was attended by representatives of about 21 temples from different parts of the nation. After registration and delectable breakfast, the temple priests performed an invocation ceremony. The President of Hindu Temple of Atlanta, Narender Reddy welcomed all and requested the attendees to introduce themselves.
CHTNA a registered 501(c) 3, non-profit Hindu organization, was established in 1984 and incorporated in the State of New York in 1986. It is governed by 9 temples as Board of Directors and has its secretariat at the Hindu Temple Society of North America, NY. CHTNA is an umbrella organization to represent Hindu temples in North America.
The primary objective of the council is to unite all the temples under a common banner including the official representation of all the temples to speak on subjects and concerns affecting Hindu religion and culture. In addition to this objective, its goals include maintaining a directory of all the temples and publishing periodic newsletters, preparing and publishing (a North American) panchangam (almanac) as per US time for use by all US temples and their devotees, assisting member temples in dealing with problems concerning the temples, such as visas for religious workers, benefits such as medical/life insurance, pension plans, inter-faith and intra-faith activities and management of the temples, collecting bargain power with supplier/vendors and sharing of common resource pools – such as priests, musicians, artist, spiritual leaders, etc.
The council members also exchange and shares ideas / experiences, such as compliance with state/federal regulations, issues related to temple management, internal / external conflicts of interest, temple security, involvement of youth for continuity and recognizing and honoring humanitarian and other religious services.
Following review of and approval of the meeting’s agenda, reports by the outgoing chairperson, (represented by the vice chairperson Mythili Bachu of Sri Siva Vishnu Temple in Maryland, as the chairperson from Wisconsin temple could not come); the secretary (Dr. Uma Mysorekar of Sri Maha Vallabha Ganapathi Temple in Flushing, New York) and the treasurer (Mr. Tupil Narasimhan from Sri Meenakshi Temple in Houston, Texas) were presented and approved. The minutes of the council meeting-May 2013 were also reviewed and approved. The assembled representatives stressed the need to increase membership and taking measures to induce more temples to join CHTNA. The meeting continued after a short break.
The meeting throughout was productive and provided a useful forum for exchange of ideas for the benefit of the Temples. Various topics including religious visas and corporate management were discussed. Financial consultant specialized in endowment trust for the Temples addressed the gathering and informed regarding setting up of Endowment Trust funds.
Mythili Bachu from Sri Siva Vishnu Temple was selected as the chairperson for the next two years and Valveeman Rajasekaran from Sri Venkateswara Temple, Pittsburgh was selected as the vice chairman. Dr. Uma Mysorekar of Sri Ganesh Temple, New York, Flushing, shared her experience in the effective management concepts she followed in her temple. This was followed with very valuable group discussion about the practical issues, possible solutions and management concepts practiced in several temples. The attendees also shared ideas about health insurance benefits to Temple employees; and temple’s safety and security issues. There were extensive discussions on involvement of the next generation in temple activities and increasing the membership strength by increasing the awareness of benefits of playing a proactive role in Temples as well as CHTNA. Suggestions were also made that the young generation be enthused to attend the Council meetings. Work assignments for 2014-15 were also discussed and distributed to member Temples present at the meeting.
In his brief but thoughtful remarks, Hindu Temple of Atlanta’s Youth Committee chairperson Hemanth Grandhige thanked the temple for enlisting youth to play an active role in both service oriented and socially oriented activities. He said he would like to see greater participation of youth in this respect. He noted that it was heartening to see children engaged in Bal Vihar programs and music and dance lessons at the temple but lamented that these children drifted away from the temple when they grew up. As a result immigrant generation rather than first generation adults and youth continue to be a strong presence in the temple’s management as well as events. He further noted that in India, a devotee may visit a temple for a few minutes, whereas here in the U.S. he is likely to spend more time because a temple plays a much bigger role both as a place of worship as well as a community center so it ought to involve people from old as well as young generation to efficiently serve the community and to ensure a bold and bright future.
The conference delegates were invited to a special dharshan and pooja ceremony upstairs in the temple, and treated to a sumptuous dinner organized by the Food Committee chairperson Dr.S eshu Sarma, Chef Rama Krishna and his team of volunteers..
Prior to the dinner, the delegates were regaled with scintillating classical dances program coordinated by chairperson of the Cultural Committee, Veena Venkat Raman, and performed by talented students of Atlanta’s popular dance and music academies of Padmaja Kelam, Jyothi Chintalapudi and Bhavini Subramani respectively.
The current CHTNA president Mythili Bachu and the secretary Dr. Uma Mysorekar thanked Hindu Temple of Atlanta for hosting the conference and for extending its warm gracious hospitality to the delegates.
More information about CHTNA can be found on its updated website: www.chtna.org