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REPORT & PHOTOSBY MAHADEV DESAI
Atlanta, GA: Despite cold weather, an unprecedented record of thousands of devotees and visitors from all over South-East thronged the Hindu Temple of Atlanta (HTA) Riverdale, Georgia on Sunday, January 1st to celebrate a joyous and spiritually suffused Navodaya 2014 festival.
All the deities in the Balaji and Siva Temples wore a dazzling look in their ornate fineries and colorful garlands. The dedicated priests cheerfully performed archanas throughout the day blessing all the devotees who came to offer their prayers. Throughout the day, both Temples echoed with soul-soothing prayers, chantings of shlokas, and devotional songs. Around eleven a.m. Priest Sri Gopal Bhattar performed a pooja ceremony inside the auditorium, chanting shlokas and conferring his blessings for the New Year to the vendors.
As the day progressed more and more devotees arrived inside the two temples and after offering prayers, went around visiting and shopping at HTA Gift Shop and also at various booths inside the auditorium, which were selling sarees, household appliances and gadgets, jewelry, beads, artwork, devotional music CDs and DVDs. And also offering IT services. A Vedic Pooja Store called Poojasadan from Hyderabad which sells pooja supplies online to all US residents, and another vendor, Madurai Foods Inc.which sells Idly and Dosa batters and masala powders were the new vendors. Renowned and prolific journalist,author,researcher and compelling speaker Dr.Kumar Annavarapu,who previously promoted his book on much revered Sadguru Sri Sai Baba of Shirdi, was promoting his latest book,co-authored with his wife Rajeswari, on ‘Tirumala-Tirupati,the most reputed and richest Temple in the world. Some prominent not-for-profit Organizations-The Art of Living Foundation, and Gaudiya Vaishnava Organization had also set up their booths to disseminate information about their Organization and forthcoming events.
Children were engaged and entertained by a clown. Face, nail and palm-painting and popcorn also added to children’s fun activities.
Festivals and food go together! The varied menu of South Indian vegetarian splendors like spicy idli sambhar, masala dosas, tamarind or curd rice, upama, pooran poli,boondi ladoos, Mysore Pak, and snacks lovingly prepared in the Temple’s kitchen, by Kitchen staff under the supervision of Food Committee Chairperson, Dr.Seshu Sarma and served in the spacious banquet hall, by the youth volunteers was relished by all.
The current President Narender Reddy effusively commented, “I am very happy with the unprecedented turnout of over 9,000 devotees today to seek God’s blessings on ‘Navodaya’, New Year’s day. It was the highest attendance the HTA had in its 23 year history!”
He added, “By 10.00 a.m., our parking lots were full so we had to provide shuttle service to the parking lots in nearby schools. I wish to thank all the sponsors, trustees, past Presidents, Executive Committee, vendors, and all the devotees. My deep thanks to B.K.Mohan, Sairam Surapaneni, Pinnamaneni Krishna Mohan, Krishna Das Pisarodi, Shailender Mudireddy, Raja Pal Reddy,Dr.Sujatha Reddy, Ashok Kumar and scores of volunteers, who worked hard to make these celebrations memorable and enjoyable. The volunteers did a superb job in maintaining order and moving the lines smoothly and fast.”
“The Food Committee under Dr.Seshu Sarma’s leadership together with young band of volunteers served delicious variety of food to thousands of devotees. Last year, HTA organized historic Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations. This year, we are planning to install ‘Nandishwara’in front of the Siva Temple, which will be another milestone for HTA. HTA always ensures the best living conditions for its priests. This year we will be renovating all the apartments on the campus. All this together with celebrations of major Hindu festivals will need funds. We will focus on augmenting our Endowment Fund also, as HTA will need a substantial reserve fund for any unforeseen contingencies.I am confident that devotees will donate generously to enable HTA accomplish all its goals. As always,we will also strive to help the community by supporting humanitarian causes like disaster-relief, helping the home-less, Sai Health Fairs, blood drives, yoga and meditation classes, Bal Vihar classes, and other worthy causes. My thanks to all the devotees who celebrated Navodaya 2014 with great enthusiasm, and joy and deep reverence. My heartfelt wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year to all”