HTA Ushers in New Year with Grand Navodaya Celebrations
Thousands of devotees thronged the Hindu Temple of Atlanta (HTA), Riverdale, Ga., to celebrate a spiritually suffused 4th annual Navodaya 2007 Festival on January 1st. All the deities in the Balaji and Shiva temples wore a festive look in their ornate finery and fresh garlands. The dedicated priests performed over 600 archanas throughout the auspicious day, blessing all the devotees who patiently offered their prayers.
Around noon, the outgoing president of HTA, Dr. Aruna Prasad Kancherla, led the oath-taking ceremony for the incoming president, Dr. P. Ravi Sarma and his team, while chief priest Sri Gopal Bhattar, flanked by other priests, chanted shlokas and conferred their blessings. As the day progressed, vendors in the Education building did a brisk business selling jewelry, sarees, costumes, beads, artwork, CDs and DVDs of devotional music, regional movies, etc.
This year, the Festival also added a "Health and Wealth" segment in its program. Dr Sujatha Reddy, noted for her exemplary SAI Health Fairs, organized a free bone density screening test. Over 40 tests were conducted. Dr. Srinivas Bhadriraju provided useful information on sleep apnea/cardiovascular risks among South Asians.
Northwestern Financial Network's senior financial representative, Venkaiah Dama, gave interesting information on various safe investment options available in the market. Representatives of not-for-profit organizations, including Art of Living, Karunamayi Amma, Amritanandamayi, Life Bliss Foundation, Greater Atlanta Tamil Sangam, Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America Inc., and Ekal Vidyalaya, disseminated information about their activities and forthcoming events.
Smt. Usha Kumar and Hema Bhattar ensured plenty of fun and frolic for the kids, hosting various games and activities like quizzes and competitions. They enticed them with balloons, popcorn and cotton candy! In the afternoon, Narender Reddy, with the help of local musicians and dance teachers, entertained the devotees with an engrossing cultural program, which was emceed by Dr. Seshu Sarma.
South Indian vegetarian dishes like idlis, dosas, medu vadas, spicy sambar, curd or tamarind rice, gulab jamuns, luscious jeelebis, boondi ladoos, etc. were planned beforehand by Smt. Uma Reddy and supervised by Smt. Parvathi Kancherla. All items were by the Temple's new cook Sri Rama Krishna and his assistants Smt. Vijayalaxmi and Sri Ghanshyam Patel.
Dr. B. K. Mohan, with the assistance of volunteers and the Clayton County Police, ensured smooth parking for all the temple visitors by providing supervised parking at the temple as well as at H Mart.
The chief architect of Navodaya 2007, Dr.Tulasi Vanapalli, deserves plaudits for the joyous, unforgettable festival. Dr. Mangaraju Vanapalli, who was feeling very cheery because of the sunny weather, said, "I am really excited. I am expecting about five to six thousand people today. It is heartening to see participation of so many vendors, not-for-profit organizations and community leaders in today's celebrations."
The current president of the HTA, Dr. P. Ravi Sarma, who has rendered sterling services in the past, noted, "The festive celebrations really began on Saturday, December 30, with auspicious vaikuntha ekadasi. When the temple doors opened at 5 a.m. more than 300 devotees had already arrived for darshan and Vishnu Sahasranamam and abhishekam pooja. About 2,000 devotees participated in various ceremonies over the weekend, including Divyanama sankeerthana, devotional singing and midnight aarti. Articulating his vision for the future, he continued, "The HTA has come a long way in the past 16 years. My team and I would like to strive hard to further improve the facilities and services for the community in the coming two years."
~ Mahadev Desai
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