New Year’s at Hindu Temple of Atlanta as presidents pass the baton
(Photo: Krish Photography)
Thanks to sunny weather, over 9,000 devotees and visitors from all over the Southeast thronged the Hindu Temple of Atlanta (HTA) Riverdale, Georgia on Thursday, January 1st to celebrate a joyous and spiritually suffused Navodaya 2015 festival.
Deities in the Balaji and Siva Temples were decked in ornate fineries and colorful garlands. The Temple had recently celebrated Nandishwara and Dwajasthamba prathistapnas. The garlanded stone Nandishwara bull had a majestic look and attracted many admirers. Priests were busy cheerfully performing archanas all day and blessing the devotees. 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 giving New Year blessings to the vendors.
Priest Sri Gopal Bhattar performing a pPooja for the vendors. (Photo: Mahadev Desai)
Throughout the day, devotees arrived, offered prayers, exchanged Happy New Year greetings, and shopped at the HTA Gift Shop and at booths in the auditorium for sarees, household appliances and gadgets, jewelry, beads, artwork, travel information, devotional music CDs and DVDs. Madurai Foods Inc. was selling idli and dosa batters and masala powders. One booth gave information about Avalon University School of Medicine in Curacao. Gaudiya Vaishnava Organization had a booth to disseminate information about their upcoming events.
(Entry Table, Photo: Mahadev Desai)
Balloons for the kids. (Photo: Krish Photography)
Children were entertained by a clown. Face-, nail-, and palm-painting, balloon-twisting and popcorn also added to children’s fun.
Festivals and food go together! South Indian vegetarian splendors like spicy idli sambhar, masala dosas, tamarind or curd rice, upama, boondi ladoos, Mysore pak, and savories were lovingly prepared in the Temple’s kitchen by kitchen staff under the supervision of Food Committee Chairperson, Smt. Janaki Harati, and served by youth volunteers. The banquet hall remained packed with devotees enjoying mouthwatering food. (Food Committee, Photo: Mahadev Desai)
Narender Reddy whose two-year tenure as President was ending, declared, “My two years as President have been exciting and fulfilling. My team and I with the help and support of the Trustees, Temple officials, and fiscal discipline have enabled us to substantially increase the Endowment Trust Fund. All the priest’s quarters have been thoroughly renovated and equipped with new appliances. The restrooms in the main building have been rebuilt with latest hygiene-oriented fixtures. Both Balaji and Shiva Temples, cafeteria, book store, and lower level corridors have been repainted, and the Education Building’s interior and exterior has been painted. We also did capital improvements. Nandishwara and new Dwajastambha prathistapanas have been completed. Our Nandi, a landmark attraction facing the Shiva Temple and weighing 6 tons. is probably the biggest among the temples in the USA. We have installed video systems in both the temples and cafeteria for the convenience of our devotees. During very hot weather, asphalt road on the upper level became hot and uncomfortable to walk, so we converted it into a concrete road. We have brightened the parking area with new LED lighting. We have installed new sound system in Shiva Temple. The new sound system and new flooring in the auditorium will greatly help in hosting performing arts events, weddings, arangetrams, etc. We have also installed new furniture in the dining hall.
(Photo: Krish Photography)
“Among noteworthy events, we can mention Ganesh Chaturdhi, Shiva Temple Brahmotsvam, and Udaya-Ashthamana Seva for Sri Venkateshwara. Recognizing that 80% of the devotees are in the age group of 25 to 40 years, for the first time in 2013 we celebrated ‘Ganesh Nimajjanam’ in Lake Jackson. Now we have begun to celebrate Ganesh Navarathri with a huge Ganesh idol imported from India. We have introduced ‘robo phonecalls’ to inform our community of various festivals. This has resulted in increased attendance at the Temple. Our logo design competition for a unique captivating logo for HTA attracted over 40 designs from U.S., Canada, and India. In November, ‘Ati-Rudra Maha Yajnam’ will be performed at the Temple. The Board has appointed a Committee and seed money has also been raised for the Yajnam.”
Reddy enthused, “The income and attendance of devotees during these two years of my presidency has broken all records. I wish the incoming President Dr. P. B. Rao and Executive Committee all the best. Our Temple has tremendous growth potential and by working together and remaining committed, dedicated, and focused we can make it the best temple in the U.S.”
Dr. P.B. Rao with Narender Reddy and Committee Members. (Photo: Mahadev Desai)
Incoming President Dr. P. B. Rao 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. I wish to thank all the sponsors, trustees, past Presidents, Executive Committee, vendors, dedicated office staff, and all the devotees. My deep thanks to P. Krishnamohan, Sai Surappaneni, Ashok Kumar, Karunakar Asi Reddy, 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. We can only pay them in 6 figures (smiles). The Food Committee under leadership of Smt. Janaki Harati together with young band of volunteers served delicious variety of food to thousands of devotees.
(Photo: Krish Photography)
“As always, we will also strive to help the community by supporting humanitarian causes like disaster-relief, helping the homeless, 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 2015 with great enthusiasm, and joy and deep reverence. My heartfelt wishes for a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year to all.”
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