HTA Navodaya celebrations, with recaps of special events and “firsts”
(Left) Shopping is always part of the fun at the Hindu Temple of Atlanta festivities. (Sri Photos)
More than ten thousand devotees and visitors from all over the Southeast thronged the Hindu Temple of Atlanta (HTA) in Riverdale, Georgia on Wednesday, January 1, 2020 to celebrate a joyous and spiritually suffused 17th Navodaya festival.
Temple deities had been dressed in ornate fineries and garlanded. The priests, Sri Gopal Bhattar, Sri Srinivas, Sri Pavankumar, Sri Ravishankar, Sri Murali Krishna, Sri Shivanaga, Sri Govardhanam, Sri Sunil Kumar, Sri Vedavyasacharyalu, Sri Bharath, and Sri Subramanyam, cheerfully and reverently performed suprabhatam, Siva abhisekham, and Lord Nataraja abhisekham, followed with Arudra darshan (the golden red star Arudra, Lord Siva in his cosmic dance) and then half-hourly archanas throughout the day blessing all the devotees who came to offer their prayers. Both temples echoed with soul-soothing prayers, chantings of shlokas, and devotional songs.
Above: Inside the temple. (Krish Photography)
Around 10am, priest Sri Govardhanam ji performed a pooja ceremony inside the auditorium, chanting shlokas and conferring his blessings for the New Year to the vendors. Sanjay and Hemisha Pandya who arrived with the Hindu Temple of Atlanta Calendar 2020 were also conferred blessings by the priests.
As the day progressed more and more devotees arrived inside the two temples and after offering prayers, visited the HTA Gift Shop and vendor booths in the auditorium to shop for Indian apparel, household appliances and gadgets, jewelry, beads, and devotional music CDs and DVDs. The budding young author, Atlanta-born Kiran Bhat, who now resides in Melbourne, Australia, is a globetrotter and a polyglot; he sat in his booth, autographing his debut novel We of the Forsaken World.
Food Committee Chairperson Tulasi Vanapalli with team--and HUGE pots! (Photo: Mahadev Desai)
Tasty food is an essential part of festivals! The varied menu of South Indian vegetarian splendors—spicy idli sambhar, tamarind or curd rice, upama, boondi ladoos, and spicy snacks—were lovingly prepared in the temple’s kitchen by kitchen staff under the supervision of Food Committee Chairperson Tulasi Vanapalli. Volunteers helped, cheerfully serving food in the spacious banquet hall. Children had lots of fun with face-painting, balloon-twisting, popcorn, and cotton candy.
|Inside the packed dining hall. (Sri Photos)
Sheela Lingam reflected on her first year as HTA President: “2019 was a very blissful and fruitful year for HTA and our community, thanks to HTA board members, trustees, priests, employees, devotees, and volunteers. We celebrated four major events during the past year, Maha Lingarchana in the form of Dwadasa Jyothirlingas, Skanda Shasti along with Soora Samharan, Soundaryalahari Homam, and Pratistapana of 108 Karanas along with Maharudram. HTA is the only Temple outside India to install carved Karanas in modern times.
“We celebrated our regular festivals during Sankranthi, Andal Kalyanam, Sivarathri, Ugadi, Sita Rama Kalyanam, Brahmotsav for Lord Venkateswara and Lord Ramalingeswara, Ganesh Utsav, Thaipusam, Devi Navrathri and Diwali.
“For children, we introduced the Bhogi Pallu ceremony for the first time on our premises. More than 1500 kids participated in our Ganesh Utsav making 2500 clay Ganeshas. The Temple has initiated Telugu teaching class “Manabadi’ in addition to classes by Balavihar.
“County approval has been received for the perimeter wall around the temple and we hope to see its completion and beautification of the temple grounds during the current year.
“I am very happy with the unprecedented turnout of over 10,000 devotees today to seek God’s blessings on Navodaya, New Year's Day.
“I wish all a happy, healthy, peaceful, and prosperous New Year 2020.”
(Right) Aravind Goli, HTA President Sheela Lingam, Ravi Chander, Raj Janumpally, and Meher Saride. (Krish Photography)
A very special thanks to the parking crew, dedicated priests, temple staff, EC members, Volunteer Committee Chairman Ravi Chander, Vaisheshi and Naveen Bhatini, Food Committee’s Chairperson Tulasi Vanapalli and her team of cooking volunteers, Pooja Committee Chairperson Padmavati Koganti, our security personnel, and finally, the Clayton county police. My special thanks to Hanu Krothapalli for sending special supplies from India for all the Festivals. My special thanks to Vice-President Subbiah Emani, Secretary Aravind Goli, Joint Secretary Ravi Kari, Treasurer Sairam Surapaneni, and Sujatha Reddy to name a few.
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