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Record-setting Navodaya celebrations at Hindu Temple of Atlanta

By Mahadev Desai
February 2014
Record-setting Navodaya celebrations at Hindu Temple of Atlanta

A record number of over 9000 devotees attended HTA's New Year celebrations.
(Photos: Mahadev Desai)

Despite cold weather an unprecedented record of thousands of devotees and visitors from all over the Southeast thronged the Hindu Temple of Atlanta (HTA) Riverdale, Georgia on Sunday, January 1st to celebrate a joyous and spiritually suffused Navodaya 2014 festival.

Deities in the Balaji and Siva Temples wore ornate fineries and colorful garlands. Priests performed archanas throughout the day blessing devotees who came to offer their prayers. Both temples echoed with soul-soothing prayers, chantings of shlokas, and devotional songs. Priest Sri Gopal Bhattar also performed a pooja ceremony inside the auditorium, chanting shlokas and conferring his blessings for the New Year to the vendors.


HTA President Narender Reddy at the pooja ceremony for the vendors. 

As the day progressed, more and more devotees arrived, offered prayers, and shopped at the HTA gift shop and at various booths in the auditorium for sarees, household appliances and gadgets, jewelry, beads, artwork, devotional music CDs and DVDs, and IT services. New vendors were a Vedic pooja store called Poojasadan from Hyderabad which sells pooja supplies online, and Madurai Foods Inc. which sells idli and dosa batters and masala powders.

Journalist, author, researcher, and compelling speaker Dr. Kumar Annavarapu, who previously promoted his book on 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 nonprofit organizations, The Art of Living Foundation and Gaudiya Vaishnava Organization had also set up booths. Children were engaged and entertained by a clown. Face-, nail-, and palm-painting and popcorn also added to children’s fun activities.

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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 youth volunteers was relished by all.

Current President Narender Reddy happily commented on, "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 noted that "by 10am, our parking lots were full so we had to provide shuttle service to the parking lots in nearby schools." He thanked all, including B. K. Mohan, Sairam Surapaneni, Pinnamaneni Krishna Mohan, Krishna Das Pisarodi, Shailender Mudireddy, Raja Pal Reddy, Dr. Sujatha Reddy, Ashok Kumar, Dr. Seshu Sarma and scores of volunteers, who worked hard to make these celebrations memorable and enjoyable, maintaining order and moving the lines smoothly and fast.

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On HTA activities, Reddy noted that "last year, HTA organized historic Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations. This year, we are planning to install Nandishwara in front of the Siva Temple…. HTA always ensures the best living conditions for its priests. This year we will be renovating all the apartments on the campus. …We will focus on augmenting our Endowment Fund also, as HTA will need a substantial reserve fund for any unforeseen contingencies. ... 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.”

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