Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Sunday, Jan 06, 2002

About Us
Contact Us
Magazine Published on Sundays

Features: Magazine | Literary Review | Metro Plus | Open Page | Education | Book Review | Business | SciTech | Entertainment | Young World | Folio |

Magazine

Metaphorical dialogue

TO thousands of Indians in the United States, Tirumala, the sacred abode of the Lord of the Seven Hills will always be Tirumala. But in the event of not being able to make the long trip back home for what often turns out to be a fleeting glimpse of Lord Venkateswara, a darshan of the presiding deity of Penn Hills, an eastern suburb of Pittsburgh U.S., will more than make up for it.

Nestled in the dense forests of the Penn Hills, the white building of the Venkateswara temple of Pittsburgh can be spotted from a distance.

As the car negotiates a steep incline and pulls up into the parking lot at the ground level, an air of hushed expectation descends. There are two entrances — the first is through the rajagopuram, the main domed entrance, open only during special occasions, and the second through the lobby and the main office where archana and other pooja tickets can be purchased.

The front office exudes a business-like air and is spotlessly clean. A feeling of peace and calm pervades the temple precincts. A steady stream of devotees trickle in but the milling crowds that throng Tirumala are missing. One is eager for a darshan and waits with bated breath.

Ascending the stairs from the lobby one first pays obeisance at the shrine of Ganesha, then proceeds to the imposing Mahamantapam — the gateway to the sanctum. To the left is a framed picture of Lord Satyanarayana in a covered wooden pitha — Sathyanarayana pooja being a very popular ritual here. Of the three main sannadhis the one in the centre is that of Lord Venkateswara flanked on either side by his consorts Sri Mahalakshmi and Andal.

Lord Venkateswara is represented here in the sthanaka murti (standing position) on a padma pita (lotus platform) with chaturbhujam (four hands). His rear right hand carries the Sudharshana Chakra (discus) and the rear left hand, the shanka (conch).

The front right hand is in the Varadahasta position affording protection and the front left hand is in the Katyavalambita hasta pose, resting on the hip.

Goddess Mahalakshmi, worshipped as the Goddess of wealth — spiritual and material — is seated on an eight-petalled lotus. She is also called Padmavati. Bhudevi the Goddess Earth also known as Andal, has been sculpted standing on a padmapitha (lotus seat). Her right hand holds a parrot. Facing the three main sannadhis and directly opposite the sannidhi of Venkateswara is the Garudha Sannidhi shared by Hanuman — the monkey king and son of Vayu the wind God.

Many of the rituals performed at the main temple at Tirupati such as Suprabhatham, Archana (recitation of the names of the Lord and offering of fruits, flowers, and deepa aarati, (Abisheka) ritual bathing of the deity, Kalyana Utsavam (wedding of the deities) and Ekanta Seva are performed here. There are a few modifications to suit Western climes and schedules. For example, Suprapatham is at 9 a.m..

According to the visitors' guide, the Pittsburgh temple is the first Hindu temple (Prathishthapana day, November 17, 1976) to be built in the U.S. at an approximate cost of $9,25,000 with donations raised from over 6,000 devotees across the country. Many donors were first generation Indian immigrants.

Events and activities in and around the temple go beyond the religious and encompass cultural and entertainment programmes. The library has a good collection of magazines and books on Indian history and philosophy. The auditorium, with a seating capacity of 400 on the upper level, is used for music, dance and other performances. Youth camps, summer music classes, Indian Independence Day celebrations, fund raising dinners, auction of sarees and jewellery used to adorn the deities — it is a crowded calendar at the Pittsburgh temple.

The authorities have embarked on a major temple expansion and devotee services enhancement programme known as the Prakaram project at a cost of $4 millions to provide additional floor area for darshan and other services, besides a Yagasala for temple homas, Pakasala for making prasadam for deities, a covered stretch of prakaram to enable devotees to do pradakshina during winter, wider hallways, additional restroom facilities and special handling of abishekam and holy water as required by environmental guidelines.alendar at the Pittsburgh temple.

Come October 2001 and the temple will become a veritable hub of activity. Elaborate plans have been drawn up for the silver jubilee celebrations beginning on the Vijayadasami day of 2001 and continue for a year into 2002.

Come October 2001 and the temple will become a veritable hub of activity. Elaborate plans have been drawn up for the silver jubilee celebrations beginning on the Vijayadasami day of 2001 and continue for a year into 2002.

Come October 2001 and the temple will become a veritable hub of activity. Elaborate plans have been drawn up for the silver jubilee celebrations beginning on the Vijayadasami day of 2001 and continue for a year into 2002.

The authorities have embarked on a major temple expansion and devotee services enhancement programme known as the Prakaram Project at a cost of $4 million to provide additional floor area for darshan and other services, besides a Yagasala for temple homas, Pakasala for making prasadam for deities, a covered stretch of prakaram to enable devotees to do pradakshina during winter, wider hallways, additional restroom facilities and special handling of abishekam and holy water as required by environmental guidelines.

For a devotee yearning for a communion with the Lord, what is of consequence is the fact that he has a conducive place to go to offer prayers especially when so far away from home. And Penn Hills in Pittsburgh fits the bill perfectly.

SUDHA UMASHANKER

Send this article to Friends by E-Mail

Magazine

Features: Magazine | Literary Review | Metro Plus | Open Page | Education | Book Review | Business | SciTech | Entertainment | Young World | Folio |



The Hindu Group: Home | About Us | Copyright | Archives | Contacts | Subscription
Group Sites: The Hindu | Business Line | The Sportstar | Frontline | Home |

Comments to : thehindu@vsnl.com   Copyright 2002, The Hindu
Republication or redissemination of the contents of this screen are expressly prohibited without the written consent of The Hindu