A couple Sundays ago a friend and I went to Dayton, Ohio. Our original plan was to venture to Tennessee. There’s a temple of Ganesha there which I adore and the drive is only about four hours – not bad for a day trip. Dayton, however, has a temple that I only recently learned of while in one of the city’s suburbs at the Sahaj Marg ashram. Truly, the Dayton temple isn’t far from the ashram, which is in Beaver Creek.
We took a single interstate almost the whole way there – a journey lasting only a little over two hours. The difference in distance between Indy / Dayton and Indy / Nashville (Tennessee) was definitely a deciding factor for us. We left out pretty early for a Sunday morning and actually arrived at the temple with just enough time to stroll around the temple grounds for a bit and take some pictures before going inside for the start of the Venkateshwar abhishekam.
The first thing that struck me is how small the whole area is. I think the temple itself as well as the grounds around it (including parking lot) could probably fit in the same space as the Indy temple’s area – and have at least 30% left over. The building itself is nice enough to look at and the shape seems relatively modern and conducive to worship as well as community functions. The gopurams on top of the worship part of the building are … diminutive. Even for the smaller size of the building, they felt too small. Additionally, there’s a free-standing gopuram out front of the main temple that looks unfinished and also is in a degree of disrepair. It was surrounded by yellow, plastic caution tape. No work seems to be in progress though, so I’m a little confused as to what exactly is going on.
Soon enough we both made our way inside the temple… through the basement, which is where most congregants have to enter. We removed our shoes and were greeted right away by another devotee who recognized us as first-timers. We were permitted to snoop around the basement a bit and take some pictures. After about five minutes we found our way upstairs into the main worship area. This area was obviously far more ornate than the basement, but like most other aspects of the whole temple even the worship hall was quite compact. There are only four or five garbas total, and a number of the deities which are usually in respective garbas in other temples I’ve been to are simply raised images on the exterior walls of these handful of garbas.
We made it upstairs just in time for the abhishekam of Shri Venkateshwar to begin. Gladly, we seated ourselves and watched everything unfold. I think this is actually the first such abhishekam for Shri Venkateshwar in which He is the temple’s main deity. I’m used to seeing Him all gussied up and wearing golden hands and tons of malas. The form itself is quite a bit smaller when all the fancy is wiped away.
There were times throughout the abhishekam when a quick aarti is performed. In my home temple, most of these involve the light being “offered” to the congregants after being offered to the deity. The priest will finish offering it to the god and then turn and face the crowd to do the same, at which time we all raise a hand or two to received the light and wash it over ourselves. Congregational Light Abhishekam / Aarti for the god within each of us. This didn’t happen at the Dayton temple – not even once. It’s hard for me not to feel slighted in some way, but I imagine this is attributed to a difference in puja style or something? Surely Vishnu would be cool sharing His Light with each of us, so I don’t understand why the priests didn’t facilitate that.
After the abhishekam, everyone lined up in front of the garba for Shri Venkateshwar… half of us on one side of the carpet leading to him and half on the other side, forming a kind of human hallway. The priests made their way down both sides of the aisle to distribute prasadam and other blessings. When this was finished, we meandered a bit to have another look at things and then left to get lunch. After eating, we were on our way out of Dayton when we spotted a Half Price Books store – one I’d noticed when I was at the Sahaj ashram a few weeks prior. Naturally, we stopped in. I was lucky enough to come across, and buy, a New Testament in Pennsylvania Dutch, which isn’t Dutch at all. I’m happy to add this to my home library since it’s the only text I’ve ever happened upon in the language and it’s also the only “Bible” I have which is strictly the New Testament.
Thus concluded the day trip to Dayton, Ohio. I’ve since shared this story with my manager at work, a lovely Hindu woman with whom I often discuss things like this. She told me of a number of other Hindu temples in Ohio and I plan to visit them each as I am able.
Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti