HTCI, or the best I have for now

For just about ever the Hindu Temple of Central Indiana has existed as a beige box with a long hanging banner stating, “Hindu Temple,” and most folks here don’t even know about it. When I first began attending, there didn’t exist an actual, identifiable Hindu temple in Indiana. At that time, there was only the India Community Center, which is smaller than most homes here. Some time ago, land was bought and a box-shaped building was built to be the temple. The goal has always been to build a “real” temple, and a little over a year ago the reality of this dream began to manifest. What’s happening, is that the beige box is turning into a stone temple…and as far as I’m able to tell, it’s looking remarkably like the Sri Ganesha Temple in Nashville, TN. For me, it’s still hard to tell how the exterior of the temple will end up, although there are already many big and obviously changes. But on the inside, things are turning out incredibly and I’m excited for its completion.

I was at our temple just yesterday with my husband to catch the very end of the annual Temple Fest, but mostly to have a hand in the Ganesha Visarjan, which concludes a ten-day holiday of Ganesha Chaturthi. While we were there, I snapped a few pics of the temple’s developing interior with my phone. I’ve decided to post them here to share. I’ll see if I can’t provide periodic updates whenever there’ve been big changes.

This is the beginning of the actual temple, prior to the congregation moving from the India Community Center. This is what would eventually become the beige box I’ve referred to. I think this construction began in 2005.

The two photos immediately above, are of the beige box after construction was completed. One floor, you walk in and store your footwear, and aside from an open-sided kitchen, gender-specific restrooms, and two small classrooms, the whole place is one open space.

The two photos above show, somewhat, the newest construction from the exterior. You can plainly see the beige box that existed before. On the ground level, the new construction houses the main worship hall. There are photos of that following. Along with this new construction, below the worship hall are subterranean classrooms and rooms for other purposes.

The above photo is take from the middle area of the worship hall, looking back through the entry that leads from the beige box into the hall. As you enter the worship call, as the father and his daughter are here, to your right is a sealed room where the havan/homa/yagna pujas will take place. The room is austere and has a huge ventilation system immediately over the havan-kund.

In the above photo, you see my husband, thrilled as ever to be dragged to these places by me. This photo is taken from about the same place within the worship hall as the last photo, with a 90-degree turn to my right. Here you can see most of four minor garbhas that will eventually house murtis, although I’m not yet sure which ones. You can also see the marble floor is interrupted by large areas of carpet. I can verify that this carpet is quite comfy!

The above photo is a partial view of the 5-part skylight that makes up the worship hall’s ceiling. Here you can see the center aisle, the immediate left aisle, and part of the far left aisle. There are two other aisles on the right side of the center.

Coming directly down from taking the picture of the skylight, 180-degrees from the direction the first photo of the new construction was taken, is the head of the worship hall and where the three main garbhas are located. You can see the pillars of the center garbh aren’t yet complete. You can also see here, more of the carpet seating on the floor and also mini-garbhas behind the main ones.

The last two photos here are of the planned appearance of the temple after construction is complete. The first photo is the side elevation and the bottom photo, the front elevation. To me, in both photos it’s easy enough to determine where things started with the beige box, which highlights how far things will have come when these phases are finished. The recent Temple Fest is the first time since the new construction began that so many people were able to see how things have progressed, and I’m hoping this will have a positive effect on devotee attendance going forward.

So there you have it! Hindu Temple of Central Indiana (HTCI) in the making!

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Ganapatya for life? Probably so.

Saturday, the second, was the eight-year anniversary of my spousal relationship with, Wayne. We left Indiana the night prior, June 1st, and drove that into Nashville, Tennessee. We were on our way to Florida where we’ve planned a week-long resort stay. It was my idea that we should make mini trips on eaither side of our maha trip- mostly because I abhor places like Florida or California, the specifics of our Florida trip weren’t my idea and I suppose I needed “me” stuff on either side as a means of bracing for the misery that is Florida, and also for recovery afterward. 🙂

The first of these was to visit the Sri Ganesha Temple in Nashville, Tennessee. We arrived in Tennessee very early Saturday morning, our anniversary. That same morning, after checking in and sleeping some, we awoke, exchanged rings, and did some mapping of Nashville. We had already planned to visit The Sri Ganesha Temple for a scheduled Shani Maha Pradosham that evening.

Let me just say now that Wayne is a saint. He’s not Hindu…or anything really; maybe Agnostic? Likely Atheist. But he’s very patient and at times willing to put up with, literally, hours of what’s essentially religious nonsense to him. We arrived at Sri Ganesha and toured the place on our own.

The temple grounds are pretty simple, but pretty great. Within the temple there is one main/maha garbhagrha (btw, I suspect I’m about to misuse that word, but whatever), where Sri Maha Ganapati is housed. I don’t know exactly what His dimensions measure, but He’s got to be at least 7ft tall. Four arms holding noose/goad, axe, broken tusk, and modaka/coconut. He’s entirely black, save his eyes. He is absolutely fantastic. No joke. To say I’ve been changed simply by gazing at Him would be to speak an understatement.

There are two smaller garbhagrhas to either side of Sri Ganapati. On His right, His father Siva is housed in the lingam form. It’s rather impressive, and aside from the Nataraja form, the lingam is my favorite expression of Siva. On Sri Ganesha’s left is housed Venkateshwara, a form of Vishnu. On the external walls of each of these three garbhas are mid-height nooks which are also garbhas in their own sense. Each of them house not only the other 31 of Ganesha’s 32 forms, but also a handful of other deities like Nrsingha, Sathyavan (?), Lakshmi, etc… In front of where Ganesha, Siva, and Venkateshwara are housed, along the outside walls of the main temple area, are six other pujasthanas. In these are housed Durga, Shubramanyan, Parvati, Radha/Krsna, Laskhman & company, and Jagganath & company.

We visited each one. I explained just a little about each to Wayne as we made our stops. We noticed, not unlike in Indiana, that I (we) were just about the only non-indian(s) there. On that day, there was another white man there. He sat quietly near the back of the main area, rudraksha mala in hand, absorbed in jaapa. According to his chosen tilak marking, I could tell he is a Saivite. With our initial walk about done, we settled near where the Navagrahas were stationed and waited for the Maha Pradosham to begin. This puja was lovely and lasted just over an hour. Afterward, I offered obeisances to Ganapati once more, purchased a few gift murtis (miniature replicas of the Mahamurti) for friends, and we left.

The next morning, we returned quite early. This time we were just the second ones, after the pundits/pujaris, to arrive. Before entering, we toured the outside grounds a bit. We then entered. Jagannath Puja was just finishing and things were set for Saraswati Puja, which was scheduled that morning as a benefit to recent graduates.

The best part of that morning for me, and something which has truly tattoed my mind and soul, was the Ganesha Abhishek. It took place after the Jagannath Puja and prior to the Saraswati puja. After entering the temple, I made pradakshina. I then sat before the Mahamurti for darshan. Jai Sri Ganesh!

They were in the process of waking Him. The door to His garbhagrha was opened, but a curtain still kept Him veiled. Then it was pulled back. He was utterly bare. No malas/garlands. No pushpam/flowers. Nothing. He was literally absent. His image was there, and it was still magnificent, but it was obviously just gross matter. After the unveiling, which was rather unceremonious, some rites took place: chanting, incence… the whole bit. Then the abhishekam began. The panchamrtam were poured over His image in their usual order. At specific times in the puja a pause was made. During this pause, tilak/vibhuti was applied to His forehead, flowers were placed on Him, and incense was waived circularly while the pujari chanted. Then the abhishek would continue. The whole thing was amazing and felt very good.

At this point, Wayne whispered a question to me… Something like, “Is this done every day?” He just couldn’t fathom something like this being someone’s pride and joy; their “job.” I nodded, smiling – I’d be in Bliss if I could do that. Of course, this is coming from someone who intended to become a monk immediately following high school, and only didn’t because at the time I thought all monks were necessarily Catholic! At this point in my life, I’m happy being a grhasta/householder, but should the stars align it’s definitely not off the table,

After the panchamrtam, the cutrain was pulled closed again. During this time, actually just prior to the curtain being pulled closed (for anyone unfamiliar with the process), the gross material changes. I mean this pretty much literally. It’s at this stage that the difference between an image/idol and a murti is made. I really can’t explain it further.

So the curtain is pulled and Maha Ganapati is out of sight for a while. During this time I found an excellent, auspicious, opportunity for jaapa. I got about three rounds in before the closing of the abhishek was conducted. The curtain was, again, withdrawn. Now, He’s dressed and has malas/garlands. It was like seeing Him for the first time-although it obviously wasn’t the first time.

I literally almost cried. That annoying lump in your throat was as far as I let it get, outwardly. This previously gross matter was transformed. I’m picturing a young girl. She takes her favorite Barbie doll and dresses her. Nothing. It’s a doll. Now, picture the same girl with the same Barbie doll. She dresses her, and then the doll’s eyes blink. She’s awake now; brought to life by a combination of the process (puja) and the devotion (bhakti). The Velvetine Rabitt. Pinocchio. Pixar’s The Toy Story. It’s all the same: inanimate becoming animate. As a Hindu this is foundational. God is simultaneously in everything as the indwelling, timeless Essence of all that lives, and yet is also beyond all that can be found in the worlds of causation. And so, in our tradition, we’re able to “wake” matter up -to call a condensed and concentrated portion of The Divine to be near us.

That morning Ganesha was near. Ganesha was veritably palpable-well, indeed He was physical! He stood, adorned and adored, right in front of me. Immense and immensely dark. I could have used 10,000 words to ascribe attributes to Him and still fallen remarkably short of anything adequate.

A previous post here on Ardhanarishwar dealt with G/god having attributes and being attributeless. Neti, Neti. It’s true. I expereinced this first-hand while receiving Sri Ganesha’s darshan and observing His abhishek. Om Ganapati!

Om Tat Sat Om