The Hindu Temple of Atlanta in Riverdale, Georgia, (HTA) organized a spectacular and spiritual, Ganesh Utsav celebrations from September 3 to 11, 2016, which attracted hundreds of devotees from Atlanta, and neighboring places as far as Phoenix, Pennsylvania, Florida, etc. As in the previous year, the majestic ten feet Ganapathi idol was specially made in Hyderabad for the Hindu Temple and gracefully installed in the specially built Canopy in the forecourt of the Shiva temple for the celebrations.
The Ganesh Utsav celebrations began with Sankusthapana in Balaji Temple and Kalash Pooja in Shiva Temple.
Lord Ganesha is widely worshipped as the god of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune and traditionally invoked at the beginning of a new venture or challenge, Ganesha is known as vighnahartaa (remover of obstacles). The dazzling idol of Lord Ganesh, resplendent in rich adornments, artistic décor, and lavish fresh vegetables, flowers and fruit garlands on a platform under the canopy was ideal setting for all the devotees who came to offer their prayers. Through the nine day Utsav, the elaborate rituals, archanas and chanting of shlokas and Ganesha mantras were meticulously done by priests Sri Srinivas Sarmaji, Sri Pawan Kumar ji, Sri Siva Naga Kumar ji, Sri Sunil Kumar ji, Sri Gopal Bhattar ji, Sri Ravisankar ji, Sri Veda Vyasa ji; and Sri Murali Krishna ji. Devotees also enthusiastically joined in chanting vakra-thunda maha-kaaya, surya-koti samaprabha, nirvighnam kuru me deva sarva karyessu sarvadaa(O Lord Ganesha, with a curved trunk, large body and the brilliance of a million celestial suns, please always make all my works free of obstacles.) All the deities in the Balaji and Siva Temples also wore a dazzling look in their ornate fineries and colorful fresh flower and fruit garlands.
On Sunday, September 4, the HTA conducted the Ganesha making workshop for kids. HTA supplied materials and instructions to over 1,500 families and kids to make about 2,000 environmentally friendly clay Ganeshas. Families enjoyed a day of creating their own images and designing their very own personal Ganesha. The puja for these handmade Ganeshas was also performed later on in the mandap.
And on Sunday, September 11th, the BalaVihar children at The Hindu Temple of Atlanta performed Shri Ganesha Pooja under the guidance of Acharya Geetha Raghu. The Pooja began with a moment of silence in honor of those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. The Temple provided Laddu and Vada for Naivedyam while parents brought Ganesha’s favorite food — Modakam. At the end, Chief Priest Srinivasan Sarma performed Mangala Aarathi and blessed the children. Speaking for the Temple, Mr. Sairam Surapaneni conveyed his good wishes to the children and appreciated the engagement of the parents and teachers in fostering our religion and culture.
At night, TANA lit up the skies with dazzling fireworks. The Temples and the canopy wore a festive look. This year many Indian organizations came together to take an active part in volunteering and also provided cultural performances and entertainment lasting daily for about twelve hours. These presentations were emceed with verve by Vikas Anand Goyal, and Vaisheshi Jalajam.
Youngsters from noted Music and Dance Academies either performed solo or in groups, in front of the imposing idol of Lord Ganesha. Atlanta’s noted dancer and dance-Guru Sasikala Penumarthi and Kalaivani Dance and Music Academy’s students performed well- synchronized performances to Lord Ganesha songs. NATA and Amruthavarshini organizations performed devotional and light musical songs in praise of Lord Ganesha. On September 9, Natya Jyothi’s Jyothi Chintalapudi’s students performed Ganesha Kuchipudi recitals.Sobiya and her students performed bharatnatyam dances from the ‘Natyaveda’ Dance School, Madhusudhan Soujanya performed Bharathnatyam and finally Swapna, Kavitha and Anurag from the Maharashtra mandal enthralled the audience with Ganesha songs.
Saturday, September 10 was marked with joyous, enthusiastic non-stop entertainment and spiritual fervor. Hundreds of devotees, guests and visitors thronged to the Temple to participate in the pre-culmination of the nine day celebration with a grand Ganesh Nimajjanam ceremony.
The Temple Chefs Ramakrishna and Srinivasan had prepared three big Ladoos (Ganesh ji’s favorite!). A lively, exuberant auction was conducted by Vikas Goyal and all the ladoos were sold to highest bidders, Dr.Supriti Balyan; Ramesh, and a third bidder who wishes to remain anonymous. HTA and Ganesh Utsav Team are very thankful for their generosity. Devotees were provided more entertainment- Padma Rajaram’s students Srimayi and Aditya sang beautifully, Savitha group and Revathy Komanduri’s students performed solo and also synchronized classical dances, Mamata Patel showcased little kids to delight the audience with their performance, Leera ji was graceful with her Kathak, Sri Dutt Raag Fine Arts presented a rocking performance with dancers in captivating costumes. Gopal Turaga in Ganesha costume looked adorable. Supriya and IKATAN group’s students wearing orange headbands engaged the audience with their lively performances. The ‘Maiya Yashoda’ by four children elicited big applause from the cheerful audience. The audience were treated to dhand pradarshan, Holi and complimentary kurtas added to the color of the festivities by smearing the energetic dancers with colored powder. Punjabi Society added to the fun by graceful Punjabi gidda and high octane dhol, live dappu, and bhangra. Kolatam, exuberant garbas and dandiyas, Lezim, yogchap, Hyderabadi teenmar enthralled young and old. All this was followed with exciting Matka breaking by kids, and adults.In the evening all the attendees participated in a huge joyous procession around the Temple.to the accompaniment of live music. It was exciting to watch a shower of flower petals from a helicopter!
Maha Mangala Aarathi was performed with deep reverence to the beating of the drums and traditional nadaswaram music every day.
The Hindu Temple of Atlanta’s kitchen under Sairam Surapaneni provided Maha prasadam and annadanam to all thrice a day through the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations.
On Sunday, it was time to bid final farewell to much-loved Ganesh. All the enthusiastic, energetic young devotees came out of the canopy, dancing and shouting Ganapati Bappa Morya to loud, throbbing dhols as Lord Ganeshji’s idol was placed in a truck, which was followed by a bus with about fifty devotees. This year, the Ganesh Visarjan ceremony was performed in Savannah, with great fanfare and repeated joyous shouts of Ganapati Bappa Morya and wishes for His early return the following year. As they say, “with the immersion ceremony the Form (physical) returned to the Formless (spiritual). Ganapati idol became one with the Lake water.
The President of the HTA Dr.P.B.Rao personally and on behalf of the Executive Committee and Board of Trustees thanked everybody that participated in this year’s festivities, and commented, “We are highly indebted to countless volunteers and their families for the stage decorations, Photography by ByteGraph, Vakiti Creations, SFA Productions, Swaroop Kolachina, Tejesh, KalaAkriti, etc. We would also like to thank Nate Natesan for Swacch Devalaya.
The Hindu Temple of Atlanta recognizes and deeply appreciates the efforts of all the organizations HSS, Gujarati Samaj, Punjabi Society, Maharashtra Mandal, TANA, NATA, TAMA,ATA, GATES, TDF, IACA, TATA, IFA, GATA, GCANA, Orugallu, NKK, Saraswathi Music Academy, Shruthilaya, Natya Jyothi,Natya Abhinaya, Amruthavarshini,Natya Abhinaya, Shiv’s Institute of Dance, Indian Classical Dance Academy,Natyaveda,Kalaivani Dance Academy, Nataraja Natyanjali, SEWA Academy of of Kuchipudi Dance,Softpath Eagles Cricket Team,,Mehul Raja,Iskcon, our media partners Wownow, NRI Pulse, Atlanta Dunia, Rashtradarpan, TV Asia, Khabar, Deccan Abroad, and Mahadev Desai.
The executive committee and management of HTA is deeply appreciative of Jagan Mohan Rao and Ravi Chander, who have been the chief coordinators of the festivities. Aravind Goli (Pooja committee chair person) along with the Temple Priests ably coordinated this year’s rituals and deity decorations. We are highly indebted to countless volunteers and their families in particular for devoting countless hours in spite of their busy schedules, to make the celebrations a grand success.
The celebrations could not have been possible without the office staff and volunteers. We also beg the forgiveness of every one for any lapses and shortcomings and will make every effort to rectify them in the celebrations of next year.”
By Mahadev Desai