Despite cold and rainy weather, more than nine thousand devotees and visitors from all over South-East thronged the Hindu Temple of Atlanta (HTA) Riverdale, Georgia on Sunday, January 1st to celebrate a joyous and spiritually suffused Navodaya 2017 festival.
All the deities in the Balaji and Siva Temples wore a dazzling look in their ornate fineries and colorful garlands. The dedicated priests cheerfully performed archanas throughout the day blessing all the devotees who came to offer their prayers. Throughout the day, both Temples echoed with soul-soothing prayers, chantings of shlokas, and devotional songs. Around eleven a.m. Priest Sri Muralikrishna performed a pooja ceremony inside the auditorium, chanting shlokas and conferring his blessings for the New Year to the vendors.
As the day progressed more and more devotees arrived inside the two temples and after offering prayers, went around visiting and shopping at HTA Gift Shop and also at various booths inside the auditorium, which were selling Indian apparel, household appliances and gadgets, jewelry, beads, artwork, devotional music CDs and DVDs. And also offering IT services. At the SRIM Meditation Center’s booth, the writer was told that Hanuman Mandir is being constructed at the SRIM Center in Forsyth, GA, where an 18ft.Hanumanji Murthy carved in South India will be consecrated by Amma Karunamayi upon completion of Mandir’s construction.
Festivals and food go together! The varied menu of South Indian vegetarian splendors like spicy idli sambhar, masala dosas, tamarind or curd rice, upama, boondi ladoos, Mysore Pak, and snacks lovingly prepared in the Temple’s kitchen, by Kitchen staff under the supervision of Food Committee Chairperson, Padma Koganti. The Chief volunteer, Sairam Surapaneni, from past Food committee, helped the new chair Padma Koganti,in arrangement and cheerfully serving the food in the spacious banquet hall, by the dynamic team of youth volunteers.
The Hindu Temple’s new President Kusuma Kotte is no stranger to the Temple. Andhra Pradesh- born Kusuma Kotte is Atlanta resident since 1991. She is an ardent and long-time devotee and has served in various official capacities in the Temple. She effusively commented,” I am very happy with the unprecedented turnout of over 9,000 devotees today to seek God’s blessings on ‘Navodaya’, New Year’s day. The new Executive Committee and I underwent Oath ceremony conducted by Temple’s former President Sarweswara Naidu. The Executive Committee Members are: Vice President” Sheela Lingam; Secretary: Subbiah Emani; Jt.Sec.Aravind Goli; Treasurer: Ravi Kari; Jt.Treasurer: Sairam Surapaneni; and Past President: P.B.Rao.
Committee members are: Bylaws: Sujatha Reddy; Community Services: Seshu Sarma; Cultural Affairs: Jyothi Chinthalapudi;Educaion: Raju Vanapalli;Endowment Trust: Siva Nathan; Food Committee: Padma Koganti;Fund raising: Murali Krishna Gadde;Internal Audit: Krishnakumar Srinivasan;Maintenance: Ramakrishnan Srinivasan; Nomination: K.V.Krishna Prasad; Publications: Sudha Reddy; Religious Committee: Phani Tummala;Technology Committee: Rajitha Reddy; Volunteer Committee: Team leader:Ravi Chander;Youth activities:Shree Varshenee. The incoming Executive Committee would like to welcome entire Indian community to the Temple not only on January 1st but throughout the year to participate in all the events and get Lord’s blessings.”
Kusuma Kotte further commented, “I am very heartened by today’s huge attendance. I wish to thank all the generous sponsors, trustees, past Presidents, Executive Committee members, vendors, and all the visitors and devotees. I also wish to thank scores of enthusiastic and disciplined volunteers who worked hard to make Navodaya celebrations a joyous experience. Thanks to the Past and present Pooja Committee Chairpersons Aravind Goli and Phani Tumalla respectively,the elaborate Pooja décor and conduct of the Pooja rituals were praiseworthy. The priests also worked hard and for long hours starting on 31st December, in putting up the captivating,artistic and colorful décor. HTA served more than 10 varieties of delicious food prepared by the Food Committee under Padma Koganti’s leadership together with young band of volunteers who served the delicacies to thousands of devotees in the Temple Banquet hall. The vendors did brisk business as always. The vendor mall was a popular spot for ladies! Children enjoyed lot of fun activities like face painting and balloon twisting. Some of the funds generated during the Navodaya calibration will be used for community services. Around noon, our parking lots were full so we had to provide shuttle service to the parking lots in nearby schools. I wish to thank the Police, security staff and volunteers led by Ravi Chander for managing the parking areas.
We have a very big program in 2017. We are going to celebrate 25th anniversary for the Lord Sri Venkateswara prathistapana in May, 2017. It will be a 10-day grand Celebration that will conclude on Memorial day weekend. Also we are going to have a program for fundraising during the current year. The proceeds will be used for various programs scheduled at the HTA. I am confident that devotees will donate generously to enable HTA accomplish all its goals, including worthy causes to help the community.”
The President Kusuma Kotte concluded, “ My thanks to all the devotees who celebrated Navodaya 2017 with great enthusiasm, and joy and deep reverence. My heartfelt wishes for a happy, healthy, spiritually enriching and prosperous New Year to all”
Text and Pics.by Mahadev Desai