A new Hindu temple for Charlotte that will look like the ones in India

02/20/2014 3:55 PM

02/21/2014 2:54 PM

Charlotte’s new Hindu temple, now under construction in a leafy neighborhood off Independence Boulevard, will measure nearly 20,000 square feet and rise to a height of 81 feet – grand dimensions prescribed by sacred books written 2,000 years ago.

Its concrete walls will be dressed with a 1-inch covering of sandstone that is now being cut and hand-carved in Jodhpur, a desert city in western India.

And when the majestic building is ready for worshipers by early 2015, it will be home to 13 deities – each of them carved from marble, 5-feet-1-inch tall, and facing east.

More than 30 years after 400 Indian families bought and began building on 3.2 acres of Charlotte farmland, the region’s Hindu community has grown to more than 4,000 families and needs more space to practice the world’s oldest major religion.

So it’s time to build again – and go bigger and more elaborate this time.

The $3.2 million temple “will accommodate more people … and help the growing community,” said Ball Gupta, board chairman of the Hindu Center of Charlotte.

There’s a long-term purpose, too, in spending so much time and money to make sure the new temple is genuinely Indian and Hindu in form and look. Charlotte’s first generation of Indian immigrants – the ones who came in the 1960s and ’70s – want to make it easier for younger Hindus – many of them born in America, not India – to stay true to their ancestral faith.

“We want this new generation to see what a temple looks like, what it can be, and know that this is where their roots are,” said Suresh Vyas, 62, who chairs the Hindu center’s long-range planning committee. “We thought it would be a good gift to future generations.”

It also promises to be a rich, eye-pleasing addition to Charlotte’s increasingly diverse religious architecture.

A population boom has made this noted city of churches also a city of mosques, synagogues and Buddhist temples.

Vyas said the Hindu center has hired a consultant in New Delhi to provide technical information on how such a sacred building should be lighted, inside and out.

“It will lighten up the evening and be a sight to see,” said Vyas, who grew up in Jodhpur and moved to Charlotte in 1979.

The building itself could become a tourist attraction. Its main dome, 51 feet high, will weigh 500 tons. Four smaller domes will tip the scales at 70 tons each.

And the temple’s prayer room – or Vedic Bhavan, Sanskrit for “peaceful place” – will be more than double the size of the current one. It’s where members will worship and bring gifts of food and flowers to their favorite deity – each a different manifestation of the one God embraced in Hinduism.

The new temple will have 13 deities, four more than now. Among the additions: Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge.

‘Calm our minds’

On a recent Sunday, Salil Joshi, 41, and wife Prachee, 38, drove from Greensboro to worship at Charlotte’s Hindu center with their two children, Saee, 11, and Anshul, 6.

It was their first visit to the center and its 3,000-square-foot prayer room. But they are thinking of making the trip once a month, especially if there’s a chance to soon experience the new temple, which will have a prayer room of 8,500 square feet.

“The bigger temple will give us a lot of worship space to express our religion and calm our minds,” said Salil, who works as an IT consultant. Added Prachee: “We can pass on our spirituality and culture to our kids.”

Srininvasu Chakka, 37, a software consultant who’s been in Charlotte for eight months, is also looking forward to the new temple. “If it is bigger, there will be a lot of other people taking in the preaching and teaching sessions,” he said.

By late April, the first shipment of carved sandstone is to arrive, with other shipments coming every two months after that. The sandstone from Jodhpur has also been used to build India’s presidential palace and Parliament building, both in New Delhi.

In Charlotte, the sandstone will be installed in the building’s interior with durable glue and chemicals. On the outside, metal clips will be used to connect it to the concrete walls.

Still uncertain, Yvas said, is whether the center will be able to bring artisans from India to supervise this crucial installation.

He said there’s apparently no immigration visa for this category of worker, one who would work in the United States for three to six months. The plan, Vyas said, is to contact North Carolina’s delegation in Washington for help. If that fails, he said, the artisans could possibly supervise the workers in Charlotte via videoconferencing.

Raising money

Fundraising also continues. To date, $2 million has been pledged and $1.7 million collected, said board chairman Gupta. “We want to be loan-free in three years,” he said.

Bricks and plaques with the names of donors will adorn the new temple. About 2,000 people have contributed at least $50. More than 140 others have given $10,000 or more. And a small group of big donors – including Vyas; Ravi Patel, an owner of hotels; and former telecommunications CEO Tansuka Ganatra – have given more than $100,000 each.

For longtime members, a new temple with more than a touch of India is a boon to their religion and community spirit.

“It’s a pleasant feeling,” said Thakor Topiwala, another leader at the center. “It’s good to know that we can maintain our trust in God and also know that the need of society is being fulfilled.”

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