Hindu temple finds new home in Cary

After years of renting community buildings and holding services in members’ homes, the Shree Swaminarayan Hindu Temple’s congregation will be able to meet and worship in a space of its own. The congregation recently moved into a building at 500 SE Maynard Road that had housed the Hispanic Ministry of White Plains United Methodist Church since 2001.

It’s the first temple for this sect of Hinduism in North Carolina, the congregation’s leaders said. Having a permanent home is significant for its members, said Sujal Patel, a member of the Shree Swaminarayan congregation. “Having a permanent home gives us a lot of flexibility,” he said. “More hours and time toward praying and community service.” Member Niraj Joshi said the congregation formed in 1999. Since then, they’ve met every other week in rented spaces and members’ homes. They now have about 25 to 30 families as members. “We eventually decided that we should have our own place,” he said. “It would allow us to grow, and it also allows to kind of have a constant thing instead of something that only happens once every two weeks.” The building became available when the Hispanic Ministry relocated earlier this year to White Plains’ main church building up the street. Joshi said having a physical location for a temple gives their community a chance to practice traditions and festivals the day they happen, instead of waiting for the weekend when a space is available.

“Having our own place is a very good way for us to practice our religion, in a true manner, like we would practice it in our own culture, in our country, or somewhere else,” Joshi said. “It’s a very important thing for us to have a place so that the people can come together.” Swaminarayan is a sect of Hinduism, originating from Northern India, that follows the teachings of the central figure Swaminarayan. They have multiple festivals every year, like Holi and Diwali, and Patel said they plan to celebrate them at the temple. Before, it took members an hour to set up before a service and then clean up afterward, Patel said. But now they won’t have to worry about hauling their materials – scriptures, idols, and food – from place to place. The temple will remain open for the next several months as the building undergoes general renovations and repairs and the official Hindu idols are installed. It also gives them a chance to teach their faith to the congregation’s younger members.

“Now we can have classrooms and teach kids the next level of understanding our culture and our background and what Hinduism is,” Patel said. “We want them to understand their culture, and at the same time, give themselves back to God and to the community.” Tej Joshi, Niraj’s son and a ninth-grader at Panther Creek High School, will be part of the temple’s youth group. He said he thinks the temple will be a place of unity.

“It’s better,” he said. “We don’t have to keep on moving our stuff from our houses. It’s better to have a permanent space.” His younger sister, Parthavi Joshi, 9, said the classroom space will make learning easier. “We make presentations,” she said. “We present them in the main hall. We have all these classrooms on the bottom floor, so we can have different classes back to back, and it kind of feels like a school.”

There was a ceremony July 28-31, where a priest came from India to bless the location and the idols and perform “Puja,” or prayers.

source: http://www.newsobserver.com/