New Hindu temple opens doors to community

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Windsor Star/Carolyn Thompson

“We want to keep our practices alive, and pass on the same values to our children” — Sneha Miglani, member of the Hindu community

 

For a community that began with three families worshipping together in each others’ homes in 1965, the opening of a new $3.2-million Hindu Temple (Mandir) this week is a nearly unbelievable milestone.

The new 14,000-square-foot building — funded entirely by the temple’s members and the Hindu community — replaces its aging counterpart on Cabana Road, where hundreds of families have crowded inside for nearly 40 years in prayer and celebration.

“It’s a big landmark for not just our community, but all of Windsor too,” said Harshad Joshi, one of the temple’s board members.

The new temple at 7007 Enterprise Way, near Lauzon Parkway, is nearly three times bigger than the old building.

Since those first three families first worshipped in Windsor 50 years ago, the community has grown to more than 1,000 families. They come from India, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and many other countries.

Just a week ago, Windsor’s Hindu community crowded into its old temple to celebrate its last Diwali, the festival of lights, in that small space.

Sneha Miglani, a member of the Hindu community who writes for the South Asian community blog Windsor Desi, said more than a thousand people crowded the temple. Many stood shoulder to shoulder to pray before the altar in a room that normally seats just 50 people, while others spilled out into nearby rooms and even outside.

Diwali celebrations include lamps and fire, along with prayers and hymns in front of the altar to the gods. It’s the removal of darkness and ignorance, said Pandya. Worshippers also offer a feast of many courses to the deities, which is then shared among the community.

“We want to keep our practices alive, and pass on the same values to our children,” said Miglani, who just arrived in Windsor in January. “This new temple means a lot to us.”

The Hindu community bought the land on Entreprise Way in 2008, and raised the money through donations from their community members. Donations ranged from $1,000 to $251,000. Still, the temple carries a mortgage of $1.4 million.

From Thursday to Sunday, the public is invited to celebrate with the community at ceremonies and rituals to honour the Hindu gods.

Paresh Pandya, the temple priest, said Thursday will be a ceremony of prayer and a procession with the singing of hymns of peace and spirituality to purify the space and the devotees’ bodies. That has to be done before bringing sculptures of the gods and goddesses into the temple to sit on the shrine.

He said the rituals will welcome figures of the three main Hindu gods into the temple: Brahma, the creator, Vishnu, the sustainer, and Shiva, the destroyer.

“We believe in all three in one, one in many,” he said.

On Saturday morning, they will decorate the deities with new clothes and ornaments, such as gold-plated jewelry and artificial flowers, and welcome them by a procession into the temple. Each will be placed on the altar at the front of the room, under geometric arches and surrounded by curtains.

“Our basic teaching is to spread the knowledge of peace. Hindu people believe in non-violence,” Pandya said. “Unite yourself and purify yourself, inner and outer.”

Pandya said in Hinduism, there are numerous gods and goddesses, such as the god of fire and the god of the sun.

That’s one of the reasons he performs Havan, the fire ceremony, to send rays of light and energy up to the deities. Miglani said they place flowers and fruit into a sacred fire on a pedestal inside the temple as offerings to the gods, while reciting spiritual mantras.

Sunday devotees will also go through a ritual by promising to maintain the sanctity of the temple.

Joshi said the celebrations will be a rare opportunity for the public to come inside the temple and experience worship with the Hindu community, as well as help inaugurate the new building.

After the purification rituals and fire ceremony, Miglani said they will begin Prasadam, when food is prepared to be offered to the gods, followed by Preeti Bhoj, when many courses of food are shared among those at the temple.

“We feel proud of our people, who still feel trust in God, trust in community,” Pandya said. “Come, join us. You are welcome.”

For more information, go to facebook.com/hindumandir.