Venkat Raman –
Are Temples merely places of worship or are they centres for community welfare?
Is social development a responsibility of those managing Hindu Temples?
What should be done to ensure closer engagement with communities and how can those with time, talent and money be encouraged to participate to a larger extent in the community activities of Temples?
These and many other questions are likely to be raised and answered at a two-day global meeting of devotees of Shri Shirdi Sai Baba in Auckland later this month.
Auckland based Shri Shirdi Sai Baba Sansthan Inc is organising the first-ever ‘Shri Shirdi Sai Devotees Summit’ at its Temple Complex located at 12 Princess Street, Onehunga on February 27 and 28, 2016.
Sansthan President Bhaskar Duvvuru said that while the focus of the Summit would be on ‘The Role of Temples and Non-Profit Organisations in Community Development,’ the highlight of the two-day Summit would be the presence and address of Dr Chandra Bhanu Satpathy, Founder-President of Shirdi Sai Global Foundation. He will inaugurate the Conference and deliver the keynote speech,” he told Indian Newslink.
Mr Duvvuru said that about 40 delegates from Australia, Germany, India, Malaysia, United Kingdom and United States of America are expected to attend the Conference.
“We also propose to deliberate on ‘The challenges of running Temples, and Spirituality and Holistic Living’ at the Conference. As well as the Haka and other traditional Maori dance and music, cultural programmes depicting Indian culture will also be held at the Temple Complex,” he said.
Mr Duvvuru said that as a part of its commitment to community welfare, the Sansthan will donate $12,000 to Starship Foundation and a cheque will be presented to its Chief Executive Brad Clark.
“We will support Starship Hospital on an ongoing basis and adopt it as a Sansthan Project at the Summit,” he said.
As reported in our issues two years ago, the Temple Complex was inaugurated by Dr Satpathy in the presence of more than 3000 devotees on February 6, 2014, as a part of four-day festival. With construction and other related costs of more than $6 million, it is the largest Hindu Temple in Australasia.
The Complex covers a land area of 2975 Sq Mts with a total built area of 3500 Sq Mts on three levels. It accommodates a dining hall and commercial kitchen on the ground floor, the Main Prayer Hall of 845 Sq Mts on the First Floor, a Community Hall (Sai Centre) with stage, sound & lights and accommodation for two priests.
The Sansthan raised $2.8 million in loans of which $1.8 million has been repaid.
Mr Duvvuru said that the Sansthan hopes to repay the remaining $1 million within five years, with regular donations (about $2000 every week), revenue from weddings (30 marriages held thus far from February 2014) other community events, and collections from other special occasions.
The Temple receives thousands of people every week, predominantly Hindus, but hundreds of New Zealanders and overseas visitors of varied faiths, including Christianity, Islam, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism are also among its regular visitors.
Mr Duvvuru said that Dr Satpathy, former Uttar Pradesh Director General of Police has dedicated his life in the service of Shirdi Saibaba and humanity at large.
“He has been involved in the construction of more than 200 Saibaba Temples in India and other parts of the world. His presence will add to the piety to the Summit,” he said.
Born in Cuttack (former State Capital of Odisha) in India, he graduated from Delhi University and worked as a lecturer for two years. Joining the Indian Police Service in 1972, he undertook several assignments in various locations before retiring as the top policeman of Uttar Pradesh.
A man of lore and letters, Dr Satpathy has written a number of books on Saibaba, spiritualism and other subjects.