Doors open to Brandon’s first Hindu temple

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Just one day after taking possession of the property, Brandon’s Hindu community turned out in droves to open their new temple on Friday.

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Just one day after taking possession of the property, Brandon’s Hindu community turned out in droves to open their new temple on Friday.

What was formerly Central United Church on Eighth Street was consecrated in a ceremony presided over by Hindu priests— referred to as saints — visiting from Toronto and New Jersey.

According to the temple’s assembly co-ordinator, Deep Patel, members of the new temple spent time rearranging benches, hanging garlands and banners and laying out offerings to the gods.

Chelsea Kemp/The Brandon Sun Worshippers are seated inside the temple Friday.

“It was kind of a rush,” he said. “We had to modify according to our needs. We had to put up the garlands and decorations. Luckily, we had so many volunteers around and we’d planned everything before.”

Those offerings were placed in front of large altars set up on a stage at the front of the main hall, which depict Hindu gods as well as gurus who laid the foundation for the denomination of the religion practised at this new mandir, which is called Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Santha (BAPS).

Mandir is a Hindi or Sanskrit word meaning “temple.” Patel explained that the images of people like the gurus are important to display because this denomination of Hinduism celebrates not just gods, but their most devoted followers as well.

Chelsea Kemp/The Brandon Sun Patel Janki, Patel Charu and Patel Bijal pose for a photo outside the temple Friday.

Patel said it took 20 people to carry in the largest piece of the altar. He explained that while some Hindu temples are dedicated only to one of the religion’s gods, Brandon’s temple will be open to worshippers of all of them and idols will be introduced to the building as the year goes on.

The consecration of this temple is part of a larger effort across Canada to build 11 temples in honour of the centenary of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the former head of BAPS, who died in 2016. Patel referred to it as the guru leaving his body in accordance with the Hindu belief of reincarnation.

Visiting from Winnipeg for the occasion, Dharmik Patel said it’s important for members of the faith to continue to act in accordance with their former guru’s motto: “In the joy of others lies our own.”

Chelsea Kemp/The Brandon Sun Volunteers serve lunch at the opening of the temple Friday.

It was fitting, then, for the first event at the temple to be a prayer for peace and health for people of this community and those around the world.

“We have people from all over Manitoba here,” Dharmik Patel said. “It really helps, especially with younger children to really connect with their roots here in Canada. Canada is an inclusive country for everyone, especially since there are so many immigrants. The children need to be connected to their Indian, Hindu roots. This mandir serves as a place to fulfil that goal.”

The purchase and consecration of the building means Hindus in Brandon finally have their own place of worship after years of renting space from the East End Community Centre and the Knox United Church, though Dharmik Patel thanked the church for being gracious hosts who were interested in learning about them and offering insights into their own faith.

“Although we liked holding our assemblies there, it’s always good to have your own place of worship so you can install idols of God,” he said. “The thing is, we have to offer prayers on a daily basis, so about a year back we started to think we needed a place of our own.”

It also provides more room for the 500 to 600 members of the community to express themselves. By comparison, Deep Patel said the East End Community Centre could only hold 50 people at once.

Many of those in attendance on Friday were dressed in bright, colourful clothing. With visitors asked to take off their shoes before entering, a sea of footwear swelled in size to the right of the front door as more people arrived.

While July 1 is Canada Day, this year it also happened to be the date for Rath Yatra, a Hindu festival of chariots. After a sermon and prayers from the assembled saints, a video from the celebration of the festival taken in 2019 was projected to the audience.

Asked what event he was most excited to celebrate at the new temple over the next year, Deep Patel said it’s Diwali, the annual festival of lights.

This year, the festival is scheduled to take place from Oct. 21-25.

» cslark@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @ColinSlark

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