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Utah temple attracts Hindus from all around the West

Utah temple attracts Hindus from all around the West

Author: Heidi Atkin
Publication: The Slat Laie Tribune
Date: February 21, 2008
URL: http://www.sltrib.com/ci_8326431

The edifice is the beginning of several years of development

The Sri Ganesha Hindu Temple in South Jordan is a transcendent icon for Hindus hundreds of miles around.

"This is the only mainstream Hindu temple between Denver and Las Vegas. If you want a temple as it is in India, this is the one," said Indra Neelameggham, who is a founding member of the temple and the current office manager.

She suspects Sri Ganesha's patrons come from Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming and parts of Colorado to pray in the temple.

The temple, located at 1142 W. 10400 South, opened officially in the summer of 2003, and is now used by more than 1,000 prescribed worshipers and many more who are not tracked in a local Hindu database.

Sivprasad Sappidi from Boise, Idaho and three other Boise families traveled to the temple to pray. Sappidi and his friend Kiran Kumar Sreeram explained they came for no specific reason other than to pray. However, they hoped the long trip would be well worth it because Ganesha, to whom they have come to pray for blessings, is the lord of success and the remover of obstacles.

Hinduism is the oldest-known religious tradition. Also, defining it as a religion seems confining, said Neelameggham, because Hinduism does not possess any of the many prescribed tenants of a religion. Hindus do not have a prophet or a central church leadership; they do not congregate as a whole or even worship the same God.

Instead, Hinduism should be seen as a way of life.

Lynn Napper, a recent worshipper at the temple, said everyone is Hindu, but they just don't know it.

Napper's wife, Vicki, a self-described non-traditional Hindu, described her faith as to "walk the path of Sanatana," or "service to humanity."

After 38 years of studying India's philosophies and culture of India, she is comfortable being among traditional Hindus in the temple. "It represents to me a coming together with people who understand my beliefs," Napper said.

This community spirit is felt in the temple. Though the main hall is dedicated to prayer and quiet meditation, there are other rooms where people socialize and discuss their beliefs. Hinduism's social tenants are as important as its spiritual tenants, Neelameggham said.

The temple is only the beginning of what might be several years of development for Salt Lake Valley's Hindu community. Next on the agenda for the temple's committee is the construction of an Indian cultural center, which they hope to house in the parking lot adjacent to its South Jordan location.

During 2008, the temple committee will focus on fundraising for the center.

"Having a temple is really great. But, we have now come to a point when the temple alone cannot provide nourishment for all our culture and traditional values; in order to provide that lively experience the already contemplated Indian Cultural Center is the appropriate solution," said Satish Bhatnagar in recent publication called "A Temple to Call Our Own."

On any day of the week, anyone can enter the temple to pray alone or with a priest employed by the temple. Daily operating hours are 8:30 a.m. until 9 p.m.

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