‘America Tirupati’: US Hindu temple holds Maha Kumbhabhishekam. As crowds gathered to rededicate the largest Hindu temple in the United States, there were shouts – prayers for continued recovery from the disease that plagued many loved ones in India – and the joy of reuniting after a ban for more than a year.
And there was joy.
The shout of the divine name “Govinda!” he woke up on Sunday morning with in a crowd of worshipers at the Sri Venkateswara temple, on a hillside east of Pittsburgh. Dressed in festive saris and other traditional attire, they gazed up at the gopuram – the ornate temple tower of his white, newly restored bright sun.
On top of that, the priests stood at the table lifting the ceremonial instruments, pouring holy water on the golden towers at Gopuram.
They repeat the ritual in the three central towers in the center of the temple. There were drums and similarities such as nataswaram’s horn, traditional Indian reed bell, and flower petals that quickly descended on volunteers from a helicopter.
The festival is known as the Maha Kumbhabhishekam, which is a symbol of the sprinkling of holy water from the bodies of the festivals, traditionally held in Hindu temples once every 12 years to renew and strengthen the spiritual power of the temple and its images.
Hundreds of devotees from surrounding regions came all Sunday, completing five days of prayers, hymns and other rituals at the outdoor fire altars. More than 20 priests participated, wearing yellow or saffron robes at their waists; most of them came from other North American temples.
The temple of Sri Venkateswara is much smaller than its huge statue, a temple of the same name in the southern Indian city of Tirupati. However, the Pittsburgh region has become a Hindu pilgrimage throughout North America and the history of Hinduism in the United States. There are now hundreds of temples throughout the country, and about one percent of American adults now identify as Hindus, according to a 2019 Pew Research Center report.
Kalathur Raghu, one of the founding members of the temple, recalled a very small ceremony during the dedication in November November 1976. “I don’t think any of us expected to reach this level when we started,” he said.
The temple was dedicated to Venkateswara, considered to be the body of Vishnu, the god of protection and preservation also known as Govinda. The Venkateswara statue, or statue, stands on the most holy part of the temple. Statues of other deities stand nearby, such as those of Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity, and Boodevi, the goddess of the earth.
Devotees flocked to the temple on Sunday afternoon to offer sacrifices to the gods in their rededicated sanctuaries. There the priests sang and washed these idols with water, milk, honey, and other traditional offerings, while the priests offered their hands and received priestly blessings.
Maha Kumbhabhishekam has real and spiritual significance.
This festival is usually held every 12 years because it is believed that over time, the spiritual power in the temple needs to be revived ceremonially. (In the early years of the Sri Venkateswara temple, the intervals between the ceremonies were longer than 12 years.)
To some extent, the temple was temporarily cleansed in the churches leading up to the ceremony, and the repairs were made in areas not open to the public except the priests. At the Sri Venkateswara temple, contractors repair everything from ventilation to weather-wearing ornaments.
Volunteers also prepare for months. A few days before the festival, Saris’ women embroidered necklaces from thousands of mango leaves and tent decorating equipment and other ceremonial items.
The festival included a large distribution of food at a nearby health facility, followed by numerous other donations to help with the epidemic in India.