January 12, 2013

'We were definitely ready for a Hindu temple in Maine'

With the purchase of a Westbrook church, a growing community realizes its dream of establishing a dedicated place of worship.

By Leslie Bridgers lbridgers@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Sivacharia Bhairav Sundaram Battar leads a service called a "puja" at Riverton Elementary School on Dec. 1, 2012, at which members of the Maine Hindu Temple sought blessings on its efforts to buy a Westbrook building.

Photos by John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Three-year-old Srehitta Patnayakuni watches with her parents at the Dec. 1 prayer service held by the Maine Hindu Temple. The group's offer on a Westbrook church was later accepted and fundraising was successful.


Hinduism is the oldest religion still practiced.

It is the world's third-largest religion, behind Christianity and Islam.

There are about 930 million Hindus worldwide, all but about 20 million from India.

There isn't one authoritative scripture.

Tolerance and pluralism are two of its core beliefs.

Dharma is the conduct most conducive to spiritual advancement.

Karma is the belief in appropriate consequences for individual actions.

All beings are manifestations of God, and souls are reincarnated until they reach enlightenment.

Cows are revered, and not to be killed or eaten.

Sources: Hindu American Foundation and reglionfacts.com

Without enough time to get a loan, the group made an appeal to the Hindu community through emails, phone calls and Facebook. Donations poured in from Hindus as far away as California and, on the day the money had to be wired, the goal was reached.

Bhatt said he cried as he received some of the checks -- not just the biggest ones, but those that came from people who could least afford it. Gandra points to the puja at the Riverton school for an explanation.

"I'm a strong believer it was the blessings from that ceremony," he said.

Purchasing the church was a major feat, but Maine Hindu Temple still has a lot of work to do before the building can serve its purpose.

This week, members of the group's board will meet with city officials to see what work is needed to get the building up to code. Then there will be the cleaning and the organizing of volunteers to lead services, which they hope will be held daily.

Soon, they want to replace the inefficient boiler, then the roof. And that will take money that's yet to be raised.

But board members know the community is dedicated to making it happen and believe the temple will open in a few months, if not earlier, said Bhatt. There's a calmness about Maine that befits the beliefs of Hinduism, he said. It gives him confidence in the temple's success.

"The vibrations here in this area to nourish spirituality are there," Bhatt said.

Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at: 791-6364 or at



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