A Perspective On Kansas City Hindu Temple
Anand Bhattacharyya (HTCC President, 1982-1988)
Kansas City Hindu Temple is a magnificent place to serve the religious and spiritual needs of the members of the Hindu community (including Jain community) residing in Greater Kansas City area.
A Brief History of the Hindu Temple:
About twenty-eight years ago, in 1982, a group of active members of the Kansas City Hindu community proposed to build a temple in the Kansas City area. There were several reasons for building a temple.
Throughout history America has been a place of religious freedom. People have the fundamental right to practice their own faith freely and openly. Since the local Hindu community was growing, it was a laudable proposal to build a temple where Hindus and Jains could offer prayers and puja services in accordance with their age-old customs and traditions. Another important consideration was that the temple would be a place where Hindus coming to Kansas City area from different traditions in India and elsewhere would congregate which could help unify the local Hindu community.
In meetings after meetings the community overwhelmingly supported the proposal to build a temple in the Greater Kansas City area and came forward with pledges for donations. A constitution and bye-laws were written with a mission statement and an organizational structure under the name of ‘Hindu Temple and Cultural Center of Kansas City’ (HTCC) was prepared. The organization was incorporated with a non-profit status in the State of Kansas and it received the IRS recognition as a tax-exempt, religious organization in 1982. The State of Kansas and IRS recognitions gave a further boost to the fund raising efforts. A five-acre land in the city of Shawnee (the present temple site) was procured in 1984. In the fall of 1985, ground-breaking ceremony (Bhumi Puja) was performed with great fanfare in the presence of an enthusiastic crowd. By this time the temple design was finalized and approved by the HTCC Board of Trustees. Thereafter, the temple construction work started in right earnest. It took about two and half years to complete the temple structure with Prayer Hall, Fellowship Hall (basement area) and other facilities. Initially, a temporary wooden shrine was built inside the prayer hall and was decorated with pictures of various Hindu deities. The temple door was ceremoniously opened in the spring of 1988 with great festivity in the presence of a large crowd. With the help and generous financial support of the community together with the untiring, devoted work of a large number of dedicated volunteers, a milestone was reached.
From the beginning, in order to keep the momentum going, community volunteers held religious services once a month, generally on the third Sunday of the month. These services gave temple management the opportunity to communicate with the congregation about the plan and the progress of work and to get their feedback. A monthly newsletter, ‘Hindu Patrika’ (initially named ‘Samachar Patrika’) was issued to keep the local community members and outside supporters informed regarding the status of the fund collections and the temple work progress. Fund-raising events were organized from time to time and the people responded with generous pledges.
It took almost three more years to complete the next phase of the temple construction. During this period the temple shrine was designed and built, the statues (murtis) of deities were ordered and built in India, and shipped to the United States and installed in the newly-built sanctum. In April of 1991, the dedication ceremony (Deba-sthapana) of the temple took place. It was indeed a grand three-day event. His Holiness Sri Sri Sri Vidyanarayana Thirtha Swaminaha gave his blessings to the Kansas City Hindu community for successfully completing a sacred mission. Swami Chetanananda, Minister-in-charge, The Vedanta Society of Saint Louis, Missouri also graced the occasion by his presence. In his talk about our spiritual heritage he reminded us that behind us are five thousand years of spiritual wisdom recorded in our scriptures. Congratulatory messages were received from the Governors of Kansas and Missouri. The whole community was enthused by the dedication of the temple to serve the religious needs of the people. In 1993 the temple hired a full time priest. The priest, Sri Chakrapani Bhattar, served the community very well for almost fourteen years, before he retired in 2007.
The Hindu community has grown many times since the first thought went around of building a temple here in Kansas City. So, a need for temple expansion was keenly felt with the advent of the twenty-first century. Again, the community has responded very well with enthusiasm and commitment. A large number of dedicated volunteers did their jobs superbly for a number of years. Temple priests invoked the blessings of God at every important stage of construction from Bhumi Puja to the opening ceremony. As a result we have a beautifully expanded temple in 2008 with larger facilities to take care of the enhanced and varied activities of the temple.
Concluding Remarks: Today, our community is blessed for the fact that we have so many people, young and old, who are eager to serve the temple and the community. When we go to the temple to attend a big temple celebration, we see many smiling faces eager to help. This gives us a good feeling that our community has the capacity, the will and the determination to well maintain its tradition and heritage.
Today, this temple has been a symbol of pride for the Hindu community. Because of the temple, the community is well recognized as a faith community. The temple has attracted visitors from other faith communities who come and visit our temple, watch our rituals and learn our customs, traditions and religious philosophy with great interest. These visitors come from schools, colleges, and universities, religious and social organizations of Kansas City and beyond. They see the spirit and the openness of this religion in this place of worship.
Rev. Vern Barnet, the founder of CRES (Center for Religious Experience and Study) and the Kansas City Interfaith Council once said in his message to the Hindu community, “I congratulate you on your building program which is central to your cultivation and transmission of the cultural and religious riches India has to offer. I am impressed with the careful site planning and the open interior space which expresses the openness of the Indian spirit.” It is always heartening to hear words of encouragement and support from persons outside our community. We, as members of a faith community, also realize that we are but a part of a larger community of faiths. We need to show our support and extend our hands of friendship whenever they need our help for common good. Our temple members have long been involved in collecting food for needy people and serving in the Community Soup Kitchen. In the past HTCC sponsored Interfaith Discourses in the temple. The temple was the host of several interfaith events in the past years. These types of activities prove that we are not an isolated community. Since 2001 Kansas City has been the nation’s hub of Interfaith activities. HTCC’s direct support of GKCIC (Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council) is of great value to the thirteen other faith communities supporting this worthwhile organization.
When I Asked God for Happiness
He Showed Me Some Unhappy People
When I Asked God for Brain & Brawn
He Gave Me Puzzles in Life to Solve
When I Asked God for Strength
He Gave Me Difficult Situations to Face
When I Asked God for Wealth
He Showed Me How to Work Hard
When I Asked God for Favors
He Showed Me Opportunities to Work Hard
When I Asked God for Peace
He Showed Me How to Help Others
God Gave Me Nothing I Wanted
He Gave Me Everything I Needed
"Tribhirgunamayairbhavairebhih Sarvamidam Jagat
Mohitam Nabhijanati Mamebhyah Paramavyayam"
The whole world is engrossed in the three elements of Satva, Raja, and Tama. This is the reason, people don't recognize the Eternal God who is beyond them.