The vision of a Hindu Temple in New England appeared in the minds of a few people in 1978. Driven by this divine inspiration, an ad hoc committee was established in March 1978 when every member seeded $ 101 to assiduously pursue the goal of building the temple. A formal constitution was drafted and an application for incorporation was duly filed with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
The early days of the organization were devoted to establishing its by-laws and on discussions on the scope and nature of the project of building the temple. Foremost in the minds of everyone was the desire that the temple should be a place of worship for all the Hindus living in and visiting this area. At a meeting on August 12, 1978, the committee decided to dedicate this temple to Goddess Sri Lakshmi as the presiding deity, since most of us have come to this country in search of the prosperity and happiness bestowed by the grace of Mahalakshmi.
The inaugural function of New England Hindu Temple, Inc. was conducted with Mahalakshmi Pooja and Diwali celebrations on October 28, 1978 at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Melrose, Massachusetts. Exuberance and excitement filled the hearts and minds of everyone in the large congregation as they witnessed and experienced an authentic pooja service to Sri Lakshmi and it filled their spiritual need. This was easily seen as pledges and donations started coming in even before securing the non-profit status. Non-profit status from the Internal Revenue Service was secured on November 28, 1978 for tax-deductible contributions. The place of congregation was soon changed to Needham Village Club which was more centrally located.
In the summer of 1981, about twelve acres of land in the town of Ashland, Massachusetts were acquired for constructing the temple. services of Sri Ganapathy Sthapathy from the Institute of Architecture and Sculpture in Tamil Nadu were sought to design the temple according to the Agama Sastras. He visited in November 1982 and provided detailed plans for the temple. In early 1983, M/S MacNevin and Kerivan Engineering, Inc. of Wellesley was engaged to prepare the engineering design and drawings which were submitted to the Town of Ashland for approval. The land was cleared in the fall of 1983 and in the following spring the excavation work was carried out by Guigli & Sons. The contract for the foundation and structural work for the building was awarded to Kaikunte Engineering Corporation in Sharon in the summer of 1984. The ground breaking ceremony was observed on June 19, 1984 with a grand celebration of Ganesh Pooja.
In the fall of 1984 the temple applied to Thirumaial-Thirupathi Devasthanam in India for a loan to help hasten the construction of the temple. The application was duly approved and the first installment of Rs. 5 Lakhs was received in July 1985. The loan has now been repaid. When the initial contract with Kalkunte Engineering Corporation for the foundation and infra structure was completed, the first Ganapathy Homam in the temple was performed in September 1985. The contract to complete the building with all the utilities needed for occupancy was awarded to Parekh Construction Co. in Woburn, Massachusetts. The first floor had the mahdmandapam (60'x5O') with an Alankaramandapam for Lord Nataraja and His consort Sivakami.
A paved driveway to the temple from Waverly Street with parking spaces for 100 cars was also provided. The receipt of the occupancy permit for the temple in September 1986 was an important milestone on the road to the completion of the mammoth project. This was celebrated with a grand opening Ceremony on September 6, 1986. Sri Janakiram Sastrigal of Rajarajeswari Peetam in Stroudsburg, PA graciously performed the inaugural pooja along with our local part-time priests.
The temple has remained open during the week-ends ever since with all the major Hindu festivals being celebrated in a traditional manner. Cultural activities such as classical music and dance concerts, Thyagaraja Aradhana, Dikshitar Day, Surdas & Meera Bhajans and discourses have further transformed the temple into the focal point of the Hindu community.
Extending from the mahamandapam by another thirty feet, sanctums for the principal deities Ganesh, mahalakshmi and Venkateswara were constructed beginning in September 1987 with the contract assigned to Parekh Construction Co. As the time approached for Hindu architectural ornamentation of the sanctums with vimana gopuram (sikhara), the service of Sri Muthiah Sthapathy of Tamil Nadu was contracted in 1988. In the same year, Sri Shadrinarayana Bhattar was appointed as the first full-time priest of the Srilakshmi temple to provide regular services within the temple as well as services such as weddings, Grahapravesams, Namakaranam etc. as required by the Hindu community at their residences. When he returned to India, Sri Krishna Bhattar was appointed to fill in the vacancy.
The spring of 1989 saw the arrival of ten artisans (silpis) from India skilled in the architectural work of the temple. With their arrival, the exquisite magnificence of the sancta with their vimana gopurams began to take shape. Their patient and devoted work under adverse weather conditions has brought us to the celebration of Rajagopuram Kumbhabhishekam. Plans for the Kumbhabhishekam were initiated in the fall of 1989. Sri Sampathkumar Bhattacharlar of Bangalore and Sri Sambamoorthy Sivachariar of Madras were chosen as chief priests to perform the Kumbhabhishekam with a host of other priests assisting them in this consecration ceremony.
The granite idols of Ganesh with Mooshikam and Balipeetam, Mahalakshmi, Venkateswara, Garuda and Dwarapalakas along with the bronze Utsavamurthis of Ganesh, Mahalakshmi, Venkateswara, Sridevi, Bhudevi and Sivakami were designed by Sri Ganapathy Sthapathy of the Institute of Architecture and Sculpture, Tamil Nadu and fabricated by the artisans at the institute. The bronze Utsavamurthis of Nataraja, Subrahmanya, Valli and Devasena were designed by Sri Muthiah Sthapathy. The ornamental designs of the sanctum and the vimana gopuram were skillfully executed according to the Hindu Agama-sastras by the Indian artisans. Coordination of the shipping of the idols from India was carried out through the considerable help rendered by Sri Meenakshisundaram and Sri Ramanujam of Madras. Sri N V Raghavan, also of Madras, has attended to the procurement of multifarious items required for the Kumbhabhishekam.
These are only a few of the many who have helped the temple in immeasurable ways to reach the present status of success in this ever growing project. Undoubtedly, the names of many people have not been mentioned due to lack of space. What was envisioned as a concept in 1978 took twelve years to blossom. Measured steps were taken all the way mostly due to the newness of the project. Through the grace and guidance of Goddess Srilakshmi, an important phase of the temple construction has been completed. Sri Lakshmi Temple now joins the ranks of other Hindu temples built in different cities across the country. In some sense, building the temple has been the easy and fun part.
It will be left to the future generations to foster the growth of the Srilakshmi temple and other temples,
It will be left to the future generations to foster the growth of the Srilakshmi temple and other temples, to uphold the ethical and moral values taught by our religion and to promote the Hindu culture. The temple hopes that this small step goes a long way in instilling the responsibility in our future generations to prepare them for the task of continuing our tradition and upholding the principles of our religion.
For any questions please call us at (508) 881-5775 during temple hours