For the nearly 1,600 Hindu families in the metropolitan area, a five-acre site in Finksburg will soon become a worship and cultural center.
After five years of fund raising, the group broke ground for the $1.7 million Greater Baltimore Temple last month. The 20,000-square-foot complex will include prayer and assembly halls, private prayer areas, a library and offices for a pujari, or priest.
"We will have more than enough people to fill the temple," said Dr. Chitrachedu Naganna, a Westminster cardiologist and chairman of the the building campaign.
The temple will draw worshipers from nearby counties and southern Pennsylvania. The closest Hindu temple is in Greenbelt; another is in Pittsburgh.
For families like the Nagannas, driving miles to a temple detracts from the spirit of worship and the time they can devote to their religion.
"Those are too far to commute," Naganna said. "We want a temple that is convenient for the community here."
Hindu services are not relegated to Sundays; traditionally, temples are open every day.
"For us, temple is every day," Naganna said. "This is much needed and very important."
Sushma Swani plans to make the 20-mile trip from her home in Roland Park to Finksburg often.
"This is a place for all of us to go for our prayers and ceremonies," Swani said. "We have a large Indian community that must maintain our culture and heritage. It is especially important for our children to be part of it."
Without the complex, youths could lose touch with their Indian heritage, she said.
A ceremony to lay the cornerstone will be held today at the property on Bloom Road, just behind the Finksburg Shopping Center. About 400 people are expected to attend the ritual and a dinner at Owings Mills High School. Opening of the complex is set for early 1998.
Naganna has led the campaign, which has raised about $620,000 since 1991. Laurel Design Alliance, architect for the project, has created a one-story stucco and glass building, devoid of the intricate and expensive hand-carvings that mark many Hindu temples. A 40-foot lighted tower will cast an elaborate shadow from the north end of the building.
Hindus, who often are vegetarians, believe in reincarnation and aspire to a common goal, but they worship different deities. In the prayer hall, devotees can "walk around the gods, worshiping and saying their prayers," Naganna said.
"This temple is to bring all the different Hindu communities together under one roof," he said. "It is one for all, regardless of their origin in India."
The 65-by-75-foot assembly hall, which will seat about 350, is of great importance to sustaining Indian culture, Naganna said.
He said he expects to draw celebrities from India to the United States for guest performances. He envisions concerts, dances and elaborate ceremonies, which he expects the Hindu community will heartily support.
"Our aim is to preserve our culture," he said. "The main theme of Hinduism is to look at things in multiple facets."
The property also offers ample room to grow. Phase 2 -- which could begin in about five years -- includes classrooms for a Sunday school, an outdoor terrace and additions to the cultural center.
Pub Date: 4/20/97