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Getting youth involved in temple activities strongly emphasized at Balaji Temple annual banquet

By Suresh & Usha Bodiwala

Chicago IL (Oct 7, 2014): Sri Venkateswara Swami (Balaji) Temple located at 1145 Sullivan Road, Aurora, IL celebrated its annual Appreciation Banquet at Waterford Banquet & Conference Center in Elmhurst, IL on Saturday, October 4, 2014 at 6:00 p.m.

The evening started with Social Hour. Dr. Sanjay Rao who served as MC briefly outlined the work of Balaji Temple and invited the Balaji Vidya Pitham students to sing the Prayer song ‘Tumhi Ho Mata, Pita Tumhi Ho..’
This was followed by singing of the National Anthems of India and USA by the same group.

Welcome speech was delivered by Dr. N. S. Rao, Vice Chairman of SVS Temple “Many of you have travelled long distances which serves to remind us all just how important our work is, on behalf of the temple we deeply appreciate and offer you our most grateful welcome. SVS Balaji has been in existence for nearly 30 years, it opened its doors to devotees for worship and for participation in Social and Cultural gatherings,” he said.

Chairman Mr. Athimoolam Naidu in his address said, ‘Thanks for your valuable monetary, voluntary and spiritual patronage over the years, our temple enjoys an enviable reputation as one of the most beautiful and truly authentic Hindu Temples outside India. All our volunteers spend long hours despite personal commitments and obligations, just to serve the community in the name of our God. Your profound devotion and unwavering support to our temple is an invaluable asset. We are preserving our pristine religious practice; we are striving to provide many more value added services for the entire community. We are involved in youth education, cultural activities, summer camps, health fair, Balaji Garden, Yoga and Meditation programs and so on”.

He thanked the Board of Trustees, Advisory Committees, Priests, Office Staff, Kitchen Staff, Volunteers, and Cleaning Staff for their hard work. He also announced future plans to build additional class rooms, bigger auditorium and a separate dining area which will require additional funding and appealed to devotees for their generous support.   
A video presentation comprising of temple religious activities during the past year was shown to highlight the authentic manner in which temple priests conduct religious celebrations.  He invited devotees to attend the temple activities in large numbers to show our Hindu traditions to our children.

The temple’s new web portal was introduced by Mr. Anu Agnihotri who explained in detail its salient features which will be operational from Monday, October 6, 2014. Devotees are welcome to visit balaji.org to see upcoming temple events and request religious services both in the temple and offsite.

Awards were given to 3 temple volunteers -Anu Agnihotri from Volunteer and Public Relations Committee; Usha Pariti from Cultural Affairs and Banquet Committee and Jayashree Parthasarathy of Youth and Education Committee for their untiring efforts to help with the growth of the organization.

The keynote speaker Ms. Vasudha Narayanan was introduced by the Religious Committee Chairperson, Mr. Ranganathan Hemmige. She is a Distinguished Professor, Department of Religion, at the University of Florida and a past President of the American Academy of Religion (2001-2002). She was educated at the Universities of Madras and Bombay in India, and at Harvard University. Her fields of interest are the Hindu traditions in India, Cambodia, and America; visual and expressive cultures in the study of the Hindu traditions; and gender issues. She is currently working on Hindu temples and traditions in Cambodia.

Vasudha Narayanan in her inspiring speech described the role of the temples in our society. She referred to the multiple roles temples play in promoting Hinduism all over the world. “There are many roles Temples play like political, educational, cultural, social and architectural. Hinduism is a dynamic religion and through our combined efforts we can carry on our Hindu traditions for generations to come” she pointed out. She also proposed ideas for the future benefit of the temple like creating an endowment and naming the temple as the life insurance beneficiary. To help spread our religion and tradition she urged members to get children involved in temple activities such as SAT/ACT classes, performing arts classes, engage them in community volunteer work such as health fairs, and food drives which will motivate them to understand and practice Hindu religion in the future years.

Panchavadyam (rendered by Chicago Kalakshetra) is an essential part of the Kerala Temple tradition. It consists of five different instruments called Thimila, Maddalam, Eddaka, Kombu and Ilathalam. This melam is considered as a Deva Vadyam, and most of the instruments are played inside the temple.

Participants: Ajith Bhaskaran, Anil Nair, Anoop, Girish, Jayaprakash, Jayakrishnan, Jay Madhavan, Midhun Ajikumar, Prasanth, Roshan, Roy, Sreejith, Sreehari, Vidul.

Sumptuous Dinner was served at this point which was relished by all.

The main cultural program of the evening was a Light Music concert with live orchestra in multiple languages like Tamil, Hindi, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada, were presented by popular Chicago singers: Bhupendra Singh, Praveen Jaligama, Jairaj Narayanan, Srinivasan Rajan, Manjunath Rammohan, Rama Raghuraman, Parimala Prasad, Sharanya Gururajan, Minu Kartik and  Manmeet Kaur.  Orchestra included Drums by Jiji Joseph; Guitar by Jose Kerikar;  Key Board by  Shinoo Mapleton, Tabla/Dholak by Lalji  and  Sound Engineer: Saif Ali.

All the singers delighted the audience with their beautiful voice and entertained them non-stop for 2 hours. Their collection of songs ranged from old film hits to present day popular numbers. Mr. Raghu Raghuraman from the temple cultural committee served as MC for this segment and introduced the singers. 

In conclusion, Vote of Thanks was given by Dr. Garla Gupta, Treasurer of Balaji Temple.

Board of Trustees: Chairman: Athimoolam Naidu; Vice Chairman: Sudershan Rao Nagulapalli; Secretary: Suresh Mehta; Treasurer: Prabhakar Gupta Garla; Members: Sudershan Rao Akkineni; Harinadha B. Koneru; Vankata S. Masunuru; Prasad Neerukonda; Pethinaidu Veluchamy; Ramaraja B. Yalavarthi