Customs & traditions – New York Daily News 2009

Religious affiliation: Sanatan Dharma (Hinduism)

Spiritual leader: Pandit Ram Hardowar (Pandit is the Hindi word for priest)

Scheduled services: Sunday 9:30 a.m. sacred chantings by youths; 9:30 a.m. regular services.

Address and neighborhood: 92-17 172nd St., Jamaica, Queens

Years in present location: 7 years

Size and character of congregation: More than 300 Hindus who have immigrated from Guyana, Trinidad, India and Bangladesh

Largest service and turnout: “Normally on the great night of Lord Shiva – Maha Shiva Ratri – more than 500 are in attendance. We worship God in the form of Lord Shiva all night with Abhishekam [offering of milk, ghee, honey, cane juice, coconut milk and water from the sacred rivers of India] and bail patra [leaves],” Hardowar said.

Most-prized possession: “Our values, customs and traditions. Special emphasis is placed on the teaching of Sanatan Dharma to the youths,” Hardowar said.

Biggest wish-list item: “To be able to construct a Hindu school from prekindergarten to grade 6. This process has already begun with the acquisition of a portion of the land to construct the school,” Hardowar said.

Proudest moment: “Opening of our Mandir (temple) at our current location,” Hardowar said.

Biggest issue: “To develop an effective outreach program to attract and influence youth not attending church so that they can take advantage of our teaching program and other activities,” he said.

Most memorable service: “Performing the Das Gaat and Dwadas rites [ceremonies performed after death] for worldrenowned devotional singer Hari Om Sharan in December 2007,” he said.

Strangest moments: “The way in which Surya Narayan Bhagawan [the sun god] constantly comes to our rescue during outdoor activities. Inclement weather miraculously disappears at the time of our outdoor programs,” Hardowar said.

Other services and programs offered: Lord Shiva Abhishekam, Vedanta and Bhagawat Gita classes; Hindi classes; yoga and meditation classes; a four-year program on fundamentals of Hinduism; Kathak-style dance classes.

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