Contributors: Amisha Tewari, Devina Persaud and Yeashivana Mahadeo
On May 17th 2014 at 5 a.m., the family of Shri Surya Narayan Mandir set out on yet another spectacular trip to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. The main attractions on this trip, which was organized by Behenji Oma under the guidance of Guruji, were pilgrimages to two Hindu architectural masterpieces and fun activities for the children and adults. The bus ride was eventful. After we received Surya Bhagavan’s darshan – the rising sun- on the Van Wyck Expressway, Dharti Ma – Mother Earth – mesmerized everyone with her scenic and serene landscapes that lined the Pennsylvania highways we rode on.
The bus ride began with prarthna and blessings by Guruji. This was followed by beautifully selected pre-recorded bhajans and Hindu religious movies and, of course, some quiet moments for introspection and then lots of chatting and laughter. Delicious breakfast, which included a variety of nutritious components, was served on the bus before we made our first stop.
A few minutes after our lunch stop we arrived at the Pittsburg Zoo and PPG Aquarium.
At the zoo, the devotees encountered a vast amount of animals. There were elephants, gorillas, flamingoes, tigers, lions, monkeys. We were astonished by the creatures and how intelligent and amazing they are. Some animals were even posing for the memorable pictures we took along the way.
At the aquarium, there were sea turtles, sharks, and many different types of fishes that were beautiful. It was a great learning experience for the children and the adults. The zoo and aquarium experiences were still a topic of discussion on our way back home.
Just before we had dinner at an Indian restaurant, we experienced Pittsburg biggest attraction – the incline cable car rides. Dinner was served in huge thalis of very tasty Indian dishes. After a day of sightseeing, it was most welcoming to sit down and enjoy a plate of food made of love, while surrounded by painting and murtis of Krishna, Lakshmi Ma and other deities.
Though the activities for the day had come to an end, the fun didn’t stop yet. For the kids, we went to the hotel’s pool and made up a game with just a towel. We divided ourselves into two groups, throwing the towel to only our teammates. Meanwhile, the adults convened in a guest room and entertained themselves with Indian music, pizza and snacks. It was a fun way to end off our day. Everyone had a super great time!
After breakfast on Sunday, May 18th, we visited two temples: The Hindu Jain Temple and the Sri Venkateswara Mandir.
The Hindu Jain Temple located at the top of a hill in a serene setting, was officially opened in September, 1990 and provides educational, spiritual and social services to its members. When we first entered the temple, there were devotees sitting in a circle with their individual murties in front of them ready to perform abishekam. Some of the devotees covered their nose and mouth while performing puja, because of the Jains belief in total non-violence.
As abishekam continued, we toured the mandir in small groups led by Guruji and offered obeisance to the deities. We then gathered around Vishnu Bhagwan and Laskhmi Maa, and were given chandan and joined in puja to these deities. The worship and devotion experienced at the Hindu Jain Temple is very detailed and similar to how we perform Lord Shiva abishekam at our mandir.
Next we visited the Shri Venkateswara Mandir, which exposed us to Hinduism in a different dialect. Nevertheless, we could have related to its culture and tradition since the devotees worshiped Vishnu Bhagavan, Ganesha Bhagavan and Hanuman Swami. We witnessed the worship of Vishnu Bhagavan in a secluded quarter that bustled with devotees waiting for a glimpse of the beautiful murti. After recieving chandan and prasadam we participated in kitri, a food representing absolute harmony. There was no better meal or food which would describe the sentiments and emotions of the temple atmosphere. Following the small meal, visitors were allowed to go around the temple three times, also known as the practice of parikrama. All devotees were allowed to do this, allowing them an ample view of all the murtis.
After these two spiritually charged temples visits, we unfortunately, had to head home. On the bus trip back, we danced, sang medleys, played games, ate, and talked. The trip was an amazing experience and very exciting. Please join us next year!