Sunday January 19, 2020

Renovation of first Hindu Temple of the Western World almost complete

The magnificent Old Temple in San Francisco is claimed to be the “first Hindu temple in the Western World”

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A hindu temple (representative image). Pixabay

San Francisco, Mar 13, 2017: The historic and extremely expensive renovation process of the magnificent Old Temple in San Francisco, which is claimed to be the “first Hindu temple in the Western World”, is almost complete.

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Old Temple, originally known as Hindu Temple is said to be built within four months. It is a part of the Vedanta Society of Northern California (VSNC), launched by Swami Vivekananda, a highly respected Hindu Monk 1900.

This Temple, sometimes referred as “sermon in the form of a building” and “dedicated to the cause of humanity”, miraculously survived the San Francisco earthquake and fire of April 1906.

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During the renovation process which was launched in 2014, the historic character of the temple was claimed to be uncompromised while bringing it up to current standards. The complete renovation included upgrading from foundation to rooftop regarding seismic upgrades, deepening of foundation, plumbing, wiring, fire-sprinkler system, energy efficiency, roofing, etc. It is planned to be open to the public and ready to use sometime in the spring. It was recently re-consecrated with ritual worship by monks and nuns from India, Canada and USA.

Located on Webster Street in San Francisco, this Old Temple was designed by Swami Trigunatitananda with architect Joseph A. Leonard, blending elements of East and West. Its style is influenced by old-fashioned Bengal temples, Shiva temples at Dakshineswar, Benares temples, etc. The building represents a striking profile of towers, domes, and pinnacles; and its various towers “are intended to symbolize the harmony of all religions and the pointed arches and domes the upward aspiration of the spiritual seeker”.

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Rajan Zed, a distinguished Hindu statesman commended efforts of the Society leaders and area community towards executing the thorough and elaborate renovation of this magnificent and important Hindu temple.

President of Universal Society of Hinduism, Rajan Zed, requested the Hindu community in USA, about 3 million strong, to work towards preserving the historical Hindu temples and passing on Hindu spirituality, concepts and traditions to coming generations, reported the Asian American Press.

VSNC is affiliated to worldwide spiritual movement Ramakrishna Mission headquartered in Belur Math on the outskirts of Kolkata (India). Besides Old Temple and New Temple in San Francisco; it also maintains Vedanta Retreat in Olema (Marin County, California) founded in 1946 and which occupies over 2000 coastal acres, 160-acres Shanti Ashrama Retreat in Santa Clara County (California) launched in 1900, monastery and convent. Swami Tattwamayananda is Minister-In Charge of VSNC.

Vedanta was introduced to America by Swami Vivekananda at the 1893 Parliament of Religions in Chicago. Since then, the order has more than 180 centres worldwide which includes, California, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, Illinois,  Michigan, Missouri, Oregon, Rhode Island, New York and Washington.

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Ideology of Ramakrishna Mission, founded in 1897 by Swami Vivekananda and named after his teacher/inspiration Sri Ramakrishna (1836-1886) and whose current president is Swami Atmasthananda, consists of the eternal principles of Vedanta; while its basic principles include: “God realization is the ultimate goal of life, potential divinity of the soul, harmony of religions,” etc. Its motto is: Atmano mokshartham jagat hitaya cha (For one’s own salvation and for the welfare of the world). It claims to aim at the harmony of religions, harmony of the East and the West, harmony of the ancient and the modern, spiritual fulfillment, all-round development of human faculties, social equality, and peace for all humanity; without any distinctions of creed, caste, race or nationality.

Prepared by Nikita Saraf, Twitter: @niki_saraf

Next Story

Here’s why Americans Prefer Single-Family Homes

Are Americans Ready to Let Go of Single-Family Homes?

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This is a great way for (homeowners) to rent out their basement, or rent out half their homes. VOA

By Dora Mekouar

For decades, many Americans have viewed owning their own home as a tangible symbol of the American Dream. But the question of whether that dream includes dividing one single-family home into two — along with other higher housing density options — is about to be tested in a handful of states nationwide.

Virginia is one of the latest states to tackle the affordable housing crisis by considering zoning rules to allow denser — and, potentially, more affordable — housing, in any area now zoned for single-family homes.

“If a property owner feels it fits their need to upgrade to a duplex from a single family’s owned property, then they will go about it through a local approval process,” says Virginia House Delegate Ibraheem Samirah, who represents a district in suburban Washington, D.C. “After the local approval process is completed, then they can create their two families’ owned property as they see fit.”

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Virginia lawmakers are considering a proposal that would allow an accessory dwelling, for example, a separate structure, basement apartment or garage apartment, on lots zoned for single homes. VOA

Samirah introduced a bill to allow duplex homes, like townhouses and cottages, in any place that’s currently zoned for single-family homes. The specifics of what those multi-family properties would look like will be left to local governments. The bill does not ban single-family homes.

It’s the kind of move toward creating more affordable housing that’s already been introduced on the West Coast of the United States. Oregon was the first state in the country to ban restrictive single-family zoning in July 2019.

Planning experts and local officials say suburban sprawl has negative impacts on the environment, puts a heavier burden on local services, isolates people, and excludes lower income households and households with people of color from certain communities through economic means.

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In Virginia, builder Carrington Homes offers an accessory dwelling unit, a second living unit (left), as an option for their new homes. VOA

A 2019 Harvard housing report found a “relative lack of smaller, more affordable new homes.” The same report finds that about half of all renter households nationwide spend almost one-third of their income on housing.

But the move away from single-family zoning won’t be an easy one.

“At some level, that development pattern is really uniquely American,” says Robert Parker, executive director of the Institute for Policy Research and Engagement at the University of Oregon.

“People who have lived, and grew up, in low-density suburban developments have a strong preference for that. They can’t really envision a future that’s substantially different than that.”

The size of the average house has more than doubled since the 1950s. In 2019, the average size of a new single-family home was 240 square meters (2,584 square feet), according to the National Association of Homebuilders.

Americans clearly like their space. But millennials — people in their mid-20s to late 30s who make up the nation’s largest living generation — have their own ideas about what the ideal home looks like, according to a Portland, Oregon-area survey cited by Parker.

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Christine Minnehan sweeps up in front of her “granny flat” located in the backyard of her Sacramento, Calif home . VOA

“Eighty percent of them would prefer to live in a detached, single-family residence, and so it really begins to become a matter of scale and amenity,” Parker says. “A lot of those those younger households are really looking for smaller units in walkable neighborhoods and, increasingly, the development community is beginning to recognize that and thinking about ways that they can build those environments.”

Samirah, the Virginia delegate, expects some pushback from people who are worried their neighborhoods could become less desirable, but he says correctly organizing density can benefit property owners, including those who are struggling financially.

“People think it’s going to be a major shift in the landscape of suburbia. I think that’s a false narrative,” Samirah says. “This is a great way for (homeowners) to rent out their basement, or rent out half their house, or whatever it may be…If you’re thinking of retiring, instead of selling your house and moving out to another area, it also helps them keep their families in place.”

“You can have a mixture of densities that’s not detrimental to a set of lifestyles that people hold very dear, that will allow housing choice for households that are struggling to find housing that’s affordable to them in environments that are conducive to the lifestyles that they would like to lead,” Parker says.

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He adds that the suburban way of life isn’t going anywhere in the near future.

“There’s little that we can do to retrofit suburbia moving forward so that land use pattern is pretty well ingrained and it’s going to be there for generations.” (VOA)