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10,000 worshippers to come to Hindu temple in Etobicoke

Workers continue construction of $11-million marble and granite Hindu temple in Rexdale that will be consecrated on June 20th.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

In a religious spectacle never seen before on Canadian soil, about 10,000 Hindus from across North America are expected to converge on a $11-million marble-and-granite temple complex later this month in Etobicoke.

The consecration ceremonies will involve "holy water" brought from more than 250 rivers around the world, including the Ganges and the Yamuna in India and the Mansarovar Lake in Tibet.

Twenty specially trained priests, experts in chanting mantras from 10th-century BC scriptures, are being flown in from India for a week of rituals.

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"Beginning June 18, the priests will start chanting mantras from 3,000-year-old Vedas to energize the water from 250 rivers. After two days of mantra chanting, the water will become holy and fully energized and ready for consecration ceremonies,'' explains Raghu Ranganathan, religious affairs head for the new temple on Brydon Drive.

Named for the Hindu goddess of wisdom, Sri Sharadamba - its main deity - the temple will be consecrated on June 20.

Occupying about 30,000 square feet, with marble and granite imported from India, the temple complex is a replica of the ninth-century Hindu Peetam or centre at Sringeri in south India. It will also have the distinction of housing the first museum dedicated to the life and works of guru Adi Shankaracharya.

"The temple will have nine other deities, including Adi Shankaracharya who is considered to represent Lord Shiva - one of the Hindu trinity of gods of creation, sustenance and destruction," said temple president V.I. Lakshmanan.

Known as the renaissance man of Hinduism, Adi Shankaracharya is credited with sparking revival of the world's oldest religion in the ninth century by travelling across the country and setting up four Hindu centres of learning in all corners of India, according to Mr. Lakshmanan, who is also a green-energy entrepreneur in Toronto.

Some leading Indian celebrities, including musician Narendra Chanchal, Carnatic vocalist Bombay Jayashree and Canadian choreographer and Bharatanatyam dancer Lata Pada, are attending the proceedings, according to Raghunath Nayak, who is in charge of publicity.

The rituals will end with havan - or sacred fire ritual - to propitiate the main deity and the pouring of 1,008 pots of "energized' water over the deities.

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The consecration ritual itself is considered very sacred. "While chanting mantras, the priests will touch heads of the deities. These rituals pass energy to the deities who then become powerful and divine. They start bestowing blessings on anyone who comes to offer prayers at the temple. Every Hindu wishes to see at least one such ceremony in his lifetime,'' said Mr. Ranganathan.

Even before it becomes fully functional, the Sri Sharadamba Temple complex is already serving as a community centre for marriage ceremonies, corporate dinners, business meetings, and classes in Hindu rituals, classical dances, yoga and music. The multipurpose complex will also house a research centre on Hinduism and will hold religious and cultural seminars.

"More than anything else, our temple will add to Toronto's tourist attractions," said temple president Mr. Lakshmanan.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Gurmukh Singh is the Canada correspondent for India's Indo-Asian News Service

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