Bharatiya Temple Chalfont
Bharatiya Temple and Bharatiya Cultural Center is built on a pretty wooded lot of a little over six acres. The expansive structure is a two-story building with each floor of 8500 square feet of constructed area. The lower floor offers facility for a cultural center for the community where children can learn languages and their culture. The cultural center includes a kitchen facility, several classrooms for conducting classes on Indian languages, religion and spirituality, Yoga, music and dance classes are also offered. The facility has a large auditorium with a stage for weddings, cultural programs and other celebrations. The upper floor is the Temple area that serves the needs of the community for their religious purposes. This is a multi-deity temple, which has main deity of Lakshmi-Narayana. In addition, other deities include Lord Venkateshwara (Balaji), Sri Ram-Sita Pariwar, Sri Radha-Krishna, Sri Shiva-Parvathi, Sri Durga Mata, Lord Ganesha, Sri Hanuman, Nava-Graha and Sri-Mahavir Swami.
During late 1980’s and early 1990’s, community leaders and various groups in this area had several meetings to discuss the creation of a place to promote our religious and cultural heritage. In January 1992, a formal meeting was held at J. Henry Specht School in Kulpsville to gather ideas for constructing “a place of our own that we all can be proud of “.
In April 1998, Mr. Nand Todi formed a non-profit organization under the name Bharatiya Temple Inc. for the specific purpose of constructing a temple in this area. The Bharatiya Temple Inc (BTI) was granted federal tax-exempt status in January 1999. With word of BTI spreading, individuals with similar interests in strengthening the community through the creation of a cultural and religious center joined BTI and the core group finalized on a project, which included both temple and a cultural center.
On September 12, 1999, the first general body meeting for BTI was held to approve the project. On October 5, Montgomery Township’s Zoning Board conducted the first hearing on the project and unanimously approved the application for BTI. The first meeting of the BTI Board of Trustees was conducted on October 11, 1999 and the trustees elected a seven-member Board of Directors and approved the initial set of BTI bylaws. During the first year after the Board of Trustees was formed, the financial momentum for the project gained urgency, taking the assets from $400K to $900K.
In November 1999, with the pledging of a 6.2-acre parcel of land at 1612 County Line Road to BTI by Todi family, the project entered its next phase of progress. The initial plans with Sri Laxmi-Narayan as the main deities of the temple also included Sri Ram parivar, Sri Ganesh, Sri Shiva parivar, Sri Radha-Krishna, Durga Mata, Sri Venkateshwara (Balaji) and Mahavir Swami.
Thereafter, weekend activities grew considerably in their diversity as well as in attendance. There were now regularly scheduled events like bhajans, Satyanarayana Puja, Suprabhatam and Vishnu Sahastranam chanting, Amritvani and pravachans, in addition to the observance of major festivals like Shivaratri, Janmashtami, Samvatsari-Pratikraman, Ram Navami, Deepavali etc. There were also unanticipated gatherings such as observances held for the tragic event of September 11, 2001. The small space could hardly accommodate the growing numbers of devotees at each program. Clearly, the need for a large, multi-deity temple was urgent.
This was evident in the quick succession of fundraisers held by and for BTI. On March 25, 2000, a fundraiser was held at the Church of St. Sophia in Jeffersonville. On March 25, 2001, a project presentation/fundraiser was held at the Palace of Asia restaurant when the architectural plans of BTI were presented for the first time. Another fundraising dinner followed at the Highpoint Club. On that evening, BTI’s newly appointed architect, Mr. Shashi Patel, who has provided architectural work for over 50 temples across the U.S. and Canada, presented the plans to the audience of nearly 300 people. On September 8, 2001, there was the first benefit performance for BTI, a grand dance program by Natya Academy of Indian Classical Dance; there was also an Events South Asia program which coordinated a benefit performance by Pandit Jasraj.
Four years of activities and celebrations at the temple site, preceded by the efforts of many individuals to start a project such as this over the past decade, now culminated in a remarkable grand opening ceremony during the weekend of October 22-24, 2004. There was an overwhelming response from the general public in the tri-state area and approximately 3500 people visited the temple and the cultural center during its inaugural function in three days of celebrations. The special guest of the ceremonies, Swami Dayananda Ji Saraswati graced the occasion with his discourse on Indian temples and culture. In addition, County and Township officials also attended this auspicious ceremony. The celebrations featured elaborate Hindu and Jain rituals conducted by priests, religious discourse by special guests, Raas-Garba, cultural programs by the Indian community represented by different communities in the area followed by Maha Prasad.