In this next edition of Temples of North America series, we are going to look at one of the first temples in North America - Pittsburgh Sri Venkateshwara Temple.
ஆகாசாத் பதிதம் தோயம் யதா கச்சதி சாகரம்
சர்வ தேவ நமஸ்காரம் ஸ்ரீ கேசவம் பிரதி கச்சதி
Just like all the water from the skies flow towards the ocean, let the Namaskaarams to all the Devathas go to Lord Keshava.
This temple is located in a place called Penn Hills, a suburb of Pittsburgh - the Steel Town of USA in the mid-eastern state of Pennsylvania. Situated atop a hill - though a smaller one as compared to the Seven Hills of Tirupathi this temple's initial Kumbabishekam was held in June 1977. 34 years down the road this attracts visitors from all over the USA and the neighboring Canada. I personally have been visiting this temple since 1998 and in this 13 years itself have seen good expansion in building and also devotees.
There are two entrances to this temple, one from the white stoned main RajaGoburam and the other from the sideways from the parking lot. When we enter from the side entrance, there is a large outer corridor with sitting benches and also the place to leave our footwear. We enter through the Devasthanam office, climb a few steps and reach the shrine of Lord Ganesha. The entrance from the RajaGopuram also leads to the same place. There is a sculpture of Gita Upadesha in the wall. Doing our Thoppukaranams to Lord Ganesha, we climb a few more steps to reach the inner Prakaram of the temple and the Dwajasthamba. Let us do our Namaskarams to the Dwajasthamba and enter the Temple. As compared to other temples, this is a small hall consisting of 4 deities only. Facing Northwards are the three Sanctum - Sanctorums of Goddess Mahalakshmi (Padmavathi), Lord Venkateshwara (Balaji) and Goddess Bhoodevi (Andal) from left to right in that order. Directly facing the Lord on the other side is a small shrine of Garuda and Hanuman - the two vahanas of Lord Vishnu. These two are also called as Periya Thiruvadi and Chinna Thiruvadi respectively as they carried the Holy Feet of the Lord. Let us do our Pranaams and Namaskarams to all the deities and sit in Meditation. As per the schedule, normally 3 kaala prayers are being conducted - starting with Suprabatham (waking up the Lord singing Venkatesha Suprabatham), periodic Archanas in between, Thirumanjanam (Abishekam) around noon and Evening Prayers concluding with Sayanotsavam (putting the Lord to bed). The Alankarams of the Lord are a feast to the eyes. On Long weekends, there is also a Swarna Rathotsavam where a golden chariot carries the Lord and his consorts around the temple accompanied by the chanting of Vishnu Sahasranamam, Purusha Suktham, Sri Suktham, Narayana Suktham and Bhoo Suktham.
Exiting the main hall of the temple, we come back to the Dwajasthamba and do the Parikrama (circumambulation) of the Inner Prakara. On the left side of the Prakara is a swing on which the Kalyaana Utsavam (Celestial Wedding of the Lord Venkateshwara with Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi) is conducted at scheduled times. It is said of all the Dhaanams (gifts), Kanya Dhaanam (gifting a spinster in marriage) is the best. By doing this Kanya Dhaanam, 21 generation's (10 previous genrations + current generation + 10 future generations) sins can be wiped away. In this Utsavam, devotees are assuming the role of Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi's parents and give them in marriage to the Lord. Roughly to the back of the Venkateshwara Sannidhi is a white circle on the ground. Standing there and looking upwards at the glass ceiling placed above we can have the Darshan of the Raja Gopuram. A few wooden Vahanas of the Lord and placed here for use during festivals. On the right side of the Inner Prakara, we have the picture and statue of Lord Satyanarayana. Satyanarayana Utsavam is conducted here at scheduled timings. This is done for material and spiritual prosperities.
Completing our worships we leave the temple again through the Devasthaanam office where tickets for the various pujas, Shloka books and gold/silver coins of the deities are sold. Temple Prasaadams are distributed in the lower level which also serves as the Temple Cafetaria.
This temple is ably managed by the Management Board and Volunteers, streamlining the various activities. The URL for this temple is at http://www.svtemple.org