By Jano Tantongco
The BAPS Hindu temple in Melville opened its doors for the first time on Sunday. And a crowd of thousands poured through them as the temple hosted a ceremony in which Hindu idols were enshrined to mark the temple’s opening.
BAPS is short for Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha, an India-based socio-spiritual organization.
Yogi Patel came from the organization’s Boston branch to volunteer to help prepare and jumpstart the temple.
“They have the resonating message of giving back to the community,” he said.
The facility features a 10,000-square-foot assembly hall for a variety of community programs, including assemblies every Sunday for all ages. It’s also home to a 6,000-square-foot gymnasium with basketball courts.
Yogi emphasized the group’s focus on uplifting youth.
“When you become successful and grow up, make sure you give back to the community,” he said. “A lot of the effort that the organization puts in is for the kids, to make sure they retain those values.”
The multi-million-dollar project was a “labor of love,” Patel said, adding that volunteers contributed their time and skills to help reduce the cost of the temple, whether in HVAC or engineering.
Sagar Patel, a youth team coordinator with the temple, to help bring young members of the community closer to the temple, “spiritually, mentally, physically.”
He added that the thousands all “left with a smile” after Sunday’s ceremony in which the idols to be worshipped were enshrined into the temple. These idols represent BAPS’ guru, Mahant Swami Maharaj.
The term “guru,” Yogi added, is a sanskrit word which means “removing darkness.”
Huntington Councilman Mark Cuthbertson was among the elected officials who attended the temple’s groundbreaking ceremony in 2014. He looked “forward to all of the goodwill, which will emerge from these sacred walls.”
"The opening of the new BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir (temple) is an amazing spiritual and cultural center that was truly many years in the making,” Cuthbertson stated. “This Mandir will be such an asset to our community, not only for the faithful who will come to the temple to worship, but for the many Long Islanders the BAPS will help to serve in our community.”
On Sunday from 11 a.m. - 2 p.m., the temple will be hosting an open house for anyone in the community to attend and learn more about BAPS’s spirituality and the temple’s upcoming events.
“You don’t have to be of a specific religion, race or anything like that,” Yogi said. “It’s always open to anyone.”