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BAPS Temple Outside DC, in Chantilly, Serves Growing Devotees

The deities are located in the main hall which was still being finished off even as Diwali preparations were going on.

The deities are located in the main hall which was still being finished off even as Diwali preparations were going on.

By Jawahar Malhotra

CHANTILLY, VA: The Indian community is bustling in the environs of Washington, DC and nowhere more so than in the western suburbs of Fairfax, Chantilly, Centreville, Stone Ridge and Watson along an axis formed by the Lee Jackson Memorial Highway and then northward past Dulles International Airport in Sterling.

In this quadrant have sprung up thirteen Hindu, Jain and Sikh houses of worship, catering to the needs of the growing faithful devotees and their families, not counting those that are still smaller congregations which meet at people’s homes.

In the rapidly expanding town of Chantilly, some 25 miles to the west of Washington, DC, there are five temples within 15 minutes’ drive of each other and some, like the traditional Raj Mandir inaugurated in 2000 and the modern, two-story Chinmaya Somnath opened just recently which has a thriving Bala Vihar (Children’s House) weekend school program.

The front of the BAPS temple in Chantilly as it was decorated for Diwali

The front of the BAPS temple in Chantilly as it was decorated for Diwali

But the newest addition is the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha Mandir at 4160 Pleasant Valley Road which just had its murthi darshan (installation of deities) on October 17, just in time for this year’s Diwali festivities. When this reporter visited the temple one bright, sunny Thursday morning, the workers were still finishing painting one side of the large congregation hall even as festive streamers and decorations were being put up for the kid’s Diwali celebration.

Temple volunteer were busy at work and showed us around. Every single room in the large building has been turned into a classroom or activity center, the volunteer said, and the people were making last minute preparations.

And in the midst of all these Hindu places of worship, there are those of other faiths. Just across from the BAPS temple is the South Korean All Nations Church, a short distance away is the Temple Beth Torah Jewish Synagogue and further up is the Mormon Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as well as the Jain Temple of Virginia. Much further away, 30 minutes to the north, is the Raj Khalsa Gurdwara and the Hindu Temple of Virginia.

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