Hanuman Temple Uses Technology to Reach Devotees and Lofty Goals

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The newly built SBA Temple is located 10 miles south of Frederick, Maryland and about 34 miles north of Washington, DC.

By Jawahar Malhotra

FREDERICK, MD:  Along a curve in rural country highway 80, among the green undulating hills, the square ornate building in cream with ochre yellow colored ornamentation in the South Indian temple style comes to focus around a turn going downhill. An unexpected sight in the hills, surrounded by national forests and close, as the crow flies, to Camp David on Cunningham Falls State Park, the new temple building is nestled just 10 miles from the booming town of Frederick which has become a far suburb, 34 miles north of the Washington, DC area, for those escaping the high costs of living in the capital city.

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At the entrance to the swooping driveway that leads through the wrought iron gate, a pair of elephant statues, trunks raised in salute, straddle a monument sign proclaiming “SBA Temple” the Sri Bhaktha Anjaneya Temple, located at the appropriately named Ayodhya Way. Some say the name was a miracle from Hanuman, securing permission from county officials to rename the road. Barely six-months old, the 5,000sf temple building gleams in its newness, both inside and out, set to one side of the surrounding 43 acres that make up the property of the temple.

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“Our plans call for building a $36 million, 60,000 sf, 36 ft tall Hanuman Temple by 2020,” explained Murali Pathy, a volunteer who has been involved in the temple project since its inception. “There will be seven houses of the priests, a barn for the cows, a greenhouse to grow vegetables and fountains,” he added as he pointed to the large color rendering on one wall inside the temple. He chanced upon this group of wandering tourists who had heard of the temple, and gave them an impromptu tour of the building. A couple of the seven priests associated with the temple were on hand to take care of the needs of the stream of devotees and curiosity seekers who trickled in on a mid-Sunday morning.

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The gleaming, new temple has altars for all major deities, though Hanuman is its patron deity.

When this area of Maryland was approved for religious zoning in 2012, the five priests convinced their congregation which had been meeting in a small house, to buy up the 43 acres for a permanent temple for Hanuman. The land was acquired for $14 million and then the Phase 1 temple building was built for another $8 million. According to some estimates, about 4,500 Indian families live in this part of the Maryland, Virginia, DC area and many support this and another temple in the area in Lanham.

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A priest, Achachrya Seshadri is flanked by volunteer Murali Pathy (left) and IAN Publisher Jawahar Malhotra.

The newly opened temple houses altars for seven deities and has a large modern kitchen in the back, connected to a cozy, colorful dining hall, where visitors can order and eat food prepared by cooks. All around, including the narrow office used by the priests, there are LED monitors with split-screen images from cameras around the property; LED lights in the parking lot and a standby generator for emergency events. The temple is technologically advanced with a growing database of well-wishers attached to its email lists. It has a detailed and updated website that shows the progress of its building plans.

Temple organizers recognize the needs of their followers and devise ways to keep them involved. They offer social activity and regular free education classes throughout the week for Sanskrit, Vedas and SAT coaching for the teenagers needing to take the dreaded college entrance exam. “We support the DC Campus Kitchen project (a leader in anti-hunger programs and community service for students), “said the ever-smiling Pathy. “And we even have two cows and a calf for milk which we use for abhishakems.”

For further information, visit www.sbat.org