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Newly-built Sanatan Mandir temple opens for Tampa Bay area Hindus

Much of the Tampa Bay Hindu community gathered April 9 through 14 to celebrate the grand opening of a new Sanatan Mandir temple.

The 12,000 square foot building, which replaced the standing 30-year-old Sanatan Mandir on Palm Avenue, took more than four years and $2 million to complete, said Pawan Rattan, chair of the board of trustees.

About 2,600 people attended opening ceremonies, including Indian Consul General Swati Kulkarni, representative for the Indian Embassy in Washington D.C.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn performed the ribbon cutting alongside Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois, one of three Hindus currently serving in Congress.

Additional festivities took place throughout the week, with more than 4,000 Hindus participating.

The temple's 13 massive idols, which required mechanical help to install, underwent a 5-day sanctification process known as Prana Pratishtha. Each sculpted idol was infused with life by priests, making it a 'living god,' said Ramanath Rao, event organizer. The religious figures serve Hindu practices of both Northern and Southern Indian traditions.

Unlike the previous Sanatan Mandir Temple, the new building will cater to a broader range of Hindu observers, said Rao, a Tampa cardiologist.

"This center will also be a future platform for Interfaith understanding and for the younger generation to understand more about their roots and reconnect with their rich Indian heritage," he said.

Founded in 1989, Sanatan Mandir serves more than 5,000 Hindus. In addition to religious observances, the Temple hosts community events and educational programs. As the local Hindu population outgrew the original temple — a renovated synagogue on Palm Avenue — Sanatan Mandir leadership announced plans for a large place to worship.

In 2015, construction began on the new Georgian-style facility, made almost entirely of brick.

"150,000 bricks were used to build the temple," Rao said. "And it is the only temple in the world to have the two most prominent Hindu texts completely engraved in its walls."

Such unique features lengthened the construction process from a proposed two years to nearly five.

The new Sanatan Mandir opens to the public in mid May. An app will be made available to visitors to guide them through the facility 'like a museum tour,' Rao said. The worship hall seats 500 people.

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