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By INDIRA SASTRY, Chairperson, Religious Affairs, Hindu Temple of Florida

The Hindu Temple of Florida in Tampa is holding Mahaumbhabhishekam ceremonies March 29 through April 2. We are indebted to Indira Sastry to providing us with this informative article on the significance of kumbhabhisheka.

The temple Mahakumbhabhishekam is scheduled for Sunday, April 2. This is the most important day in the history of our temple. On that day, the kumbhabhishekam will be performed for all the Vimana gopuras, the newly built Rajagopura and all the installed deities. We all talk about that special and sacred day, many of us without actually knowing the religious and philosophical significance behind the ceremony. What exactly is Kumbhabhisheka? Here is a brief explanation of the ceremony.

The greatness of Hinduism prevails in its rich heritage, traditions and beliefs. The temples have exercised enormous influence on religious and social life, also traditions of Hindus. Hindu temples are built according to Agama Shastra, which elaborately defines temple related rules for construction, rituals and prayers. According to Agama, the Kumbhabhisheka should be performed for the following four reasons. They are:

1). When a new temple is built with new installed deities.
2). When there is a relocation of the existing temple.
3). When renovations are done to the existing temple.
4). Every 12 years in the existence of a temple.

A set pattern of rules is followed when performing Kumbhabhisheka as laid down in Agama Shastra. This ritual is performed to confer greater powers to the installed deities in the temple. The divine power of the deities is transferred to the kalashas or kumbhas specially made for the occasion. The deities are connected to the kumbhas through the silver thread and chanting the relevant mantras. For four days prior to the main day, different homas are performed related to the deities installed in the temple. A special yagashala with many homa kundas is prepared next to the temple. Through the different homas performed in different homa kundas, all the power is transferred to the main homa kunda, which is specially made for the main deity of the temple. On the main day, the divine power accumulated through the different homas is transferred to the pradhana kumbha. At the selected muhurtha time on the main day, the abhisheka from the pradhana kumbha is performed to all the vimana gopuras, raja gopura and all the deities from the sacred water collected from sacred rivers and further sanctified by the rituals and mantras.

Also, another reason for performing the kumbhabhisheka is that during the construction of the temple, the place gets polluted by not following the rules laid down in the Agama Shastra. After the completion of the construction, the place is sanctified and the deities are re-infused with sanctity by performing the mahakumbhabhishekam.

The Hindu Temple of Florida is at 5501 Lynn Road, Tampa. For more information, call (813) 962-6890 or click on


Mar 29-April 2: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. – Homas, Pooja and Alankaras;
Friday, March 31, 7:30 p.m.-10 p.m. – Grand South-North Percussion Ensemble ( Jugalbandi);
Saturday, April 1, 7 p.m.-9 p.m. – Discourse by Swami Dayanand Saraswati of Rishikesh;
Sunday, April 2, 10:30 a.m.-noon – Maha kumbabhishekam.


A unique showcase of six yards will begin weaving magic March 10 at the Maitland Art Center in the Orlando area. Thanks to the Asian Cultural Association, the “Sari: Six Yards of Magic” exhibit has been organized through April 30 at the center, 321 W. Packwood Ave. in Maitland.

“The Indian Sari has been related to many customs and traditions since its beginning,” said Jasbir Mehta of ACA. “So, its history reflects the development of the Indian society and culture. Since the sari is always worn by traditional Indian dancers the sari and the dance forms both influence each other.”

Besides the exhibit, about 50 saris will be on sale there to benefit REWA (Refugee Women's Alliance), a multi-ethnic organization that promotes inclusion, independence, personal leadership and strong communities by providing refugee and immigrant women and families with culturally appropriate services.

For more information, call Mehta at (407) 333-3667 or click on

Story provided by Hindu Society of Central Florida

More than 3,000 people are expected to attend the annual India Fest on Saturday, March 18 at the Hindu Society of Central Florida (HSCF) in Casselberry (Orlando area). The event, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. will take you to India amid a crowd of colorfully dressed people – women in bright silks, young girls in gaghra cholis, boys and men in sparkling kurtas, an entrance lined with stalls selling all sorts of wares, delicious aromas wafting from the food stands, palm readers, etc.

Besides a cultural and fashion show, booths offering food, clothing, costume jewelry, books and DVD/CDs will be set up.

Also on hand will be medical stalls offering free testing for health-related services such as cholesterol and sugar levels. Representatives for pharmaceutical companies will offer useful information pamphlets and samples. The Indian consulate staff from Houston will hold a visa camp on temple grounds.

For more information on the festival at 1994 Lake Drive in Casselberry, call HSCF at (407) 699-5277, click on or e-mail

The gleaming golden spire at the entrance to the Hindu Society of Central Florida in Casselberry.
Story provided by Hindu Society of Central Florida

A Feb. 2-4 ceremony at the Hindu Society of Central Florida's (HSCF) temple in Casselberry (Orlando area) marked the completion of one of the landmark steps in Hindu temple architecture. During the three-day event, organizers held a Dwajasthambha and Sri Garuda ceremony, which included installing a gleaming golden spire at the entrance to the temple.

On Feb. 1, a 35-foot-high teakwood pole was erected. Ravi Gandhy, executive committee vice president, and four shilpis, then covered the pole with embossed and carved brass plates called Kavachas. The Dwaja is considered the nabhi of Sri MahaVishnu and Sri Garuda is his vahana. The Dwaja symbolizes the link between Sri MahaVishnu and Brahma.

The Dwajasthambha and Sri Garuda installation was one of the events linked to the temple opening in June 2005. Dr. Aravind Pillai, past chairman of the HSCF Board of Trustees, said, "This auspicious occasion marks the completion of our journey, which started in August of 2001. I express my sincere gratitude to Rajesh and Chakravarthy Toleti and their family for sponsoring Dwajasthamba, Suresh Iyengar for Sri Garuda temple, and Madhu Cherukuri for Sri Garuda idol. We recognize architect Kishore Pathare, for designing the platform for the Dwaja."

For more information on HSCF, at 1994 Lake Drive in Casselberry, call (407) 699-5277 or click on


Pallavi and Kiran Patel
Story provided by Patel Foundation for Global Understanding

On Saturday, April 1, the Patel Foundation for Global Understanding will host the second Cultural Carousel Ball at the Tampa Convention Center. The presenting sponsor of this year’s Ball is Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.

As the area’s hottest charity event guests will be able to travel to villages around the globe without leaving Tampa Bay. The evening features culinary delights from around the world, exciting performances from a wide variety of international dancers and musicians, and a Marrakesh market where attendees can haggle with the rug merchants for exotic treasures. Are they acting? Who can tell? As more than 1,200 guests are expected at this year’s event wearing the official “ethnic chic” dress (although more traditional attendees may opt for black tie.)

Ten international, life-sized baby elephants, exquisitely painted by 10 Tampa Bay artists will be on display throughout the elaborately decorated global villages.

A month before the ball, three-quarters of the tickets have already been sold. They range from $350 to $500 each (for VIP). Guests can feel particularly great knowing that their admission is going to benefit 12 local charities. They include: American Vitiligo Research Foundation Inc., Judeo Christian Health Clinic, America’s Second Harvest of Tampa Bay, Museum of Science & Industry, Brookwood Florida Inc., Patel Scholars, Character Development of Tampa Bay Inc., Clearwater Arts Foundation, Tampa Gallery of Photographic Arts, Heartbeat International, Tampa Theatre and IMAGINE Education Is For Everyone.

To order tickets or learn more about the 2006 Cultural Carousel Ball, visit the Web site for the Patel Foundation for Global Understanding at and click on “Events.”

Story provided by Hindu Temple of Florida -

The Hindu Temple of Florida in Tampa (5501 Lynn Road) has come a long way from its inception to becoming a notable landmark in this West coast city. Way back in 1980, a group of Hindu community leaders conceived the idea of having a temple in the Tampa Bay area. The idea was incorporated in 1983. The temple land was purchased in 1989 in the Carrollwood neighborhood of Tampa with the purpose of building a temple in the traditional Indian style.

Three years later, the land was consecrated in a religious rite (Bhumi Pooja) and, in 1994, the foundation was laid for the temple complex. In the span of two years, the basic structure of the temple, consisting of a large rectangular space housing five deities, was completed. This structure, unadorned with the traditional frescos, was deemed sufficient to start functioning as a temple. Hence, plans for the consecration rituals known as Kumbabhishekam were drawn. In 1996, a five-day event was organized to commence and complete the ancient rituals.

After the conclusion of these ceremonies, the temple began functioning as a focal point for the Hindu community of the Tampa Bay area. With two and sometimes three priests officiating, the temple discharged all mandatory religious rites as required by the ancient texts.

In 2000, the temple entered yet another phase of development when the Indianization or, in other words, the decorative phase began. The walls and pillars had to be covered by frescos and plaster work in the traditional style as prescribed by the Agama texts. With the help of craftsmen brought from South India and under the supervision of a renowned master craftsman called Sthapathi Muthaiah, the Indianization proceeded rapidly.

Highly decorated towers called Vimanas were constructed atop the roof portions housing the several deities. The construction of the main and tallest tower - the Raja Gopuram - soon began and the community was able to see the tower rise gradually, reminding them of the familiar sight back in their native land. The tower is the tallest tower among all the temples of North America now being covered with the traditional decorative frescos and is being readied for the ritual consecration in the last week of March. Once more, the temple Kumbabhishekam committee, and President, Dr. G. M. Ramappa, the board of trustees and the various organizing committees, are feverishly planning for the elaborate rituals set March 29-April 2. Ramappa is expecting more than 6,000 people to attend the five-day ceremonies. Various cultural programs and spiritual discourses have been arranged as part of this multi-day event. The consecration of the Raja Gopuram would mark a major milestone in the growth of the Hindu Temple of Florida.


India will be one of 31 countries represented in the 31st annual St. Petersburg International Folk Fair Society Inc. (SPIFFS) from March 24-26 at Vinoy Park in downtown St. Petersburg.

Arceli Nath, president of Volunteers of Indian Culture and Art (VICAS), which is representing India at the festival, is urging people to visit the cultural village featuring festivals of India. “Enjoy authentic Indian food, cultural exhibits, classical and folk dance and music program presented by students and professional artists,” he said. “Shop for CDs/DVD/video, fashion clothing and jewelry.”

The International Parade of Nations will be at 1 p.m. March 25.

Admission is $6 in advance, $10 at the gate. Children under ages 12 are free when accompanied by an adult.

For more information, call Rosaline Sugrive at (727) 552-1896, Arceli Nath at (727) 866-9494 or email


Essentially a spring festival, there are several accounts of how Holi came to be celebrated (on March 14). According to the stories in the Puranas and various local legends, this day is important for three reasons.

On this day, Lord Siva opened his third eye and reduced Kamadeva (the god of love, Cupid or Eros) to ashes. Again on this day an ogress called Dhundhi, who was troubling the children in the kingdom of Prthu (or Raghu), was made to run away for life, by the shouts and pranks of the mischievous boys. Though she had secured several boons that made her almost invincible, the noise, shouts, abuses and pranks of boys was a chink in her armor because of a curse by Lord Siva. Since then, the day itself came to be called ‘Adada’ or ‘Holika.’

It was on this day that Holika, the sister of the demon king Hiranyakasyapu, who tried to kill the child devotee Prahlad by taking him on her lap and sitting on a pyre of wood, was set ablaze. Holika burnt to ashes while Prahlad remained unscathed!

Other version treats it as a day when Lord Krishna was victorious over the demoness Putna.

The story centering on Hiranyakashypu and Prahlad is more popularly associated with this celebration. Hiranyakashypu wanted to destroy Lord Vishnu for killing his brother. After performing severe penances and tapasya, he was bestowed with specials powers by Lord Bramha.

Thereupon, Hiranyakashypu declared himself all-powerful. His son Prahlad, refused to abide by his father’s wishes. Hiranyakashypu then set out on series of adventures to kill Prahlad, who was eventually rescued by Lord Vishnu, in the form of Nara-simha (nara/man, simha/lion). Hiranyakashypu was killed in his encounter with Lord Narasimha and Prahlad was installed as the new king and ruled wisely thereafter.

Holi is observed as a day of revelry, especially by throwing on one another gulal or colored water or perfumed colored powder. Throwing of mud or earthen dust was prevalent in the earlier days also.

The religious significance of the festival of Holi is to mark the burning of self-conceit, selfishness, greed, lust, hatred and any undesirable assertive tendencies, propensities, thoughts and behaviors. It symbolizes the victory of righteousness over unrighteousness.

Pandit Vishnu Sharma is a priest at Vishnu Mandir, 5303 Lynn Road, Tampa, and can be reached at (813) 654-2551.

Dr. Akshay K. Desai, president and CEO of Universal Health Care, speaks the Boca Ciega High School in Gulfport.
Story provided by Universal Health Care


Thanks to a $100,000 grant from Akshay K. Desai, president and CEO of Universal Health Care, the Boca Ciega High School in Gulfport has launched a three-year program aimed at improving students’ performance through corporate leadership skills.

At the Jan. 30 ceremony in the school gymnasium, which was attended by school, local and state dignitaries, not to mention a visibly happy community of parents, teachers and children, Desai’s St. Petersburg company formally paired with Boca Ciega High for the PASS© (Partnership to Advance School Success) Program.

In his remarks as the chief guest, Education Commissioner John L. Winn spoke about school leadership and high school reform “One of the most important elements of a successful school is a strong leader” he said, adding “school principals hold the key to leading our schools to success by establishing a clear vision, working alongside our great teachers. The PASS © Program contributes greatly in helping our principals become stronger leaders and greater managers.”

Desai termed his involvement in the program as a logical extension of his interest in advancing the cause of education in the state. As a member of both to the Florida Board of Governors and the Post Secondary Education Planning Commission for the state of Florida, Desai sees education as a key to continued domination of the United States, not only of the global economy, but the global market place of ideas.

Desai said that if being the chairman of the Council for Education Policy Research and Improvement exposed him the systemic challenges in the field of education spanning kindergarten to the 20s, then being the board member of the Boca Ciega High School and observing the leadership of Principal John M. Leanes and his faculty, enabled him to become a part of the solution.

John Leanes, Boca Ciega High School principal, was optimistic about the new program. “It will give us an opportunity to reward the performance of teachers in the school as well as to encourage our already great teachers to be innovative and creative,” he said.

Other dignitaries who attended the event included U.S. Rep. Michael Bilirakis; state Rep. Frank Farkas; Mayor Frank Hibbard of the City of Clearwater; Mayor Rick Baker of the City of St. Petersburg; Steven J. Saiontz, chairman of the Council for Educational Change; Elaine Liftin, president and executive director of Council for Educational Change; Janet Clark, PASS Coordinator; and members of Florida Board of Governors Sheila M. McDevitt and Zachariah P. Zachariah.

The ceremony, which began with the presentation of colors by the Boca Ciega JROTC, included performances by the school’s jazz band and choral ensemble as well as a curriculum showcase. The ceremony was followed by a formal dinner at Desai’s St. Petersburg home.


Planning on a visit to India and need a visa quickly? Well, you don’t have to mail your U.S. passport to the Indian Consul General’s office in Houston. Instead, the Houston consular officials are coming to you.

On March 19, the Federation of Indian Associations of Tampa Bay (FIA) is organizing a Tampa Visa Camp at Howard Johnson hotel, 2520 50th St. N. Applications for all services will be accepted from 9 a.m. till noon that day. Miscellaneous service documents (except PCC, renewal and issue of new passports) will be returned between 4 to 5 p.m.

Add a $10 processing fee to your money order. No cash or check will be accepted. Application forms and fee information are downloadable at or

For more information, call Chandrakant Patel at (813) 340-5505, Satya Shaw at (813) 842-0345 or Shyam Mohapatra at (813) 312-4248.

Renu Khator, provost and vice president of USF.

Imagine University of South Florida (USF) President Judy Genshaft and Medical School Dean Steve Klasko clutching the bar of an auto-rickshaw, as the driver swings and swirls on the crowded roads of New Delhi! Now, picture their foreheads colored deep red from multiple tilaks and their necks lowered with the weight of fresh flower garlands. These images are two of many from the memory book of the USF delegation that spent 12 days in India exploring educational opportunities between USF and India. This also was the latest brick to be added to the bridge to India that USF has been building for many years.

This year, USF is celebrating 50 years of excellence by paying tribute to the extraordinary achievements of its students and alumni, faculty and staff, and community partners across Florida and throughout the world. Fifty years ago, when the University of South Florida opened its doors, it served 2,000 students in three buildings. Fifty years later, USF is educating a student body of more than 43,000 in 300 buildings on four campuses. A recent study of economic impact showed that today USF gives back $3.2 billion in direct and indirect spending. From its origins as a small liberal arts school on the outskirts of Tampa, USF has developed into one of the nation’s fastest growing research universities. As we celebrate 50 years of USF’s success, let’s also celebrate the achievements and accomplishments of Indians and Indian-Americans at USF.

University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft and her Chief of Staff Cindy Visot enjoy a ride in an auto-rickshaw on a street in New Delhi.
As the institution of higher learning, students are our treasure and USF has more students from India than from any other country! It is no surprise that Indian student organizations are some of the most active clubs on campus. Two weeks ago, I made an unscheduled stop at the Hindu Student Council’s get-together where I found myself with students from all walks of life learning about Hinduism over a plate of spicy bhelpuri that made me feel like I was in Chowpatty.

For the past two years, undergraduate students from Indian origin have successfully ran and won elections as president and vice-president of Student Government. For those who may not know, these are the most hotly debated and hard won elections on campus. Graduate students from India are also some of the role models in the university.

Take Amlan Banerjee. He is from Calcutta, West Bengal, and pursuing a Ph.D. in the Graduate Transportation Program of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department. Within the past three years, he has published more than 10 research papers and was awarded the Georgia Brosch Transportation Scholarship for outstanding contributions as a graduate student in the transportation engineering program. Recently, he was selected for the prestigious 2006 International Road Federation (IRF) Executive Leadership Fellowship Grant.

Another one of our shining stars is Bina Nayak from Mumbai, Maharashtra, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in Biology. She is working on an interdisciplinary project with the departments of Biology and Civil and Environmental Engineering. The project involves teasing out the chemical and microbiological characteristics of leachate from laboratory-scale lysimeters and actual landfills. She has received both the President’s Award for Outstanding Oral Presentation and the Henry Aldrich Student Research Grant from the American Society for Microbiology.

Indian Americans are well represented in leadership positions at USF. In addition to my being the Provost and Vice President, USF can boast of an Indian American, Dr. Akshay Desai, as a Board of Governors member. USF's largest gift has come from an Indian American couple, Drs. Kiran and Pallavi Patel, to establish the Dr. Kiran C. Patel Center for Global Solutions. As a member of the USF Board of Trustees, Dr. Patel has given USF a chance to put itself on the world map. Five heads of departments in Engineering and Physics are currently from Indian heritage, as is Dr. Anila Jain, the former president of our 200,000 member strong Alumni Association. Indian faculty members are outstanding scholars, winning national and international recognition. Dr. Vijay Jain holds the coveted title of the Distinguished University Professor and Dr. Uday Murthy in the College of Business occupies one of the most prestigious endowed chairs.

USF’s programmatic connections to India are equally strong. India-Chart works with Indian professionals in the training of HIV-AIDS. Drs. John Sinnot, Michael Knox and Ann DeBaldo consider India their second home and can differentiate between naan from tandoori roti. USF is the primary educational consulting entity, as India establishes its first college of public health. USF students have an opportunity to spend part of their semester in India through the Study Abroad program under the supervision of Dr. Gurleen Grewal. Perhaps the most cherished connection is the three-credit course in music to be offered by Indian music icon Pundit Jasraj in the fall of 2006.

The promise of the USF-India partnership is yet to be realized. I strongly believe that we have only taken baby steps toward building the ultimate synergy that could benefit both Indians and Americans. On behalf of President Judy Genshaft and the entire University of South Florida, I would like to thank the Indian community for embracing USF and for believing in us.

Renu Khator, Ph.D., is Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, University of South Florida.

Dr. Venkata Rao Emandi receives the Hind Ratna Award from I.K. Gujral, former prime minister of India.

Dr. Venkata Rao Emandi of Cancer Care Centers of Florida in Hudson and Brooksville, recently received two awards during a visit to India. First came the Bharat Gaurav Award from the India International Friendship Society in New Delhi. Andhra Pradesh Gov. Sushil Kumar Shinda presented the award on Jan. 9 to Rao Emandi during the Global Friendship Day ceremony, which coincided with Pravasi Divas in Hyderabad. The honor is given to people around the world for extraordinary excellence in their respective fields and philanthropic work in India.

India international Friendship Society is a voluntary organization established to forge greater unity and integrity among the people of Indian origin living anywhere in the world.

On the eve of Republic Day ceremonies, Rao Emandi also received the Hind Ratna Award from NRI Welfare Society of India in New Delhi. The award was presented by I.K. Gujral, former prime minister of India.

The NRI Welfare Society of India is the premier organization representing the interests of Non Resident Indians (NRIs) and provides a link between the Indian government and NRIs. The society organizes one Congress in New Delhi and one outside India annually. NRIs from different parts of the world participate in the Congress to share their views and suggest ways to attract NRI investment in the country. At every Congress, the society also honors NRIs with the Hind Ratna Award for their outstanding services, achievements and contributions.

Story provided by UMA EYYUNNI

Dressed in a variety of colorful clothing and wearing bright smiles, a few volunteers from the Hindu Society of Northeast Florida (HSNEF) in Jacksonville shared the rich culture with the students and staff of St. Paul's Catholic Church on Feb. 2.

The school is well known to celebrate the art festival choosing a country per year, said an organizer, and this year it happens to be India. Striking a beautiful friendship with the local community has always been one of the major goals for the Hindu Society and a coordinated effort made that goal a reality.

Spread throughout the school and making the gymnasium a main center of activity, the art festival comprised of exhibits from India displayed by the volunteers from the Hindu Society. Pottery, music and dance demonstrations, and also a delightful attempt at wearing Indian clothing made the day's event a great success. A sumptuous Indian lunch was a heartwarming gesture.

An invitation to the India Fest to be celebrated by HSNEF on April 29 in Jacksonville was part of the fellowship between the communities.

Mental Health Column

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