Hindu temple in midst of parking row in US

September 20th, 2008 - 3:01 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Sept.20 (ANI): The Rajdhani Mandir (temple) in Virginias suburban Fairfax County, is in the eye of the storm, not because of religion, race or immigration, but parking.
The temple has attracted the negative attention of county zoning officials following complaints by people in the neighbourhood regarding parking problems caused by rituals performed twice a day from Monday to Saturday, and thrice on Sunday.
This temple for Hindus is now facing closure. The situation has become so volatile that county leaders threatened last week to shut down the temple if members don”t get the parking under control, temple leaders said.
The problem is this: The high-tech boom and explosion in immigrants coming to the D.C. area from India have pushed the number of devotees coming to the temple far beyond anything the original builders could have imagined when they began constructing a temple for 250 people in 1998.
So, with only 87 parking spaces and sometimes hundreds if not thousands of worshipers coming and going throughout the day, many wind up parking in the neighborhood.
Residents complain of blocked driveways and intersections, making unsafe U-turns and clogging two-lane Pleasant Valley Road.
Neighbors have complained to the county so often that some have been asked not to write again. They have even sent photos and videos of cars parked on grass and sari-clad pedestrians walking in the street at night.
Thursday evenings, the fast-growing Sai Baba sect comes to worship. And many major Hindu festivals are timed to coincide with the full moon.
The neighbors and some county officials think the answer for the temple is simple: Move.
The 17 deities that sit serenely in alcoves around the maroon sanctuary hall are alive.
“They”ve been enlivened in a process we call prana pratishta,” says Khanna, a doctor and chairman of the temple’’s board of trustees.
He explained. “Once the stone statues are transformed into living deities, they are rooted to the spot. They can never be moved. That’’s why there are temples in India that are 2,000 years old.”
And that’’s why priests daily perform the Aarti, which literally feeds and cares for the gods, washing some with milk and chanting prayers in Sanskrit: “Har Har Mahadev.” (God is great.)
It’’s not as if the temple isn”t trying to solve its parking problems.
Leaders say they spend 2,000 dollars for each of 12 to 15 religious festivals to hire off-duty police officers who direct traffic, to erect an electronic sign warning members not to park in the neighborhood and to offer a shuttle service from a nearby office park.
They publish warnings on their Web site and in newsletters asking worshipers not to park in the neighborhood.
They also bought an acre next door and submitted plans to the county last July to reconfigure the space for 359 parking spaces.
“We are really trying to find a solution,” Khanna said. “We want to be good neighbors.”
The temple already is technically in violation of its original permit because it agreed to supply adequate parking for worshipers on-site. And there is a deep distrust among residents about the temple’’s plans.
The temple has a contingency contract on 33 acres across the street and is studying the feasibility of building a community center with more parking.
But neighbors see this as an unwarranted expansion that would further snarl traffic. For that reason, many are opposing the one-acre parking lot.
County officials warned temple leaders at a meeting Friday that one more violation, meaning even one more person parking in the neighborhood, could be sufficient grounds to take the temple to court to shut it down. (ANI)

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