Las Vegas – you name it and most of us visualize a gambling destination with large hotels and numerous casinos. Many even term it as an entertainment paradise right in the middle of a desert. But what a city – with an estimated 169,100 hotel rooms spread across 360 hotels it has largest room inventory than any other city in the world. The figures are mind boggling – The Venetian and The Palazzo combined have 7,117 rooms while MGM Grand & Signature has 6,772, The Wynn & Encore has 4,748 rooms. Apart from gambling Las Vegas is the venue for many events including the largest Consumer Electronics Show in the world – CES, which I have been fortunate to attend for 10 consecutive years.
But when one of my journalist friend asked – Is there a temple in the sincity? I was flabbergasted. Having been there several times never thought about it. So this time when I reached Las Vegas, checked on if there’s a temple I was informed there’s one temple as well as a Gurudwara.
I called up Radha Chanderraj, Chairman of the Board, Hindu Temple of Las Vegas who was kind to invite me for a visit to the temple. Co-ordinating with her and Neeru Piplani, President of Executive Committee, who picked me up from the hotel on my last day in Las Vegas.
After a pleasant drive we reached the temple. I was pleasantly surprised by serene settings. Radha Chanderraj as well as Pandit Brijesh Kumar Raval were there.
The temple is truly beautiful with numerous deities – Shiva, Parvati, Ganapati, Balaji, Radha Krishna, Ram, Sita, Lakshman, Hanuman, Durga as well as Jain Parivar. “Our temple caters to the spiritual and religious requirements of both Hindus and Jains in Nevada done by a professional Panditji. We have a created a board and a committee to look into the operations of the temple thus running it systematically,” said Radha Chanderraj.
“We conduct various religious ceremonies, on Sunday we have sessions on Hindu /Jain scriptures, readings, discussions of Geeta, meditation, Kirtan, yoga, etc. We also celebrate most Indian festivals and cultural events,” said Pandit Raval.
Further adding to his statement Neeru Piplani said, “I wasn’t a frequent temple visitor in India. But here I am fully involved. I personally also conduct bhajans. Our Dushra festival is quite popular and as in India we burn the effigy of Ravan. Diwali and Ganesh Chaturthi are equally popular. Every Saturday we have some function. We have also created a youth club so that our children are updated on our culture.”
Panditjis wife was kind enough to treat us with some famous Indian dishes – poha and batata vada with some yummy Indian sweets.
Later I went to see the Navagraha Mandir. The Navagrahas are Surya (Sun), Chandra (moon), Mangala (mars), Budha (mercury), Guru (jupiter), Sukra (venus), Shani (Saturn), Rahu and Ketu. Rahu and Ketu. “These Navagrahas are mathematical points of calculation and show their effects on humans since birth. A horoscope shows the locations of the Navagrahas at the time of ones birth. An interpretation of these locations shows the effects of the Navagraha on the life of a person. For eg, one faces lots of difficulties during the seven and half years period (known as Shadhe-saati) when Shani (Saturn) stays in the preceding sun sign, followed by the person’s sun sign, and lastly in subsequent Sun sign,” said Pandit Brijesh Kumar Raval.
The temple also has a food sponsorship program which has been very successful over the years. “Anna Dhan is one of the best forms of ‘dhan’. We are one of the few temples in USA that offer free food to all devotees on every Sunday and for major Indian festivals celebrated at the temple,” Neeru Piplani.
The temple is also environment friendly as I noticed on my departure Solar Panels. Neeru Piplani was kind enough to drop me back to the airport for my flight back to India.