Arsha Vijnana Mandiram

This profile was last updated in 2006

This profile was prepared by student researcher Patrick Spurlock of Valdosta State University, under the direction of Dr. Richard Amesbury.

Introduction

Arsha Vijnana Mandiram — a temple and retreat center — was founded in 2006 to meet the religious needs of Hindus in South Georgia.

History

The members of the group all immigrated to the Valdosta area during the last thirty years. Before the founding of this center they would go as far as Atlanta and Jacksonville to worship, in addition to worshiping in their own homes. Dr. Vrnda Chaitanya came to Valdosta in the fall of 2004 as a visiting scholar at Valdosta State University. While in South Georgia, she started teaching the Bhagavad-Gita in various community members’ homes. The Hindu community of Valdosta urged her to stay in the area and decided to erect a temple and spiritual retreat center so that they would have a place to worship and a place for their children to learn about their Indian roots.

The temple was dedicated on March 31, 2006. Swami Dayananda Saraswati — a master of Advaita Vedanta — made the journey from India to assist in the ceremony. Addressing those in attendance he said, “We need to have a center like this in the South. This is the real Scripture Belt after all. We need Sanskrit scriptures here.”

Description

The center is located on a 19.3-acre wooded lot outside of Pavo, Georgia. There is one central building (a white double-wide trailer), and at the other end of the property a log cabin residence is under construction.

The main building can easily seat 40 people and accommodate a lot of standing room. The focal point of the building is an altar — featuring the deities Ganesha, Shiva, and Ardhanarishvara — adjacent to an area where students can be taught.

Demographics

Attendees consist mainly of highly educated, middle- to upper-middle class immigrants from India. Languages spoken include Hindi and English, depending upon the composition of those in attendance. The group is comprised mainly of people over age 30. Children, however, often accompany parents. Women constitute about 70 percent of the participants.

Activities and Schedule

The center currently offers daily morning pujas at or around 9:00 a.m. and Sunday meditation and Bhagavad-Gita classes at 4:00 p.m. Weekend retreats are planned for the future.