March 24, Thursday: We visited Sai Temple and Sri Venkateswara Temple of Austin. Both are in the same big complex spread over acres of land worth million or more dollars in the outskirts of Austin, Texas. Interestingly, an American couple is behind the setting up and running of this temple complex. I saw them but could not talk with them to know the story behind their this project. As I came to know from a priest of Andhra who was with Mahesh Yogi Institute in Bhangel, Noida, the couple spent some time in Sirdi and got impressed by some guru in India. The priest, one of the seven in the temples, was from Andhra (5 from Andhra and 2 from Karnataka). He became more free with me once he knew that I was from Noida. However, a question came up in my mind after the visit. I don’t know the answer of a question: Should we celebrate it? In a land, thousands of miles away from the home, perhaps the temples are attractive meeting places for migrant Indians of all castes and communities, the integrating force for the community. In evening around 7.30 pm when we had reached, there was a good crowd, joining Parikrama, Aarati and milk bath of a small statue of Sai Baba in front of the main huge statue of the deity. I consider Sai Baba more like Kabir. He would never have dreamt even that one day his growing followers would worship him so much of fan and fare.
Sri Venkateswara Temple is built in South Indian temple style, and had lesser number and the activity level was also minimal. The construction of a gopuram is going on. But, as it appeared, these temples keep on innovating ways and means to increase its revenues required for meeting running expenditure. One can find this from its websites. I also decided to contribute something. The minimum was $21 and I asked Yamuna to do that. In return, a priest conducted an Archana ritual for the family.
Many devotees bring various form of food items as offerings in Sai temple. As a practice, the offerings of food gets distributed to all the visitors. And we also enjoyed some of them. I skipped dinner.
In US, the number of these temples are pretty large, may be nearing hundred. Everywhere I have gone, be it Santa Clara, Pleasanton, San Ramon, New York or Cary in North Carolina, I found more than one. These temples have also given employment to a class of people (priests) with green card of US who would have been earning meagre in India. And we hear a lot of stories about it.