Dandenong Ranges: Hindu Temple to be reconsecrated

Sri Vakrathunda Vinayagar Temple in The Basin

As part of Hindu tradition, a Hindu temple is renovated, refurbished and reconsecrated every 12 years.

In the Dandenong Ranges, the Hindu Temple at The Basin is being reconsecrated on Monday, 25 January 2020. Covid-19 protocols will be followed, as more than 2,000 people are expected to attend and actively participate. Social distancing protocols will be followed.

After $4 million of renovations, the Sri Vakrathunda Vinayagar Temple in The Basin is having its status as a holy site restored with the return of sacred statues.

These statues, known as deities, can usually only be touched by priests. As part of the temple’s reconsecration celebrations, rank-and-file devotees have been given a chance to apply oil to them.


Heavy lifting required to complete ancient shrines

As part of Hindu tradition, the temple is renovated, refurbished and reconsecrated every 12 years.

The new centrepiece of the temple this time around is a 17-layer, 350-tonne granite shrine to the elephant god Ganesha.

The shrine’s dome, which sits outside on the temple roof, was carved from a single piece of granite weighing six tonnes, architect Purushothaman Jayaraman says.

Ten other smaller shrines around the temple are adorned with hand-carved elephants, peacocks, lions and lotuses. All the stones used in the renovations came from a quarry in Tamil Nadu in southern India.

A decorative Hindu granite shrine sits inside a temple
Sacred Hindu deities sit inside the new centrepiece shrine at the Ganesha temple.(ABC News: Kristian Silva)

For Mr Jayaraman, the temple has been a labour of love for three decades.

He was the original designer when the temple was built on the site of a disused Anglican church in the early 1990s, and he also planned renovations in 2007.

The Dravidian architectural designs he drew inspiration from date back thousands of years to temples in India and northern Sri Lanka. Many of the sculptures have been delicately chiselled by hand.

“We did this project with the help of 100 to 120 artists in India,” he says of the latest works, adding that about 20 workers were flown to Australia to complete the job.

“One week before the pandemic started we luckily landed here. That’s why we were able to finish this project on time,” he says.

Purushothaman Jayaraman chisels a small granite statue on a table
Architect Purushothaman “Puru” Jayaraman is an expert designer of Dravidian temples.(ABC News: Kristian Silva)

Temple’s rise as community grows

The temple’s grand reopening, which will take place on Monday, will be an important affair than when a Hindu temple is normally reconsecrated.

About 2,000 people will attend, but their arrivals will be staggered throughout the day.

Strict COVID-19 protocols will also be followed, requiring devotees to undertake temperature checks and sign in with QR codes. Once inside, crowds will be funnelled through sections of the temple to maintain social distancing.

Program

The “maha kumbabishekam” is a consecration ceremony, which is performed either in a newly built or renovated temple, by establishing the dieties and performing rituals, which infuse the status of the Gods and divinity. This is behing held at Sri Vakrathunda Vinayagar temple, at the suburb of Basin in Victoria. The programme began, with all rituals on 17 January and the actual event is slated to be held, at the auspicious time decided by the pundits, on Monday, 25 January 2021 from 0915 hrs to 1030 hrs.

The entire program is available on their website.

To access and sync the full Kumbhabhishekam program (and other Temple events) to your mobile phone, please click on this link: http://www.mvhs.org.au/events/. The full Kumbhabhishekam program is also available online here: https://sites.google.com/view/mahakumbhabhishekam/rituals-schedule.

After being forced to close its doors for months last year, tears well in the eyes of temple president Balaa Kandiah when he talks about the volunteers who are the heart and soul of the holy site.

“No matter how many buildings you have, how much land you have, the real assets of this temple are the people,” Mr Kandiah says.

A composite image of the temple and Balaa Kandiah, dressed in an orange shirt

The temple’s president Balaa Kandiah is looking forward to the return of worshippers.(ABC News: Kristian Silva)

The temple’s community has grown from a few hundred three decades ago to several thousand, bolstered by large swathes of Indian and Sri Lankan migration to Melbourne.

According to the 2016 census, there were about 135,000 Hindus in Victoria, up more than 51,000 from the previous national count in 2011.

“To cater and facilitate those Hindus who are coming and residing in Victoria, we have to expand,” Mr Kandiah says.

A woman offers pranaams to Hindu God after oiling the murthy
A woman prays to a deity after the rare opportunity to apply oil to it.(ABC News: Kristian Silva)

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