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Magazine Web Edition > July/August/September 2009 > Feature Story: Siva's Sanctuary in Tropical Hawaii
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From the Hearts of Pilgrims

Many visitors say that once they are touched by the mystical impulse that is creating this temple, a love develops for the project and the building itself. For many, it has meant a rediscovery of their connection with Hinduism, sometimes sparked by an encounter with the founder, Gurudeva. Pilgrims come from everywhere--from India and from countries of the diaspora, as far as Hong Kong, Australia and South Africa.

Manon Mardemootoo, a senior attorney practicing in the Supreme Court of Mauritius, says though he was born in a religious Hindu family, he came to appreciate Hinduism only after meeting Gurudeva and learning from him. Ever since, Iraivan Temple has been part of his life: "We were there in 1991 at the first chipping ceremony at Kailash Ashram, in Bengaluru, in the presence of many saints. Since then we have been following the progress on works both at the Bengaluru carving site and at Kauai, which we have been visiting regularly." In his heart, of all the temple's features the main murti stands unrivalled. "The main sanctum's sphatika Sivalingam is worthy of a deeper understanding. Crystals are known to possess intelligence and qualities yet to be discovered."

Mardemootoo is a "temple builder," one of a dedicated group of people on several continents who devote part of their lives to making Iraivan Temple manifest, both with fund-raising and personal support. He takes this job seriously. "We feel particularly privileged to be 'temple builders,' as it is the greatest assignment which can be entrusted to us humans. The more people participate in spiritual endeavors, the more our planet benefits--which is presently very much in need of love and protection. I feel happy to be part of this project; it's like being on a holy adventure, led by our loving Gurudeva, into our Self and the inner worlds." His whole family is involved, along with sponsors and well-wishers they have introduced to the project. Mardemootoo adds, "We are all looking forward to the mahakumbhabhishekam (consecration ceremony) of Iraivan Temple, an auspicious day, a tremendous source of power for all."

The Rahavendrans from California shared how they were touched by the weave of selfless monasticism and sincere worship that pervades Kauai's Hindu Monastery. Sheela Rahavendran recalls that she was overcome with emotion, just facing Lord Murugan, Ganesha and Siva in the monastery's 36-year-old Kadavul Temple, and could not get up to leave. After their first visit, just a few years ago, they took God's blessings home and allowed that energy to change themselves and their lives. After Sheela's return to California, a major transformation occurred. "I became a vegetarian, just like that--no meat, eggs or fish, and I have been that way ever since." Kauai became a lifelong love. "The journey on San Marga, the straight path through glades and streams leading to Iraivan Temple, is a metaphor for the evolution of the soul unto its potential. It serves as an inspiration for self transformation in this lifetime," notes Sheela. "There, spiritual upliftment is felt in every pore of one's being. Sheer sattvic energy begs the devout Hindu to return time and time again on pilgrimage to Kauai."

Iraivan Temple is a sanctuary for Hindus, but here people of all faiths report experiencing a sense of a divine presence. A local Christian minister told the monks, "This is the first time I really feel I am walking on holy ground." Dr. Nilufer Clubwala, a pediatrician in Campbell Hall, New York, and Zoroastrian by faith, has been inexplicably drawn to Iraivan Temple. "My first experience of Iraivan Temple was in a vivid dream I had many years before my first encounter with Gurudeva. It was a sparkling white temple pulsing with an energy I had never felt before. Several years later while in Kauai, walking around on the temple grounds, I recognized this to be the very place that I had seen in that hard-to-forget dream years ago. As in the dream, I was suffused with the energy of the place. Pure, powerful and vibrant. No words of description can do it justice--it has to be experienced."

Since then, Nilufer and family have made it a point to travel to Kauai every year, watching the temple rise up. She notes, "What makes this temple so special to me is the fact that so much more than granite has gone into its making. It is the love, time, contributions and energy of the devotees and friends of the temple, the unending dedication of the monastics who manage its construction, and the hard work of the silpis as they tirelessly chip away at the granite. All these factors magically come together as we see Gurudeva's vision take form as Iraivan Temple."

Though it will be a few years before the main structure of the temple is completed, pilgrims come in a steadily growing stream to experience the sanctity, which, many attest, is already there.

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