The Canadian Bazaar
TORONTO: The Sringeri temple in Toronto is the only second such religious institution operating outside of India. The first Sringeri temple in the West opened at Stroudsburg in Pennsylvania in the US in early 1990s.
Renowned Toronto scientist Dr V.I. `Lucky’ Lakshmanan, who is the current president of the Sringeri Vidya Bharati Foundation (SVBF) that runs the temple, speaks about how he and his colleagues brought this sacred institution to Toronto.
Q: How was the idea of having a Sringeri temple in Toronto born?
In 2004-05, Ravi Subramanian, who had an IT company in the US, came to Toronto from New Jersey to start another company. He was the man behind the first Sringeri temple at Stroudsburg in Pennsylvania along with my cousin T.R. Ramachandran who is a former editor of Reader’s Digest. Ravi Subramanian, along with Chand Kapoor and me, started the idea of having a similar Sringeri temple centre here in Toronto. That’s how it all began. Then Dr. Srinivasa Iyer Yegnasubramanian joined us.
Q: How was the present temple site chosen?
There used to be a south Indian Shiva temple at this place where the Sringeri temple stands today. The priest – Balakrishna Shastri – had incorporated it as a temple. And the place where today’s SVBF community centre stands used to be a manufacturing unit. The owner wanted to sell the manufacturing unit. Ravi Subramanian suggested that we should buy that unit. So we negotiated and Dr A.K. Subramanian helped close the deal. We first approached the Shankaracharya with this idea.
Q: When did you approach the Shankaracharya?
In fact, before we bought the land from the manufacturing unit owner, we went to Sringeri and discussed the idea with the Guruji (the Shankaracharya). The transformation of the Shiva temple happened only after the Guruji gave his approval.
Q: Did the Shankaracharya’s approval come with any conditions?
When we made our presentation to the Shankaracharya, we proposed that we wanted to build a temple as well as a community centre because when you add a community or cultural centre, you have to ensure that religious traditions of the temple are observed properly. The Guruji agreed to that.
Q: When did the work begin on the temple?
After getting permission from the Guruji, we set up the Sringeri Vidya Bharati Foundation and formed its trustee board, with all of us as its members. Then Dr V.R. Gowrishankar, who is the CEO and administrator of the Sringeri Sharada Peetham in India, came on board. The construction work began in 2007 when masons from Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan arrived. About 10-12 people stayed here for 3-4 months to build the Gopuram (ornate tower). For marble work, we got 15 people from Rajasthan. They stayed here for two months in 2010. For the kitchen work, we hired Roshan Lal.
Q: But this temple also has the idols that are worshipped mostly in north India?
The Gopuram of the temple is in south Indian style, but many idols are for north Indians. People from all over India live here and they visit the temple, so they can worship the way they want. Then we have Chand Kapoor, a north Indian, on our board since the beginning. Along with the temple, our community centre has become the hub of year-long social and cultural events in which the young and the old participate. The community centre serves people of all communities.