Those of us who came to North America, specifically USA & Canada during the 1950s, 60s and 70s were the pioneers of building a cultural center for the community. They also took upon them the huge responsibility of passing on their values and ethos to their children and younger generations.
Until late 1970s, the few Hindu families who resided in Windsor used to meet at each other’s’ homes to observe religious events, celebrate festivals and conduct prayers. As the residents of Indian origin grew in number, the participation in cultural activities increased, and a need to have a Temple arose. Finally, circa 1976 a group of devotees acquired an abandoned church, and converted it into the Hindu Mandir. The Hindu Mandir had a prayer hall which could accommodate approximately 70 people, a dining room accompanied with a commercial kitchen, a small courtyard and a parking lot.
November 2015: The Hindu Temple and Cultural Centre is inaugurated
The dream incepted in 2007 was finally given effect in November 2015. The new Hindu Temple and Cultural Center was inaugurated on 19th November with a grand ceremony and elaborate rituals. Starting, 19th November, the Maha Murti Sthapan Poojan was organized and lasted 4 days till 22nd November. Hundreds of devotees from Windsor-Essex and neighboring areas attended the event with their hearts filled with joy and pride. This landmark event for the Hindu community was duly covered by the largest news channels in Windsor.
Why do we need a Temple?
In India, we have a Temple in almost every block. We visit the Temple to carry out our rituals and practice religious beliefs. Every festival or a life event is celebrated at the Temple.
However, in Windsor, the Temple means much more to us. It is a home away from home. The Hindu Temple in Windsor not only facilitates practicing of our religious beliefs but also brings different communities together. The Hindu Temple and Cultural Center of Windsor offers a sacred abode to different communities - Malayali, Marathi, Punjabi, Bengali, Gujarati, Telegu, Tamil, Kannada among others, not only in Windsor but as far as Essex, Kent and Lambton counties.
The Temple provides an avenue for families, children, youth and seniors to participate in community events, and form long-lasting friendships. For newcomers to Canada, especially students who come to Windsor to pursue their careers, the Temple offers a safe and homely atmosphere for them to stay connected with their culture.
The Old Hindu Mandir
Over the past 40 years, the Hindu Mandir of Windsor became the central point of all religious and cultural activities in Windsor-Essex and neighboring areas. The Hindu Mandir was recognized as a non-profit organization by both the province of Ontario and the Canada Revenue Agency. Articles of Incorporation were prepared and submitted to the government. In 1983, the first Puja was held at the Mandir, and soon celebrating all Indian festivals became a regular affair. Even back then, the community donated generously and participated wholeheartedly in this noble cause despite a relatively lesser Hindu population.
Ganesh Utsav: Beginning of a dream
It was in 2007 that the Hindu Mandir devotees formalized the institution further, and adopted a new Constitution. The Hindu Mandir was renamed as The Hindu Temple and Cultural Center, and a Board of Directors was formed. The Board elected a President, Secretary and a Treasurer. The Hindu Temple and Cultural Center was registered as a not-for-profit charitable organization under the Canadian Customs & Revenue Agency (CCRA), as per Federal Government rules.
Shortly after the constitution was formed, the temple hosted a 10-day Ganesh Utsav, followed by celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi and Ganesh Visarjan. For the first time, the temple and its committee saw coming together of all the communities to celebrate the festival. It was almost divine and surreal to see hundreds of devotees participating shoulder to shoulder in the festivities.
In our culture, all good things begin with Lord Ganesha’s blessings. As if coming directly from the Lord itself, the committee and the devotees felt the need to have a bigger space to accommodate a growing community. This event instilled a renewed faith in all devotees about the prospect of building a new Temple.
The Ganesh Utsav since then became a yearly affair. Other events and festivals such as Holi, Garba & Dandiya Raas, Navratri, Annakut, Mahashivratri, and Ram Navmi also received participation from the community. The Sri Lankan and the Tamil group of Windsor-Essex began celebrating Pongal (Sankranti) at the Temple as well. Preeti Bhoj, prepared from scratch by participating families, began to be served at every festival.
2015: New Hindu Temple Construction begins
Through consistent fundraising efforts of the Temple committee, and of course the relentless support of the community, the Temple was able to raise $3.2 Million and facilitate the construction of a 14,000 sq ft new Temple. Mr. Surendra Bagga, chief architect of the project, helped come up with an optimized plan for the construction. Mr. A.M. Razak fueled the plan via his company Oscar Constructions. The project began in May, 2015, and was completed in November 2015.
Bringing the plan to life was by no means an easy feat. Since the purchase and first Puja of the newly bought land in 2007, the Temple committee has thoroughly looked into various proposals and ideas to build the new Temple. The challenge was not only limited raising funds, but also to keep in mind various opinions, mindsets of the people involved. Since the Temple caters to several communities, it was imperative to build a Cultural Center which could offer services to all of them. The devotees, the committee members and the community at large have not just donated money, but have given their heart and soul into completing this project.
Purchase Land for Construction of New Temple
The Hindu community started growing in Windsor, as well as started participating and initiating cultural activities at the Temple. Residents of India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and other countries with Hindu population began utilizing the Temple and its services to practice their culture. Approximately 700 families became a regular at the Temple, and the Prayer hall which could only accommodate 70 people did not meet the requirements of the community anymore.
A notable and gallant move by the Temple Board, via generous contributions and donations by the community, a 3.8 acre land was purchased for the construction of a new Temple.
A detailed plan was created by the Board and committee members to raise funds, obtain necessary approvals, and design a new Temple in accordance with the current and future needs of the community. This dedicated team of devotees also visited the Hindu Temples in London, Ontario and Canton, Michigan to gain a sense of direction for this astounding project.