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Sri Venkateswara Swami (Balaji) Temple of Greater Chicago -- About Us, Directions, Feedback etc.,

History

Balaji Temple :: Sri Venkateswara Swami Temple

A Brief History of Temple

Thousands of devotees from the Midwestern states, especially from Chicago land used to travel to Pittsburgh to have darshan of Sri Venkateswara swami. While the experience was spiritually rewarding, the time and effort required to make the trip was making it difficult for many to have his darshan as often as their hearts desired. Many felt a void in their spiritual lives and their discontent was wide spread. The state of affairs continued until 1985. As a result of philanthropy of nine families who donated 20 acres of land with a farm house in Aurora (a far west suburb of Chicago), as a site for the proposed Balaji temple, a beginning was made in the realization of a dream of many. Since Sri Venkateswara swami (Balaji) temple is an institution that has to serve innumerable generations to come, plans were drawn on a magnificent scale related to the means available and the needs of the moment. No pains were spared in making its designs meet the agamic space requirements when at the same time ensuring that it also meets the local building codes, structural safety standards and the needs of the community.

Padmasri M.Muthiah Sthapathy, a noted expert on temple construction in India collaborated with Sri Subhash Nadkarni, a reputed architect of Chicago and a devotee of Balaji, and together they designed the temple. This design is an excellent blend of ancient Shilpa shastra and modern architectural technology. This design also served as a model for other temples that were built later in the United States. A unique feature of the temple is provision for circumambulation (pradakshina) inside the temple not only around the presiding deity, but around all the major shrines inside the temple.

 

Vision

VISION

The recent growth in community participation has given a strong impetus towards constructing a permanent structure for the temple. With the effort and dedication of the volunteers, the board members have been able to make rapid progress on the temple construction plans. Following are just a few ways through which active community involvement has helped achieve accelerated progress:

Members in several other Hindu temples across North America and India graciously shared their experience and knowledge on various temple construction related aspects. Their guidance has been very insightful in helping shape our execution plan. Selection of location, cost involved in construction at various locations that were considered were analyzed using facts from engineers.

Local engineers and architects expedited initial drafts with their relevant expertise. Such strong support from local talent will be essential to our timely success. Active community involvement helped in the diligent efforts towards seeking multiple alternatives for key construction related decisions. Process for Sthapathi selection, master plan input, fundraising schemes, and alignment with Agamic traditions are a few such decisions. Enthusiastic community support helped bolster the fundraising efforts.

To reinforce the significance and power of community involvement in achieving the common goal, here is a quote from The Dalai Lama – “Without the human community, one single human being cannot survive”.

 

MISSION STATEMENT

  Continuing and promoting The highest values ofHindu culture, philosophy, religion, spirituality and tradition In our adopted Homeland With benevolence, compassion and tolerance

 

   

Policies

 

"MANAVA SEVA IS MADHAVA SEVA"
Principles & guidelines approved by temple executive committee for Volunteers:
1. Temple expects & recommends that volunteer be loyal and dedicated to God & Temple.
2. Temple expects & recommends that volunteer be responsible for his/her own safety and all others.
3. Temple expects & recommends that volunteer be courteous to every person in the temple.
4. Temple expects & recommends that volunteer be sincere & follows his/her assigned duties in the temple and notifies if he/she could not attend to his/her duties.
5. Temple expects & recommends that volunteer be flexible & understanding for any possible changes to be made in their schedule due to necessity and unanticipated requirements.
6. Temple expects & recommends that volunteer be aware that there may be age, gender & experience requirements in some areas of volunteers work.
7. Volunteers may be required to work under the guidance of lead volunteers.
8. Temple reserves the right to deny the service of any volunteer’s service if it feels necessary due to any unforeseen circumstances.
9. Temple expects volunteers to follow all the general, ethical, cultural & religious guidelines followed in the temple.
10. Temple is not responsible for any accidental or any other injury, disability or loss of belongings in the temple.

 

 - Only after reading and understanding these principles & guidelines a volunteer should register/sign up  for volunteering.


   

Why we Do what we Do ?

Common Hindu customs and Rituals:

While visiting the temple you may witness several customs and rituals being performed. Below
is an attempt to provide the underlying principle or reasoning for a few of the most common
customs.

1. Why are there so many Gods in Hinduism?
The many Gods in the Hindu religion represent the symbolism of the Hindu pantheon. Hindus
worship the nameless and formless Supreme Reality by various names and forms. Each God
or deity is a particular manifestation of the one Supreme Reality. The Lord lives in each and
every living being making them an individualized manifestation of God.

2. Why do Gods have four arms?
The four arms of the gods represent the four directions and signify the omnipresent and
omnipotent nature of the Gods.

3. Why do we do pradakshina (circumambulate)?
We cannot draw a circle without a center. The Lord is the center, source and essence of our
lives. Recognizing Him as the focal point in our lives, we go through our daily chores. Every
point on the circumference of a circle is equidistant from the center. This means that wherever
we may be, we are equally close to the Lord. His grace flows towards us unequivocally.

4. What does the ‘Bottu” (Dot) mean?
The tilak or Bottu is a religious mark worn on the forehead between the eyebrows, which is
the seat of memory and thinking. The Bottu is applied with a prayer to remember the lord
through all activities of the day. The mark reminds us of our resolve to remember God in all our
activities and protects us from inappropriate tendencies and negative thoughts.

5. Why only the priests are allowed to touch God?
This is primarily to maintain purity and sanctity of the deities. The temple is a place of
community service with a large number of people visiting the deities daily. The cleanliness and
purity of the deities is ensured by allowing only the priests to touch the deities and perform the
prescribed ceremonies according to Vedic ideals.

6. Why do we light oil lamps in front of the gods?
Light symbolizes knowledge, and darkness, ignorance. Knowledge removes ignorance just as
light removes darkness. The Lord is the "Knowledge Principle" (Chaitanya) who is the source,
the enlivener and the illuminator of all knowledge. Light is worshiped as the Lord himself.
Hence we light the lamp to bow down to knowledge as the greatest of all forms of wealth.


Theertham: The devotees are offered the sacred water that has been blessed by The Lord.
Tradition dictates that it is received in a cupped right hand and sipped with reverence.

Shatari: (Shatagopam): The replica of the feet of the Lord is touched gently on the top of the
devotee’s head to convey the total surrender in devotion to the Lord.

Prasadam: Fruit and flowers or nuts blessed by the Lord are offered to the devotees after
prayers and Aarthi.

Abhishekam: At auspicious times of the week or month, each deity is treated to a special
bathing ceremony prescribed in the Vedas to replenish the eternal glory and brilliance to
please the devotees.

Saashtanga Namaskaram: Some devotees prostrate in front of the Sannidhis in a display of
total surrender to the Lord by touching eight essential parts of the body to the ground.

Namasthe: The traditional greeting of Hindus is practiced widely by many cultures.
Respectfully folding of arms with the palms of both hands touching each other gently in front of
a smiling face depicts a warm feeling of welcome from the depths of the soul. The practice also
seems to impart hygienic forethought in lieu of physical contact like a hand shake.

   

Office & Staff

Booking Puja Services

In order to efficiently administer the priests schedules and the temple puja services, devotees are requested to contact the temple office directly and register all Pujas (both in-temple and private pujas at home).

Devotees may consult with the priests, preferably during week days, to determine auspicious day and time, as the priests are very busy during week-ends.

When making a puja request

  • Specify date and time, type of religious service requested, in temple or at home, contact name, phone number and address, preference for a priest if any, secondary preference for a priest if the priest requested is not available.
  • All the above information should be available in the temple office, prior to processing puja requests.
  • The temple will get back to the devotees within 2 or 3 days, to confirm the puja requested.
  • In case of emergencies, the temple office will try to meet the special requests as quickly as possible.

We cannot guarantee the Puja date and time, and the priest of your choice, if the above procedure is not strictly followed.

We greatly appreciate your cooperation in this matter, so the temple can serve you even more effectively.

Please CLICK HERE to access the List of Poojas Offered

   

Hinduism

Among the world’s religions, Hinduism is arguably one of the oldest and the largest. The original principles of our religion are based on scriptures known as “Vedas Sanathana Dharma” or the “Eternal way of Life”. Strongly believing in peace, prayers, and celebrating the natural stages of life, Hindus incorporate “Dharma” or duty to self and the society to attain salvation or “Nirvana”. While Vedas, written in Sanskrit language, extol the virtues of the practice of Hinduism, “Upanishads” unravel the true philosophy of the religion. formulated thousands of years ago and are still being studied, recited, chanted and practiced daily. Hindus regard religion as “

Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82) and Henry David Thoreau (1817-62), famous transcendentalist literary giants were influenced by the Hindu spiritual translations like the “Bhagavad Gita”.  But, active interest in Hinduism in the western world was sparked by a very charismatic young philosopher Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902), who spoke so eloquently about Hinduism at the 1893 Parliament of Religions in Chicago during the Columbian Exposition. Later, many famous luminaries like the Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Beetles, and Desmond Tutu ….. made Hindu philosophy world renowned for the peace and tranquility it imparts on its followers. Some ancient Hindu epics like “Ramayana” and “Maha Bharatha” have helped broaden a thoughtful perspective of the trials and tribulations of life on this planet.

Hindu faith does not restrict one’s belief in the way the religion is practiced, or how the prayers are offered, either at home or the Temple. Though the basic divine force of Hinduism rests upon the Trinity of Gods, “Brahma”, the creator, “Vishnu”, the sustainer, and “Siva”, the destroyer of evil in the universe, Hindus treasure various forms of the Supreme Being, based on their regional, traditional and ancestral beliefs. Hence you will encounter many Deities in our Temple that represent different aspects of our Religious appreciation. Hindu religion is very tolerant of other faiths, as evidenced by new origins and coexistence of many diverse religions like Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Jainism, Judaism Sikhism and Zoroastrianism in India over thousands of years.  

Sri Venkateswara Swami (Balaji) Temple

A group of nine young philanthropists, with the idea of building a shrine to serve the religious and cultural needs of the increasing number of immigrant families from India in the early eighties, acquired several acres of land in Aurora and donated 20 acres for the construction of our Temple. With funds raised by many devotees from across the country and India, Sri Venkateswara Swami (Balaji) Temple of Greater Chicago was meticulously designed, planned, erected and officially consecrated in June, 1986. Our Temple includes several shrines that will be described in more detail. Hindus offer prayers and gifts in various forms to the Deities, believing in the omnipresence of the Supreme Being. The learned Priests, who dedicate their lives to the Lord, are ordained to deliver the offerings or “Puja services” by reciting “Mantras” in Sanskrit and provide a glimpse of enlightenment with the lamp “Aarthi”. Regular services are offered throughout the day and special services are planned in advance and organized on a large scale.

The Temple’s main entry is called the “Raja Gopuram. The large central main hall is “Maha Mantapam”, and the hall in front of the deities is “Artha Mantapam”. With the exception of the Priests, no one is allowed into the main “Sannidhis” (shrines).

With increasing popularity, the Temple underwent two major expansions and is continuing to draw thousands of devotees and visitors from all parts of the world. We continually strive to maintain the authenticity of religious services and value added benefits to the communities we serve.

SHRINES (Sannidhis)

Sri Venkateswara Swami (BALAJI):

The main shrine in the center of the Temple is the abode of the presiding Deity, Sri Venkateswara Swami, also known as Balaji, considered to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The spectacular, awe inspiring, fully adorned form of the Lord manifests all the qualities and attributes of the Divine spirit that embodies the true Hindu devotion and dedication. The four arms depicting the four corners of the world, four aims of life (Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksha) and four Vedas (Sama, Rig, Yajur, and Atharva) deliver the undisputed message about the omnipotent nature of the Supreme Being. The “Sankha” (Conch) to awaken, the “Chakra” (Discus) to destroy evil, “Äbhaya Hastha” ( Blessing Hand) to safeguard the righteous, and “Kati Hastha”, (Resting Arm) to offer peace and comfort to the Devout. He is adorned by his eternal consort, Sri Lakshmi close to his heart.

Sri Lakshmi:

Sri Lakshmi is the beloved wife who appeared in all the incarnations of Lord Vishnu, and took equal role in saving the world many times according to our mythology. She is worshipped as the Goddess of wealth and good fortune, harbinger of auspiciousness and abundance. She is the true icon for dedication to the cause of humanity and her spouse.

Sri Bhudevi (Andal):

The goddess of Earth completes the concept of the universe with her consort Lord Vishnu and Sri Lakshmi. She represents the greatest devotion to the God, expressing her love in mystic poetry, portraying patience and tolerance like mother earth.

Sri Kanyaka Parameswari:

The incarnation of Sri Parvathi as a young deity is worshipped as Kanyaka Parameswari. She represents the significance of art, character, dance, education, love, music, and piety.

Sri Ayyappa:

He is the son of Lord Siva and Mohini, a rightful combination of power and magnetism. Devotees of Lord Ayyappa take on rigorous practices (Diksha) to avoid worldly distractions and fortify godly devotion.

Dasavataras:

The Lord has appeared on the earth ten times to preserve dharma and destroy evil. He has assumed various roles and forms necessary to accomplish the Herculean tasks. The ten incarnations (Dasavataras) are depicted in the order they appear in Hindu mythology, Matsya, Kurma,Varaha, Nrisimha, Vamana, Parasurama, Sri Rama, Balarama, Sri Krishna, and Kalki.

Sri Hanuman:

Lord Hanuman or Anjaneya personifies ultimate friendship, immeasurable love and infinite strength. Before any difficult task, it is common practice to recite His praise in Dandakam.

Sri Satyanarayana:

Believed to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, Sri Satyanarayana Swami is prayed to on more occasions, seeking good fortune and welfare for the entire family. We celebrate His prayers on a regular basis to large groups of families.

Sri Siva:

The 'destroyer' in the Triumvirate is worshipped in the form of Siva Linga to deliver strength, virility and virtuosity to ward off all evils from the universe. Lord Siva is believed to be the easiest to be pleased and bless His disciples with insurmountable gifts that led to celestial wars, only to be saved by Lord Vishnu. The mankind is thus served by the delicate balance between the might and the bright.  Lord Siva is the consummate husband as “Artha Nareeswara” with wife Parvathi truly becoming his other half. Nandi, the bull resting in front of Lord Siva’s shrine represents strength and virility. His gaze is fixed on the Lord, despite the head turned slightly away, implying the grace of God drawing the attention.

Sri Parvathi:

Goddess Parvathi is the ultimate champion for women’s rights by claiming Her rightful position in Lord Siva. She is the undisputed Mother for most Hindu women that offer prayers to bestow the best virtues in the husband. Sri Parvathi is also worshipped for Her inestimable might as Kali or Durga Matha.

Sri Nataraja:

The artful master of Dance, Nataraja, is an incarnation of Lord Siva, who loves the delightfully expressive skill of Nritya and Natya. All forms of Hindu art and culture are dedicated to please the ultimate connoisseur.

Navagrahas:

The nine planetary Deities’, Surya, Chandra, Mangala, Budha, Guru, Sukra, Sani, Rahu and Kethu, influence on the celestial world is believed to have a direct effect on the destiny of humans on earth. Astrology is an important part of Hindu beliefs, and praying to these Deities will ward off any untoward situations.

Sri Vinayaka (Ganesha):

Popularly known a Ganesha, He is always the first one to be offered prayers before any important event in Hindu tradition. Highly regarded for the gifts of education, and as remover of all obstacles, He is closest to the hearts of School children and adults seeking a smooth sailing through all endeavors. Mooshika vaahanam, Ganesha’s ride in the form of a rat awaits him in front of His shrine.

Sri Subrahmanya:

Son of Siva and Sakthi (Parvathi), regarded as the commander of all the Deities is worshipped along with His consorts, Valli and Devasena. The peacock is his favorite chariot rests in His clear view. He is attributed with six faces (Shanmukha) and also known as Skanda, Karthikeya, Murugan and Velan.

Sri Siddhi Vinayaka:

Lord Vinayaka is worshipped in many forms by virtue of His attributes like Siddhi Vinayaka for accomplishment or fulfillment, and Buddhi Vinayaka for enrichment of intellect and knowledge. Sri Siddhi Vinayaka is one of the first Deities worshipped on these grounds to bring the epic project to achievement.

Sri Lakshmi Varaha:

Sri Varaha Swami is one of the ten celebrated incarnations of Lord Vishnu accompanied by Bhudevi, Mother Earth. He resides on the banks of the Pushkarini (the lake) in front of Sri Balaji Temple in Tirupathi. It is customary to seek the blessings of Sri Lakshmi Varaha Swami before entering the main Temple.

Sri Garuda:

The well celebrated and highly revered form of transport for Lord Vishnu is Garuda, the great Eagle. His shrine is located in front of the main entrance to the Temple on the terrace.

   

Lord Shiva

siva1b2Shiva is worshipped in the form of Linga at the temple. Literally shiva means auspiciousness and Linga means a sign or symbol.

shiva also means "one in whom the whole creation sleeps after dissolution. shiva is the embodiment of tamas, the centrifugal inertia, the tendency towards dispersion, toward disintegration and annihilation. When the universe expands indefinitely, it dissolves and gradually ceases to exist. That dispersion in the obscurity of the causal insubstantially is the end of all differentiation, of all places and time. Nothing that has existence can escape the process of destruction.

Existence is only a stage of an expanding i.e., disintegrating universe. It is from destruction that creation again rises, hence destruction is the ultimate cause, the unmanifest origin of creation. shiva, the power of disintegration alone remains in the beginning and the end. The Linga installed in a temple is called achala Linga and is usually made of stone. It has three parts: the lowest part which is square is called Brahmabhaga and represents the Brahma the creator, the middle part which is octagonal is called Vishnubhaga represents Vishnu the sustainer. These two parts are embedded in the pedestal. The third, the Rudrabhaga which is cylindrical and projects outside the pedestal is the one to which worship is offered. Hence it is called Pujabhaga.

Pujabhaga also contains certain lines, technically called 'Brahnasutra' without which Linga becomes unfit for worship.

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Deities

balaji

anjanaya

shiva

ganapati

Philosophical basis for worship of Deities in Hinduism

Strictly speaking, Hinduism is not a religion, but a total way of life that governs the Hindu from conception to the grave. The word Hinduism is coined by western observers to describe a wide variety of religious beliefs and practices, mainly in the Indian sub-continent. The real name is Sanatana Dharma (eternal truth). It differs from other great religions in that there is no historical founder, one scripture, head of church or a central organization. To the Hindu, the entire universe is alive, an ever changing field of vibrating energy, permeated by the supreme consciousness 'Brahman', the unbounded expanse. It is the source of all life, yet unaffected by its creations. Totally free of world of time and change, 'Brahman' is 'unborn', 'eternal', 'everlasting' and'ancient'. The transcendental infinity of life is not easily accessible to worship. In the Hindu cosmology theory, symbolism is conceived as the expression of reality, just as words are symbols of ideas expressed as sound, and characters are words and ideas expressed graphically. True symbolism springs from nature (prakriti) itself. The whole nature is but the symbol of a higher reality. What we picture as aspects of divinity are essentially abstract prototypes of the forms of manifest world.

Deities at the Temple

In addition to the Lord Venkateswara Swami (Balaji) shrine, there are other shrines in the temple to different deities. On either side of the main shrine are shrines for Sri Devi (Lakshmi) and Bhudevi (Andal). In the two corners in front of the main shrine are shrines for Sri Kanyaka Parameshwari and Sri Ayyappa. In the two corners further away are shrines for Sri Anjaneya and Sri Satyanarayana. Closer to the entrance are shrines to Ganapati, Subrahmanyam, Siva and Parvati. Click on the corresponding deity to know the deity's brief anthology.

kanyaka

satyanarayana

srilakshmi

subhramanya

parvatiayyappa

   

Sri Venkateswara Swami (Balaji)

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The presiding deity of the temple is Sri Venkateswara Swami, also known as Balaji in the northern parts of India. He is an incarnation of Vishnu (Bhanvishyottara purana, Varaha purana etc). The idol of the Lord is a majestic, beautiful and superbly executed one. All the qualities and attributes which are inherent in the nature of the Pervader and which are found in his manifestations are symbolized by the different qualities and attributes of His idol. Every feature, expression and ornamentation is of significance and is intended to be a fit object for meditation.

Four Arms:

The Lord's image has four arms, the upper right arm holds Sudarsana Chakra (discus) and right arm holds Pancha-Janya (Conch). The lower right hand is in Varada hasta (boon giving) pose and lower left hand is in Katyavalambita pose, turned inwards. Four represents fulfillment of manifestations in all spheres of existence, the four stages that may be found in every form of development of life. In the image it also represents dominion over four directions of space and thus absolute power.

Sankou (The Conch):

The conch is the symbol of origin of existence. It has the form of a multiple spiral evolving form one point into ever increasing spheres. It is associated with the element of water, the first compact element, and thus spoken of as born of the Casual waters. When blown, it produces a sound associated with the primeval sound (AUM) from which the creation evolved. The name of the conch Pancha-janya (born-of-five) also suggests the five elements (pancha bhuta).

Chakra (The Discus):

The discuss is called 'Sudarsana' (Beauteous sight). It represents the Universal mind, the limit less power which invents and destroys all the spheres and forms of the universe, the nature of which is to revolve.

Kausthubha:

 A brilliant gem called kausthubha ('born from the waters that surround the earth') adorns the chest of Balaji. This jewel represents consciousness which manifests itself in all that shines: the Sun, the Moon, Fire and Speech.

The Ear Rings:

Shaped like sea creatures (makara) the two ear rings represent the two methods of knowledge, intellectual knowledge (sankhya) and intuitive perception (yoga). Armlets and the Crown: Armlets are said to be the three aims of worldly life 'righteousness, success and pleasure'. The crown represents the unknowable reality.

Pitambara:

Golden veil seen worn by the Lord is said to represent the Vedas (the Hindu Scriptures). 'The dark body shines through the thin golden veil hust as divine reality shines through the sacred utterances of the Vedas'.

Yajnopavita:

The scared thread shown across the chest of the Lord is made of three threads said to be the three syllables of the scared sound Aum. (A for aadimatva or creation, U for uthkarsha or sustenance and M for miti or limit).

   

Sri Ayyappa

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Ayyappa is also known as Sasta or Hariharaputra. He is son of Lord Siva and Mohini (Lord Vishnu in a delusory enchanting form). Siva is known as the God of destruction and Vishnu the God of sustenance. These two powers are said to be combined in Ayyappa. He destroys the low (tamasic) negative tendencies and promotes the pure cohesive (satvic) nature in the worshipper. The Lord is considered the God of constructive destruction, the Protector. He protects the spiritual wealth and power by maintaining the thought of godliness and destroys other thoughts pertaining to the worldly infatuations.

   

Sri Satyanaraya Swami

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Sri Satyanarayana Swami is also believed to be an incarnation of Vishnu and most of the characteristics attributed to Vishnu are also attributed to Him. He is worshipped in all Hindu households in a ceremony called Satyanarayana Vratam which is also celebrated at SVS temple annually. Hundreds of couples participate in this.

   

Sri Lakshmi and Bhudevi

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Along with divine consorts of Vishnu , Lakshmi appears with him in every one of his incarnations. When he appeared as Vamana she was Kamala, when he wasParasurama she was Dharani, when he was Rama, she was Sita, when he was Krishna, she was Rukmini. She is as inseparable from Vishnu as speech from meaning, knowledge from righteousness. Lakshmi according to Bhagavatapurna, was born out of the ocean of milk when gods and demons were churning it for nectar (amruth). Lakshmi being known as goddess of wealth (wealth does not mean money alone, it includes all the nobler values of life, power of the mind, intellect, moral and ethical qualities etc.), the meaning behind the story is that wealth does not come to any one of its own accord, but has to be drawn out throughout self effort. This idea is well brought out in the allegory of the churning of the ocean of milk.

   

Sri Kanyaka Parmeshwari

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Sri Kanyaka Parmeshwari, Vasavi is incarnation of goddess Parvati, divine consort and power of Lord Siva. Vasavi emphasizes virtues of love and character. She represents the importance of Education, Art, Music, Dance, being religious and offers freedom from temptations and protection from disruption of family traditions.

In a chaste young woman form right hand is in Abhaya (fear allaying) posture and left hand is in Varadha (boon giving) posture. She also appears with four arms. This form indicates end of incarnation and transition into form of Goddess Parvati

   

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