Hanuman has arrived

Sri Somesvara Temple celebrates new deity
By Shelby Harrell Staff Writer | Jun 05, 2014
Photo by: Shelby Harrell Pictured is a 20-foot granite statue carved in the shape of Hanuman —  a Hindu deity that is the form of Lord Shiva. The statue represents power and victory. The Hanuman statue was installed at the Sri Somesvara Temple on Monday afternoon.

A religious community on the Haywood-Buncombe county border in the upper Crabtree community celebrated a hallmark this week with the dedication of Lord Hanuman, a physical representation of the deity Lord Shiva in the Hindu religion.

The Mount Soma community has grown quickly since its inception in 2011 and it now includes the Sri Somesvara Temple, a visitor’s center with a meditation hall, an area for fire pits, a student union building, retreat programs, group meditation and more.

The community's purpose is to provide a place of spiritual growth, meditation and the study the universal principles of nature — all in a majestic natural setting in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The Sri Somesvara temple in the heart of Mount Soma is a key worship and meditation area. This week, a 20-foot statue of Lord Hanuman was installed just behind the temple after a five-day celebration. In the Hindu belief, Hanuman represents both power and victory.

Celebrating Hanuman

Honoring a statue of a deity might seem foreign to a lot of Western North Carolina residents, but for those at the temple this week, it was a reason to celebrate. Dozens of people from Haywood, Buncombe and Henderson counties attended the ceremony to celebrate the hand-carved granite statue of Hanuman.

On Monday afternoon, the base of Hanuman was encircled by dozens of people dressed in brightly colored garments with their hands in the air praising the installation of the new deity.

The words “Jai Hanuman!” echoed from the dirt hill while the group received blessings and gave offerings to the larger-than-life statue.

Shouting the words, meaning “Victory of Hanuman,” was just one small part of the celebration being held at the Sri Somesvara temple.

The statue is a depiction of a man’s body with the face and tail of a monkey. The combination represents the Hindu belief that God has many different faces, and yet everyone is still connected.

“It’s a representation of the one-ness,” said Lisa Brozda, the visitor center coordinator for the temple.

A Hindu family from Chenai, India, carved the statue for the temple, and traveled from India to attend the ceremonies.

“The incarnation of Lord Shiva represents pure and utter devotion to God and undefeatable strength,” said Harry Beine, Brozda’s husband.

The Mount Soma community had been preparing the Hanuman statue during ceremonies that began on May 29, and everything was finalized on Monday.

Five different ceremonies were held to energize the statue before it was ready for installation. On day one, ceremonies were held to purify the statue; on day two, ceremonies helped build the energy inside the statue; on day three and four, participants “enlivened” the statue to instill the deity inside it, and day five was the final installation.

“He will become an outdoor park for anyone to come see him at the temple,” said Brozda.

The installation

To install the deity, several “pandits” (Hindu scholars or practicing priests) were raised above the statue of Hanuman on a forklift to bathe him in liquid blessings. Using a kalash, or metal pot preserving blessed waters, each pandit poured special ingredients onto Hanuman as a way to “wash” him.

Over and over again, showers of spiced water, clarified butter and milk were poured from the top of Hanuman, flinging droplets onto the celebrating crowds below. The barefooted people embraced the raindrops and paid no attention to the mud being created at their feet.

“We consider it a blessing to be in the spray,” Brozda said about the droplets of water coming from the pandits.

Because cows are considered sacred in Hindu belief, the butter and milk were also used as a liquid blessing, Brozda said.

After the washing was over, the pandits dressed Hanuman in many different layers of “offerings.” All participants turned away from the statue while it was being dressed.

After chanting and singing in the hot sun for nearly 30 minutes, the crowd turned around to face a colorful, decorated statue layered with blessings of fruits, doughnuts, flowers, dollar bills, leaves and more.

As the ceremony drew to a close, each person gathered a flower or other type of offering and placed it at the base of the completed Hanuman.

About Mount Soma

Since Mount Soma opened in 2011, people have been visiting from Haywood, Buncombe and Henderson counties, and others have traveled from as far as South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee and Georgia.

Maharshi Maheshananda created the temple on the foundation of the Veda. His vision for Mount Soma was to help humanity evolve by integrating ancient spiritual wisdom with modern life.

“Many people think this is a Hindu temple,” Brozda said, clarifying that Sri Somesvara is technically a Vedic temple. “Maharshi Maheshananda is American and he feels he knows the Veda, which is what underlies everything. It’s not a belief; it’s not a religion. You can be from any religion and come here.”

People from many different religions visit the temple, Brozda said, including those practicing Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam and more.

She said ceremonies such as the Hindu-based Hanuman installment were held as a way to enliven the harmony of the temple.

“We’re building a bridge to all the cultures in the world, and we’re beginning with Hinduism,” Brozda said. “The next bridge is China.”

For more information about the Sri Somesvara temple, visit www.srisomesvara.org or call 828-476-4073.

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