Iraivan Temple In the News

The Navhind Times, India

Published on: January 28, 2012 - 23:30

By P G K Menon

In the past thirty years, hundreds of Hindu temples have been built outside India, especially in the USA. But most of them have been of a composite of materials, mainly of local materials with stone sculptures made in India.

Only in the case of the San Marga Shiva Iraivan Temple in Kauai Island at Hawaii (USA) a wholly and solely stone structure, with pillars/sculptures/vimana (uppermost storey) made of good old granite from India has been attempted, just like the Chola kings of South India created thousands of years ago.

Begun in 1975, it is estimated to cost forty crores of rupees. The pillars of this temple, mainly carved at a vast Silpa shala (carving ground) near Bangalore, is being regularly airlifted /taken by ships to the assembling grounds near the Iraivan Temple site in the Hawaii state of USA and is expected to be completed by 2017 according to Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami, the current guru and abbot of the Kauai’s Hindu monastery, which is building the temple.

It began, as Hindu temples traditionally do, with a vision. A western disciple of Lord Shiva, Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami (Gurudeva) (1927-2001) had helped build 37 Hindu temples in places as far flung as Fiji, London, Anchorage (USA), Sri Lanka and Denmark. Gurudeva also led pilgrimages and established the Himalayan Academy to propagate Hinduism, as he instilled enthusiasm for Hinduism around the world until his death in 2001.

Early morning on February 15, 1975, he had a vision at his ashram on the island of Kauai in the Hawaii islands to build a Shiva temple. Thus was born the Iraivan Temple, its riverside site already sacred to the ancient Hawaiian people. Iraivan, “He who is worshiped,” is one of the oldest words for God in the ancient Tamil language.

He enlisted the services of Dr V Ganapati Sthapati, India’s foremost temple architect, who designed the temple strictly according to the Agamas and Vastu Shastras. Two eminent Indian swamis with hundreds of thousands of followers - Sri Sivaratnapuri Mahaswamigal (popularly known as Tiruchi Swami) and  Sri Balagangadharanathaswami--came forward to assist with the project  and in 1990 provided eleven acres of land outside Bangalore.

There, a village was built, and 75 silpi-, traditional stone carvers, were hired, and their families moved to the San Marga Iraivan Temple carving site at Bangalore - the only sculptors facility in India with a retirement program. Many pious Hindu families have come forward to sponsor parts of the temple. For example, three of the temple’s entry towers have been sponsored for $50,000 (25 lakhs of rupees). Other families are sponsoring one of 170 tridents on the railing ($1,008- 50 thousand rupees each) and individual pillars ($21,000- five lakhs of rupees each).

Each of the nearly 4,000 stones (the largest weighing 14,000 pounds) were hand-carved in India and then transported across the ocean to this Pacific island 8,000 miles away--about 80 container loads in all. The long-distance transportation Bangalore-Hawaii is adding heavily to project as it costs - Rs 5 lakh for every container. The 197-foot long concrete temple base alone, costs almost $500,000 (250 lakhs of rupees) due to exacting engineering requirements. When it is finished, the temple will measure roughly 90 by 150 feet and will stand 36 feet high from its foundation to the top of its gold-leafed capstone.

In order to ensure that the temple is maintained properly - half of the 16 million USD (80 crores of Indian rupees) donations received will be kept in a trust for maintenance of the shrine. The monks are practical too. At the gardens are quite a number of cats whose job is to control the rat population that invades the monastery from the surrounding jungles and sugar cane fields.   

Unique is the word for the enchanting components of the temple. Inside, softly lit shelves hold, bronze statues of Lord Siva in 108 dance positions. There are the two monolithic musical pillars, single black stones five feet wide and thirteen feet tall. Craftsmen carefully carved out 16 thin “rods” which when struck with a mallet give different and precise classical Indian musical tones. This is by far the most difficult challenge to the sculptors’ skills. The only other musical pillars carved in the 20th century, less elaborate than Iraivan’s, are the same V G Sthapati’s work, at a temple in New Delhi.

The stone chain and bell that will greet pilgrims at the entry gate look simple enough, but they, too, are rare. The chain’s links and the 32-inch diameter bell are all carved out of the same giant stone, so they are totally interconnected. The bell hangs from a ceiling in which the motto “One God, One World” will be carved in hundreds of languages. The bell is rung with a sandalwood mallet.

Two six-inch-thick sandalwood doors leading to the main sanctum will be elaborately carved with sacred motifs and hung on polished black-granite frames. Ironically, though scriptures require these, they have not been part of any temple for hundreds of years in India.

Asked why, the architect smiles and answers, “These doors are made from the finest sandalwood carved to perfection. In India the first time they are left unguarded, thieves take them off their hinges. So, Indian temples stopped making them.” The eight lion pillars are special, since a ball is carved inside the lion’s mouth.

The temple’s central murti the crystal Shivalinga is so rare that it may seem an innovation, but it is, in fact, of a kind lauded in olden scriptures. The temples inner sanctum enshrines the world’s largest single-pointed quartz crystal--a 700-pound, 39-inch-tall, six-sided natural gem, a sphatika Sivalingam that started growing 50 million years ago in a deep cave in Arkansas and was acquired by Gurudeva in 1987.

In the Hindu culture of worship, Sivalingams are made of many materials, such as earth, wood, metal and gems. Among gems, the sphatika (quartz crystal) is considered very significant and sacred because it is spotless and transparent, like space.

Also included in the temple will be a time capsule to be opened 1,000 years from the temple’s dedication date. The capsule will include instructions on how to build a new temple, as well as other information.

“Hindus believe in reincarnation,” the master sculptor said. “I’m planning on coming back to see the opening of the time capsule.”

Although you can count on one hand the number of Hindu families on this island of 55,000, each year the temple draws thousands of Saivite Hindu devotees from across the world.

While ordinary tourists traditionally make the pilgrimage to Hawaii to worship the gods of sun, surf and sand, these travellers come for serenity, solace and Lord Siva. MF


Kauai Monastery Builds Hindu Temple To Last

$8 million all-stone structure in Hawaii uses 1,000-year-old designs

By Tara Godvin

WAILUA, Hawaii, 2008: In a clearing within Kauai Aadheenam's lush gardens, the ping, ping, pinging of metal chipping at stone can be heard over the sounds of bird calls. A half-dozen artisans from South India put the finishing flourishes on the Hindu monastery's legacy for the ages.

Hand-carved in granite and shipped in pieces to the island from India, the Iraivan Temple is faithful to the precise design formulas defined by South Indian temple builders a thousand years ago. The $8 million temple to the god Shiva is the first all-stone Hindu temple outside of India, according to the Kauai monks. The project is a rarity even in India.

The ranks of skilled Indian carvers have dwindled in recent centuries, as stone has yielded to concrete and steel. Design modifications in new temples outside India have become a necessity to make worship at the traditionally open-air spaces bearable during the winters in Canada or New York City.

Lush, tropical Kauai, known as Hawaii's Garden Isle, doesn't have that problem.

Actually its the first all-stone temple made anywhere in quite a while. I think our architect in India said he's made two in 50 years, said Sannyasin Arumugaswami, a generously bearded monk enveloped in an orange cotton robe.

Construction began in 1990 and could take another 10 years to finish because of the mass of the structure and the skill needed to build it. The temple has already incorporated 80 shipping containers worth of stone and is surmounted by a gold-gilt cupola carved over three years by just four men.

The temple is the vision of a former ballet dancer and Californian who founded the monastery back in 1970, Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami.

Subramuniyaswami, who died at 74 in 2001, embraced Hindu monasticism in the late 1940s. Today his Kauai monastery is home to a small group of monks who spend their days in prayer at the monasterys current Kadavul Temple, tending the monasterys fruit orchards and livestock, or putting out the orders quarterly publication Hinduism Today.

While many of the Kauai monks are converts, hailing from about six different countries, the orders focus, as reflected in its stone temple, is on tradition.

And the rules here are strict.

While day-trippers are welcome, the monastery doesn't allow the curious to try out monastic life for a few days or weeks. The minimum stay is six months. And all the monks are celibate, single and male. Once they take their permanent vows, they do not speak of their lives before the monastery.

Its like the institution was picked up in India and plopped down here ... Something our founder purposely tried to do is not dilute it or change it seriously because of where it is, said Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami, the current guru and abbot of the monastery.

Still, the ascetics traditional orange, yellow or white cotton robes and shaved or bearded appearances belie their modern savvy. These monks have cell phones, digital cameras, podcasts and widescreen computer monitors to put out their magazine, with a worldwide circulation of 16,000 print and 5,000 digital. The monastery's Web site gets up to 40,000 hits a day.

If you start searching Hinduism on the Web you come to us in a hurry, said Arumugaswami, who is also managing editor of the monastery's magazine.

And the monks also don't entirely eschew outside society.

They have been deeply involved in community actions, which include helping design and print anti-drug bumper stickers they then donated to Kauai county, said state Sen. Gary Hooser, who lives near the monastery.

They're very good neighbors. ... They have a significant presence in terms of building their temple and the monks and the property they have there. But they manage that presence very well, so its very low key, Hooser said.

The monastery's partially constructed temple now stands at the edge of small valley that plunges down to the Wailua River, a pond and a few rushing waterfalls, and against a distant backdrop of soaring green mountains. Complete with tropical flowers and other plants some purchased from the National Tropical Botanical Garden headquartered on Kauai the monastery's landscaped gardens are awe-inspiring.

Part of the object is to place the temple in just the most beautiful Hawaiian environment possible, said Arumugaswami, explaining that the temples surroundings are a natural temple.

Among the primary tenets of the order which has about 8,000 temple supporters and several hundred close disciples is the belief that Shiva is in everything and everyone. The goal is to understand ones oneness with Shiva, and therefore be freed from the eternal cycle of death and rebirth into the physical world.

Subramuniyaswami left specific instructions for the new temples construction. No machinery may be used to cut the stone, which he believed would destroy the stones song. Machines are only used to lift some of the larger stones into place. The guru also required that the temple be built without debt, prompting a fundraising campaign that has so far raised $10 million toward its goal of $16 million, half of which would be set aside as a maintenance endowment.

The building still awaits part of its roof and its lava rock base that will be an homage to the design of sacred Hawaiian heiaus, ancient stone platforms used for worship in the islands. And the 700-pound crystal lingam a symbol of the god Shiva now housed in the monastery's Kadavul Temple has yet to be installed in the new temples inner sanctum.

But the building began to spiritually wake up during a ceremony held last year.

India Today

Sun Shrine Island

Bangalore, Karnataka

July 15, 2002

By Stephen David

Indians sculpt a Shiva temple to ship to

the Hawaiian islands

HAWAII HAS LONG BEEN A FAVOURITE GETAWAY for holidayers and romancers in the West. The picturesque destination in the Hawaiian islands with its swathes of luxuriant green set against the shimmering blue of the Pacific has provided the backdrop for many Hollywood blockbusters like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park and Honeymoon in Vegas. Now add one more exotica to the islands' attractions: a one-of-its-kind stone temple, which is being painstakingly built thousands of miles away.

For the moment Kauai is not where much of the temple action is. A clutch of some 70 sculptors in Mandanayakanahalli, a village near Bangalore in Karnataka, is busy chiseling away at grey granite boulders meant for the shrine. It is no mean task. After all, what they are working at is a hand-cut, all-stone Hindu temple to be erected in the Western Hemisphere. And the scale is gigantic in every respect: the structure weighs 1.45 million kg, costs $16 million (Rs 78.4 crore) and is taking well over a decade to be completed.

The brainchild of the late Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, an American convert to Hinduism, the Kauai project was conceived of in the 1970s. Encouraged by the response to his monastery in San Francisco, where he built the first Hindu shrine in 1957, Gurudeva spread his wings to Kauai and launched the grand San Marga Iraivan temple project in 1975.

There has been no looking back since. Two years after a giant six-sided quartz crystal-a sphatika Shivalingam was acquired by Gurudeva in 1987 to enshrine in the Chola-style temple, Chennai architect V. Ganapati Sthapati was roped in to plan the outer stone structure. Soon, money was raised from devotees across the globe and others who wanted to help build a Shiva temple. The brief was categorical: no rock-cutting machines, electric tools or hydraulic equipment could be used at any stage, be it quarrying or etching. The entire structure had to be hand-made. There was another condition: the workers had to put their heart into it as well. Skill, as far as Gurudeva was concerned, could be acquired by anyone-there would be no bar on caste or creed. All that mattered was purity of intent.

It was a tough call but there were many takers. Once it was decided that the grey granite available in Karnataka would be best suited for the temple, two seers from the South-Sri Balagangadharanathaswami of Karnataka and the Tiruchi Swamigal-jumped into the fray to initiate sculpting at an 11-acre facility in Mandanayakanahalli. Scouting for skillful workers was not a difficult task despite Gurudeva's stringent stipulations.

The system demands that the stone carvers, or shilpis as they are called, do not drink, smoke or indulge in other vices. Many of them live on the site with their families and personal discords are not taken lightly either. Seventy workers have been fired in the past 10 years for violating the code, but those who have stayed on are more than happy. Dedicated and disciplined, they say they are there by the "grace of God". Explains Lokesh, 29, who came to the site as a helper, but has now graduated to a shilpi: "Smoking beedis is quite common on sites but there is nothing of that sort here." Rehmatullah, a Muslim co-worker who has pledged himself to the project, has even given up eating meat. The structure is only 70 per cent complete and may take another five years but no one is complaining.

The day begins early with a prayer and by 7.30 am., the shilpis are ready for work. As the hours progress, it's only the tap-tapping of hammers and chisels-there are 60 identifiable varieties-that can be heard. There is no time, or the inclination, for gossip. The intricate designs involved in the ornate lion pillars and other sections of the temple are time consuming and call for utmost concentration. As Jiva Rajasankara from Malaysia, who is here as site manager, points out, it takes nearly three years for two men to carve one lion pillar from a 1 0tonne granite block. Small decorative tridents for the temple railings take almost 30 days. One wrong move could result in colossal damage.

Digital cameras and G-4 Apple Macintosh computers capture images of the workmanship from time to time which are then e-mailed to the headquarters at Kauai. Once approved, the masterpieces are shipped in containers. The long-distance transportation is adding heavily to project costs-Rs 5 lakh for every container-but the price hardly matters. What does is the prize: a mid-Pacific dream that would be a sculpted reality.

The Garden Island

May, 1995

First Hindu Temple in Western

Hemisphere Will Be Above Wailua River

By PAUL C. CURTIS, Staff Writer

Gurudeva's vision becoming real through cash, stone work in India

KAUAI, WAILUA HOMESTEADS, KAUAI, USA - In some ways, Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami (Gurudeva) was just another California visitor who fell in love with Kaua'i and decided to make it his home. There are some major differences, though:

While some dream of coming to Hawaii and Kaua'i, his first glimpses of Kaua'i came to him via a vision. He brought with him, at least in spirit, around 3 million followers of his type of Hindu beliefs. Instead of building a dream home, he built Saiva Siddhanta Church, Kauai's Hindu Monastery, on 50 acres of lush land including a waterfall and natural pool accessed along a rural road in Wailua Homesteads. He began publishing his religion's largest periodical publication, Hinduism Today, which reaches 100,000 readers. Gurudeva says he first saw the lush valley now owned by the church 'id a vision that included Lord Siva, whom followers believe abundantly grants blessings and, ultimately, supreme transformation.

Being carved entirely by hand now in Bangalore, India, are pieces of white granite which will be shipped to Kaua'i and turned eventually into the first-ever Hindu temple built in India and constructed in the western hemisphere. The massive San Marga Iraivan Temple, the concrete slab for which has already been poured (68 feet wide by 168 feet long) is the church's current center of attention. In the Hindu ancient scriptures are plans for building temples, some of which have been around for millennia themselves, explained Thondunatha, a guide during last Wednesday's visit to the church arranged by the Rotary Club of Poipu Beach. According to Thondunatha, Gurudeva came to Kaua'i to be away from the rest of the world, and because this is the place he saw in one of his visions.

While over 75 percent of the congregation lives in Asia, India, Singapore and other countries, the monks travel there to do their mission work, Thondunatha explained.

"But we always come back to Kaua'i, because this is the place that we love," he said.

He estimates it will take 3.2 million pounds of granite to finish the temple. Nearly 100 carvers use hammers and chisels to do the work, and assistants by hand sharpen 3,000 chisels a day for the work, Thondunatha continued. One of the top pieces of the temple, an 11-ton work of art already on the Wailua property, took six years to complete. It takes two workers eight years to carve special pillars of the open-air temple which make distinct musical sounds when struck with mallets. On May 31, a ceremonial first stone will be laid at the temple, marking the start of construction of the temple that will overlook a section of the Wailua River which has a natural pool on church property. The church is negotiating with AMFAC to obtain an additional 400 ACRES of adjacent land, said Thondunatha.

The entire temple is being financed through public donations, and so far Hindus in 54 countries have contributed. What will cost the church $16 million for fabricating the white granite pieces in India would cost $160 million to accomplish in the United States, he said. While the temple won't be dedicated until $16 million is raised, already being set aside as an endowment to operate and maintain the temple in perpetuity is 50 cents of each dollar donated. Some $50,000 a month is donated now, Thondunatha noted. He estimates that between six and seven more years of carving in India will be required before the temple's pieces will be completed there.

The centerpiece of the temple will be a 700-pound, 39-inch-tall, uncut quartz crystal, believed to be the largest six-sided, single-pointed crystal ever found. Followers believe crystal grants spiritual wishes. It currently tests in a small temple on the Wailua grounds.

Some 4,000 stones will be shipped from India to complete the temple. Also included in the temple will be a time capsule to be opened 1,000 years from the temple's dedication date. The capsule will include, Thondunatha said, issues of The Garden Island, as well as instructions on how to build a new temple, as well as other information. "Hindus believe in reincarnation," he said. "I'm planning on coming back to see" the opening of the time capsule. He envisions one possible problem, though: Y3K.

The 50-acre grounds include enough space for the monks to grow most of the vegetables they eat. Five milk cows share space with 400 kinds of ginger, haleconia, ti leaves, and 36 varieties of bananas, including one from South America that is 60feet tall. About 60 Rotarians and guests made the trip up Kuamo'o road to the Church


Spring, 2004

A Pilgrimage in Paradise

by Jon Letman

Huddling in the center of the open green and white canvas pavilion which flaps in morning wind, they are dressed in sarongs and silk pajamas, some with matted dread locks and thick beards like the ascetics that wander the Himalayas.

In from the rain walks a slender yogi (Hindu monk), swathed in yellow robes. The yogi's head is shaved and across his brow are three horizontal stripes of holy ash, signifying his devotion to God and his south Indian spiritual lineage, called Saiva Siddhanta, In the center of his forehead is a tillika -- a circle of sandal paste representing the "third eye."

One woman asks if they are considered pilgrims to which the yogi replies, "Surely you are, for you have prepared long to come here." This scene, however, takes place not in India, but on the Hawaiian island of Kauai where the world's only south Indian style Chola temple outside of the sub-continent is being built. Just upstream from the Fern Grotto, where Elvis's "Blue Hawaii" was filmed, twenty-one monks from six countries live quietly, engrossed in prayer and meditation, with a bit of gardening, desk top publishing and the occasional temple tour.

Kauai's Hindu Monastery was established in 1970 by Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, affectionately known as Gurudeva and is steadily gaining recognition around the world, both as a beautiful place of worship and a bridge between East and West.

Guided tours, always conducted by a junior monk, are held several times a month attracting visitors as diverse as crystal healers, law students, local surfers, sari-clad Indian grandmothers and plump middle-aged tourists in garish Aloha shirts.

Following introductions, the yogi speaks briefly about Gurudeva, who was born in California in 1927. As a young man, Gurudeva studied dance and became the premier danseur in the San Francisco Ballet, but left America at the pinnacle of his career in 1946 to travel to India and later Sri Lanka.

After his own initiation by his satguru (teacher of truth), Gurudeva went on to help build 37 Hindu temples in places as far flung as Fiji, London, Anchorage, Sri Lanka and Denmark. Gurudeva also led pilgrimages and established the Himalayan Academy, as he fueled enthusiasm for Hinduism around the world until his death in 2001.

The discussion of Gurudeva leads to a basic introduction to Hinduism (see side bar) after which the yogi ushers the group to the Kadavul Temple where Nandi, a 32,000 pound black granite bull stands at the entrance, The imposing lava rock temple is built on the site of a 1929 plantation bungalow and sits adjacent to a traditional Japanese-style house built in the same era which today houses the monastery's offices and library.

From the temple, the group is lead past a sacred pool surrounded by ficus bonsais, coconut palms and breadfruit trees. A few steps away, all stop at a dramatic overlook which the yogi refers to as "our million dollar view." This spot, which the Hawaiians named Pihana Kalani"where heaven touches earth," is an arresting vantage point into the heart of Kauai. After heavy rains (almost daily), when the clouds part (almost never), over fifty waterfalls can be seen plummeting like strands of fine silk from the green peak of Mt. Waiale'ale, one of the wettest spots on earth.

The verdant hillside is overgrown with giant ape (ah-pay), Jurassic-sized philodendron, ferns, taro and ti plants which blanket the basin that drops down to a waterfall and pool the Hawaiians call Nani Kaua-"beautiful rain:' This is where Polynesian paradise meets the idyllic beauty of Shangri-la depicted in Indian religious postcards.

Here the yogi points to recently acquired abandoned sugar cane fields across the Wailua River, adding that the monks have planted 2,200 coconut palms along with native Hawaiian koa trees, milo, mahogany and monkey pod which are grown for their spiritual and cultural significance along with their uses as medicinal and fragrant trees.

As well-tended as any botanical garden, the temple grounds are a sensuous feast of tropical beauty with paths leading through a rainbow of hanging orchids, gingers, fruit trees, succulents, cacti and a world class collection of palms, bromeliads, heliconia and South Asian introductions like neem, camphor and sandalwood, Lily pads float in a lava rock pool and on a nearby pedestal, a pot bellied bronze Ganesh (the elephant headed god) holds an umbrella.

"Ganesh heard about all the rain we get in Wailua, so he brought his umbrella," jokes the yogi.

Walking through a grove of towering green-striped bamboo, the group is led beneath a rare blue jade vine in full bloom which hangs from branches like a fishing net laden with catch. As they approach the San Marga Iraivan Temple which is now under construction, the yogi explains how 3 million pounds of granite are being hand carved in south India and fit together one giant stone at a time on site in Wailua.

"These days, most temples are made of brick or concrete. People want it and they want it now," remarks the yogi, "but we told our workers, take your time."

First envisioned by Gurudeva in 1975, the building of the only granite Chola-style temple anywhere outside of India has been a gradual process which has included planting forests and orchards, building a village for the stone cutters and of course, raising funds. The 197-foot long concrete temple base alone costs almost $500,000, due to exacting engineering requirements.

One of the most remarkable features of the Iraivan temple is the enormous 700-pound, six-sided milk-white crystal which stands over three feet tall. The crystal, called a Shivalingam, literally "mark of Shiva" is an icon of Lord Shiva, who represents the absolute reality of the divine. This rare gem is the focal point of prayer and meditation in the sanctum sanctorum of the Kauai temple Discovered in Arkansas in 1975, this unique crystal is held in highest esteem not only because of its unprecedented size, but also because of its natural form, called svayambhu sphatika in Sanskrit, "self-created crystal," which means it was formed by nature and not carved by man.

Presently, the temple has already taken on a distinctive south Indian form with twelve of its forty pillars erected. Carved with images of Hindu gods, depictions of yoga and Hawaiian plants like pua kenikeni and taro, the pillars gracefully combine Hinduism and Hawaiiana in stone.

"Blasting with dynamite may cause small fractures inside the stone and so they are all hand cut," says the yogi, indicating the slabs of grey granite which are being meticulously chipped away by Indian stone cutters, contracted to work on the project in Kauai for two-year stints. Simultaneously, in a village outside of Bangalore, India, seventy-five stone masons are sculpting stones for Kauai's Hindu Temple with completion expected around 2009.

As the steady clink-clink-clink of the stone cutters fades behind them, the pilgrims tramp through a stand of sacred Himalayan rudraksha trees whose bubble gum blue seeds carpet the forest floor like marbles. These seeds are the source for the mala bead rosaries worn by Hindus world wide.

Continuing down to the river, the group passes through a grove of Mindanao gum trees (Eucalyptus degulpta) with their psychedelic camouflage bark pattern of lavender, lime, emerald, orange and brown. The muddy trail weaves beneath giant palm fronds, ferns and clumps of giant heliconia standing deep in the Hawaiian jungle.

With the yogi at their side, the pilgrims begin their ascent to a wooden meditation pavilion where they are left to contemplate their surroundings in silence. Relaxed, rested and ready to continue, the group follows the yogi past fan-like traveler's palms and giant tree ferns until they reach the upper temple complex where they again gather beneath the canvas pavilion to collect literature about the temple and Hinduism.

The rain has finally let up and the late morning sun now pierces the jungle canopy. Listening patiently, the yogi is showered with a deluge of questions.

'Why did Gurudeva chose Kauai for this temple" asks one,

"How can I center my life," still another.

And one pilgrim wants to know, "How come Ganesh has an elephant's head"

For some this is simply where the tour ends, for others it is where the journey begins.

The New York Times

Religion Journal

February 7, 2004

For Temple, 1,600 Tons, 8,000 Miles and 1,000 Years


WAILUA, Kauai - The barefoot man from Bangalore, India, wedged a woolly coconut husk underneath a 400-pound block of stone and began rocking it into place, chanting "aisha, aisha" to keep his rhythm with each little shove.

His workmates marked the stone using a sliver of bamboo daubed with red oxide, checked their line with a builder's square and a piece of string, and turned it back to the stone mover, who gave it two strategic taps with a hammer and a rough iron chisel before cleaving away the excess with a single decisive blow.

This looks like India, but it is the Hawaiian island of Kauai, where members of the Saiva Siddhanta Church are erecting a white granite temple to the Hindu god Siva that fulfills the vision of their guru and is intended to last 1,000 years.

For this act of devotion, every single piece of stone - 1,600 tons in all - is being pulled from the earth by hand in India and carved into intricately detailed blocks using nothing but hammer and iron chisel.

The pieces are then shipped 8,000 miles to the church's

headquarters on Kauai, where six Indian stonemasons, called silpis (pronounced SFIIL-pees), and their supervising architect fit them together like mystical Lincoln Logs. When it is finished, the temple will measure roughly 90 by 150 feet and will stand 36 feet high from its foundation to the top of its gold-leafed capstone.

"The monks thought it was a really wild idea to have a temple of this size," Sadhaka Haranandinatha, one of the monks in the monastery that serves as the church's headquarters and also head of the temple fund-raising project, said about the guru's idea for the temple. "But we took it as a directive from Siva."

Carving began in India in 1990, and construction is expected to continue through at least 2010. The temple is being financed solely by donations, church officials said, with $6 million of the total $16 million required already raised from 8,000 people in 55 countries. For every dollar put toward construction, a dollar goes into a maintenance endowment.

The partly finished San Marga Iraivan Temple sparkles like a diamond against the lush green backdrop of Mount Waialeale, presiding over a bend in the Wailua River.

On a recent day, the silpis were assembling one of the final courses, or layers, of the temple's great dome. The seven-ton capstone is scheduled to be raised in mid-April, finishing off the inner sanctum where the monks will place their most sacred object: a 700-pound naturally formed crystal that stands three feet tall and is interpreted as a mark of Lord Siva.

Then the artisans - 70 of them in a village outside Bangalore will focus on the temple's hall and the fantastic feats of carving the monks call the wonderments: lions cradling balls in their mouths that can be rolled but not removed; rare musical pillars that will play tones when struck; a bell and chain with moveable links.

"These are mystical codings to make a connection to the celestial world," said Sadhaka Jothinatha, a monk, who explained that every detail - lion faces, the small men carved into the temple's base, and its proportionality, all based on a measurement of 11 feet, 71/4 inches that is derived from the guru's astrology - are messages to the gods. Hundreds of temples serve the more than one million Hindus estimated to live in the United States today. But the San Marga Iraivan Temple may be one of the most elaborate.

Indian communities often bring artisans and priests from India to work with local contractors and have ritually important architectural elements carved in India, said Phillip B. Wagoner, an art history professor at Wesleyan University.

Kauai's Saiva Siddhanta Church, an organization within Hinduism's Saiva denomination of Siva worshipers, is not the product of a transported Indian community, but of ."a California-born guru, Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, who founded his monastery here in 1970. Five years later, the guru, who has since died, reported having a vision of Siva sitting on a rock on the monastery grounds, and decided to enshrine the vision's spiritual power with a grand millennium temple.

Some mystics and architects say that dynamite and machines destroy stone's ability to channel spiritual vibrations, so they were forbidden in the harvest and carving of the stone. Church officials said the guru also hoped that hand methods would help preserve what was then the dying art of stonecutter.

Some critics question the temple's religious significance, saying Hinduism is a matter of birth and inheritance, not of spirituality. Saiva Siddhanta's founding guru and most of the monastery's monks are Westerners who adopted Hinduism. "It's sort of white people's Hinduism," said Lee Siegel, a professor of Indian religions at the University of Hawaii. "It doesn't say much about India or India and the Diaspora. It says something about people of my generation, George Harrison Hindus. Most Indians that I ask about the Hindu temple on Kauai say it's very nice. But in a real Brahminical sense, I don't think it can be taken seriously."

But the stone carvers, most of whom are Hindus, and the Hindus who make up about two-thirds of what church officials estimate at 5,000 visitors a year, do not seem to mind.

"We consider this a holy place," said Say Nagarajah, a young man of Sri Lankan origin who came from Sydney with his wife and stopped by to look at the building and worship at a small existing temple that is part of the monastery.

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The Globe and Mail

Toronto, Canada

A Hindu temple in a Hawaiian paradise

Travelers seek not the god of sun but Siva and serenity at this hand-carved temple

April 24, 2002


I stumbled quite by accident upon a hand-carved stone Hindu temple -- on a Hawaiian island of all places.

In the parking lot of the Radisson Kauai, I overheard a group of tourists say they were off to the Kadavul Hindu Temple -- an attraction not listed among the hotel's pamphlets selling expensive helicopter rides, scuba excursions and tours of Waimea Canyon.

It was New Year's Day, and I was exhausted after being trapped with a bunch of New Age Californians in a pricey package including an evening of whale music, drum-beating and chanting followed by a sunrise baptismal ceremony at the ocean shore. The plan was to greet the New Year by symbolically flushing away any baggage from the previous 12 months. Disappointed, I felt that all I'd flushed away was $240. Even worse, when I returned to the hotel, all the good pastries had been eaten by those guests smart enough to skip the dawn ritual and hightail it straight to the continental breakfast.

But my spirits lifted at the hope that I was on the trail of something genuine; indeed the path led to a spiritual ceremony at the Kadavul Temple founded by another Californian. This time, it was free.

I followed the tourists up Kauai's palm-fringed east coast until their car turned at a small, bougainvillea-covered sign that I would have missed had I not been tailgating them so closely. Fragrant, white plumeria and a statue of the elephant-headed Hindu god, Lord Ganesh marked the entrance to the ashram. Monks in saffron robes smiled and chatted as they led us to a shallow, stone pool of floating lotus blossoms where we dipped our feet before entering the temple.

The temple was stunning. At its entrance were 15-centimeter-thick sandalwood doors flanked by expertly handcrafted stonework. Inside, softly lit shelves held , bronze statues of Lord Siva in 109 dance positions. But the temples most arresting feature was in front of the altar -- a 300-kilogram crystal Siva Lingam brought to the temple from Arkansas in 1987.

The Kadavul Temple was established in 1975 by a young Californian Hindu convert and former dancer for the San Francisco Ballet, who, in his 20s, travelled to Sri Lanka, where he acquired enlightenment and a Hindu name, Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami. Returning to the United States shortly afterward, Gurudeva, as his friends and followers called him, founded the Western world's first Hindu temple in San Francisco.

On a pilgrimage to Kauai in the early seventies, Gurudeva had a vision of Lord Siva that inspired him to build a temple and monastery on that site. Saivism is a branch of the religion practiced by at least half of the world's one billion Hindus. Gurudeva, who died last November (2001) at the age of 74, has been succeeded with a new guru, Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami.

The temple's backdrop is Mount Waialeale (the wettest place in the world, receiving more than 10 meters of precipitation annually) and the lush Wailua Valley, just kilometers from the beaches of South Pacific fame, and time-shares with some of the highest trading values in the world. The tropical site, known as Pihana-Kalani ("where heaven meets earth") is also spiritually significant to native born Hawaiians,

Although you can count on one hand the number of Hindu families on this island of 55,000, each year the temple draws thousands of Saivite Hindu devotees from across the world. While tourists traditionally make the pilgrimage to Hawaii to worship the gods of sun, surf and sand, these travelers come for serenity, solace and Lord Siva.

I expected only a tour of the temple, so was surprised when we were asked to participate in a puja -- Hindu ceremony -- an invitation never extended during my three-months traveling around India. We sat cross-legged on the temple floor, closed our eyes, then wrote prayers on squares of paper.

One of the 25 monks who live year-round in this 451-acre paradise collected the slips of paper and burned them in a small fire. Another smudged everyone's forehead with cool ashes. Like their guru, the monks are all English speaking. Most are Caucasian and from the United States; however, some come from traditionally Hindu countries. The community is supported largely by donations.

After the half-hour ceremony, a monk led us around a few of the botanical gardens' 25 lotus ponds, past varieties of orchids and a forest of multicolored Malaysian painted trees. A fluffy, Himalayan long-hair cat appeared, rubbing up against the monk's robes. The cat's great grandparents were brought to Hawaii from India and soon created generations of progeny whose job it is not only to control the rat population that invades the monastery from the surrounding jungles and sugar cane fields, but also to keep the young monks company when they first arrive.

As young as 18, the monks spend their days meditating, growing their own food and producing an internationally known glossy magazine, Hinduism Today. The magazine carries articles on such topics as how to convert from Christianity or Judaism to Hinduism.

Work is now under way for a second $16-million (U.S.) temple. For the past 10 years, stone carvers in a village outside Bangalore, India, have been hand-quarrying and carving granite into masterpieces, which are being shipped to Kauai to build the San Marga Iraivan Temple.

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