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Published: Saturday, 8/1/2009

Festival offers taste of Indian culture, faith

The Festival of India is known for its rich diversity of food, music, dance, and costumes. But for Pandit Anant Dixit and the temple's 200 members, the upcoming event also offers a golden opportunity to educate visitors about their ancient faith.

"By inviting the community at large to participate and to observe ancient traditions of worshipping God in this holy abode during the festival time, it gives them an opportunity to observe the religious part and not just the traditional dance and the music and the food," Pandit Dixit said.

The festival is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the inauguration of the Hindu Temple and Heritage Hall on King Road in Sylvania.

This year's theme is "Jhalak: A Glimpse of India." Pandit Dixit said the concept is to give people a sample of Indian culture the way stores will give visitors a sample of candy or ice cream. The hope is that the visitor will enjoy the taste and desire more.

Guests can worship with the Hindus or simply observe the ceremonies, whichever they prefer, the pandit said. The temple also will open its doors for tours throughout the weekend.

Each day of the festival, which starts at 6 p.m. Friday and continues through Aug. 9, begins with a "puja," or prayer ceremony.

The first prayer will be a Ganesh puja, honoring the elephant-headed deity Sri Ganesha in hopes of removing obstacles to spiritual awakening.

The Aug. 8 festival opens with a Venkateshwara puja and a Satyanarayana puja, and the Aug. 9 activities will begin with a Mahavir puja followed by a Havan ceremony.

Hinduism, which has more than 800 million adherents worldwide, is the product of 5,000 years of development and has no founder or prophet.

While it is a monotheistic religion that professes one true God, there are millions of deities.

Pandit Dixit said Hindu deities represent the many aspects and attributes of God.

"The absolute truth or ultimate reality is one God. But that ultimate reality is seen in different ways," he said. "God has endless attributes and aspects, and depending on that particular aspect we call God different names."

He used gold and jewelry as an analogy to represent God and his many different attributes.

"From gold we can make so many different kinds of ornaments. You can make a ring to put on your finger, or you can use gold to make earrings, or a necklace. Same gold, different names," he said.

One highlight of the festival will be the unveiling of a 10-foot-by-10-foot mural depicting Lord Krishna delivering a divine message of the Bhagavad Gita, or Hindu holy book.

The mural, which will be unveiled at 7 p.m. Friday, was created by Toledo artist Paul Geiger, who also created the large mural in the Valentine Theatre lobby.



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