The Shree Swaminarayan Gadi Temple in Secaucus celebrated its 18th anniversary with a three-day festival, showcasing the message and culture of the religious community it serves. Since its founding, the temple has served as headquarters to more than 50 cultural temples throughout North America, and is a crucial cultural and religious fixture for many Indian Americans in Hudson County.
Leaders at the local and state level and many Secaucus residents attended the event, which featured Hindu spirituality in many forms, including traditional worship, performing arts, fireworks, a vegetarian Indian feast, and a team of monks devoted to spreading a message of peace and unity.
The weekend of festivities kicked off on Aug. 2 with a visit from Acharya Swamishree Maharaj, who flew in from India on his annual tour of North America. He and an entourage of monks are touring 22 U.S. states. Acharyas, known less formally as teachers or gurus, are important religious leaders. The term Acharya is used in in both Hinduism and Buddhism.
Hindu Acharyas typically lead by example in the practices of dharma (a spiritual code of conduct); ahimsa (nonviolence to all living beings, including animals); and brahmacharya (renunciation of sex, marriage, and material joy in favor of spiritual practice).
Music, dancing, and the devine
Acharya Swamishree Maharaj led a Youth Day program, which included musical performances, religious skits, and speeches by young members of the temple. Youth Day concluded with ice cream and a fireworks display.
Saturday was celebrated with religious discourses and cultural programs, which included singing, dancing, instrumental performances, and acting. All the programs were presented by temple members ages 5 to 35.
Sunday, Aug. 4, was the official anniversary of the temple, which held a grand opening in 2001.
A ceremony was held to replace the flags that fly on the traditional Indian Shikhars, which were custom-made in the U.S.
The temple’s own band of Hindu bagpipers, the Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa Bag Pipe Band, performed a mashup of bagpipe renditions of American, Indian, and Hindu music throughout the day. Secaucus might be the only place you’ll find Hindus in kilts.
The bagpipers, young and old, use music as a means of celebrating spirituality inside the temple and in parades and charity events, donning kilts and other accessories rooted in both Scottish and Indian tradition. They have their own takes on everything from movie soundtracks and Billboard toppers to traditional Hindu music.
Acharya Swamishree Maharaj spoke, highlighting the Secaucus temple’s history and involvement with the community. He also spoke about the importance of community service and other principles that members of the temple should follow.
The temple marked its anniversary with donations to Hudson County charities. Speakers included State Senator/North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco, Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli, Hudson County Sheriff Frank Schillari, New Jersey Leadership Program President Amit Jani, New York Indian Consulate Dr. Dayashankar Vidyalankar, and Hackensack University Medical Center Cardiologist Michael Cohen.