|About the Temple|
Sri Venkateswara Temple (S. V. Temple) is located in Penn Hills, an eastern suburb of Pittsburgh, PA, USA. It is one of the earliest Hindu temples to be built in the United States.
S. V. Temple was constructed at an approximate cost of $925,000 with donations raised from more than six thousand devotees from around the country. Most donors were first generation Indian immigrants who were seeking to maintain ties with their mother culture. The ground-breaking ceremony for the Temple took place on June 30, 1976.
S. V. Temple, Pittsburgh is modeled after the famed Venkateswara temple in Tirupati (Andhra Pradesh, India) and it's 7th century architecture.
Essentially, a Hindu temple is constructed according to the Agama Sastras (temple manuals) in the image of the human body. The two sides of the temple represent the hands, and the top of the temple, the head. The deity, in this instance, Venkateswara (Lord of Venkata, and a representation of Vishnu) rests in the innermost recess called the Garbhagraha (sanctum sanctorum). S. V. Temple at Pittsburgh follows the temple texts called Pancharatra Agamas which consist of 108 samhitas (collection).
The Agamas state that Narayana, the eternal Divine Being, should be worshipped in the Archai Rupam (iconic form) in temples and homes. The Hindu devotee believes that divine power has manifested itself in the murti (icon/idol). Major religious events like Kumbhabhishekam are performed to re-energize the murti with Divine Power, which can either be diluted or lost due to transgressions commited unknowingly by the priests or the worshippers. Worshipping the Archai Avatara as Hari gives the devotees access to God and His Power.
Agamic rules require a temple priest to serve and act as an intermediary between the worshipper and God. The Vaishnava temple priests are referred to as Bhaktacharya, Bhattacharya or simply Bhattar. They come from families with temple priesthood as their traditional occupation, and they learn their skills from a young age.
Four priests permanently reside at the S. V. temple, some with their families. All the daily and weekly rituals are performed by these priests. Special occassions (Kumbhabhishekam, for instance) demand the presence of more priests, who are then brought from other temples in the United States or from India.
There are several types of worships performed at the Temple:
Observance of Purity
A Hindu devotee follows certain minimal rules regarding the maintenance of purity on hallowed, sacred ground. Firstly it is a given that a Hindu will enter the temple only after a bath. Physical purity is symbolic of the mental state of the Hindu devotee while entering the house of God. Secondly, all devotees and visitors are required to remove their footwear before entering the temple.
There are two entrances to the temple. The first is via Rajagopuram (the main domed entrance) which is open only during special occasions. The second entrance is via the lobby and the main office where archana and other puja tickets can be purchased.
Mural from the Bhagavad Gita
Upon ascending the stairs from the lobby, to the immediate right, you will see a life-size mural from the Bhagavad Gita (the Divine Song).