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US NEWS: Troy Hindu temple honors Lord Shiva in Maha Shivaratri celebration

H induism is the third-largest religion in the world and Maha Shivaratri is one of its largest festivals, also known as The Great Nigh...


Hinduism is the third-largest religion in the world and Maha Shivaratri is one of its largest festivals, also known as The Great Night of Shiva. This day honors Lord Shiva in remembrance of overcoming darkness and ignorance.
Hindus celebrate the festival of Maha Shivaratri once a year, usually during the 11th month of the Hindu calendar — this year on March 4.  
Inside the Hindu Bharatiya Temple in Troy, the bull Nandi guards the door to Shiva. Many people pray to Nundi to one day have passage through the door, says Sukla Dohi, a member of the temple’s board of trustees. Dohi has been worshiping at the temple since it was built. The temple celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2016.
The Bharatiya Temple in Troy, Mich., has been the community center for Hindu worship for more than 40 years. It is known as the oldest Hindu temple in Michigan — and possibly the country. (Courtesy Bhartiya Temple)
In his human form, Lord Shiva wears a snake as a necklace and tiger skin for a skirt. Shiva is looked up to as the ultimate male and his wife as the ultimate female. Dohi says this temple specifically worships his manifested form but not all temples do. Some temples around the world worship his human form.

In Bharatiya Temple, the Shiva Linga is the avatar body that Shiva has transformed himself to. Linga is a Sanskrit word meaning symbol.

Maha Shivaratri celebrates Lord Shiva overcoming
darkness and ignorance.
He avatar form, Shiva Linga, is worshiped
at the Hindu Bharatiya Temple in
Troy. (Courtesy Bharatiya Temple)
“We celebrate Shiva, who has manifested himself in this abstract form, and we worship the manifested shape,” Dohi says. “The shape is halfway between a form and formless. There is a shape, but then the next step is to worship and think of God as nothing, as formless.”

The abstract form is a combination of female and male.

“In a way, it’s a creation,” she says. “The bottom is female and the top is male. He and his wife, Durga, are considered to be the ultimate male and female.”

During the celebration, devotees fast for 24 hours and worship in the temple by chanting, praying, meditating. The Shiva Linga is bathed 11 times with water, milk, yogurt, honey, sugar, fruit juices then finally ashes. He is then dressed and decorated with flowers that worshipers offer, then keep vigil all night. A golden pot filled with water dangles above the Shiva Linga and, for 24 hours, steadily drips.

“Shiva Linga will take a new form at some point, once this is over he goes back to his original human form,” Dohi says.

This transformation happens to humans when your soul leaves whatever avatar it's in and manifests into another form.

The Bharatiya Temple has been the community center for Hindu worship for more than 40 years. Hindus in this area originally started gathering in basements before deciding together to purchase land to build a temple. The Bharatiya Temple is now known as the oldest Hindu temple in Michigan — and possibly the country.  

Hinduism originated in India. The faithful worship different deities, both gods and goddesses. The Bharatiya Temple is unique, as it houses several deities, to appeal to the whole community.

“Each region of India has a specific deity to represent that part of the country, India” Dohi explains. “We want to be open to everyone.”

The original name of Hinduism is Sanatana Dharma, meaning Eternal Dharma, and is believed to be the oldest religion known to man, Dohi says.

The local Hindu temple believes in nonduality, meaning God created man out of Him, therefore a spark of God is inside each person.

“That deity is our soul and our souls are indestructible because that is part of God,” she says. “So all human beings have the potential to be divine.”

In order to establish dharma and righteousness, Hinduism has a trilogy of deities — the creator, Brahma, the preserver, Vishnu and the destroyer, Shiva. These make up the Trimurti, Sanskrit for three forms, of divinity in Hinduism.

Each of the male gods has a female consort, which has equal respect.

“We recognize that without the female divinity, the creation cannot be,” Dohi says. “God is male and creation is female. We need man and woman to create and preserve.”

The cornerstones of Hinduism are peace, nonviolence and that the unending cycle of life through reincarnation into different forms.

• FYI: Bharatiya Temple is at 6850 N. Adams Road, Troy, Mich. For more information, call 248-879-2552 or visit troy-temple.org.

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