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History of the Hindu Society of Saskatchewan

The University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon has attracted students from India since 1950s. In
early sixties, many people from India joined the faculty of the University of Saskatchewan.
These were later followed by medical and other professionals.
In 1966, a need was felt by a few people of the Hindu community in Saskatoon to start some
activities in order to satisfy their religious aspirations. They started meeting regularly at the
residence of Nirmal and Narendra Bakhshi. The activities included bhajan-kirtan, readings from
Bhagvad Gita, Deewali Pooja etc.
By a fortunate circumstance, Swami Ranganathananda Ji, a senior monk of the Ramakrishna
Order of India, visited Saskatoon in February 1969. He stayed with Dr. M. L. Dasgupta and Dr.
N.N. Bakhshi and gave a highly thought-provoking talk on "Man's Spiritual Life in the Light of
the 20th Century Scientific Thought". The Swami was told of the "Satsang" and was asked for
guidance. His suggestion was that these "satsangs" should be regularized and books such as "The
Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna", Message of the "Upanishads" and "Bhagvad Gita' should be read
regularly. The Swami visited the Hindu community in Saskatoon again in February 1972.
In September 1972, the Hindu group had the privilege of having Swami Bhashyananda Ji, a
senior monk of the Ramakrishna Order of India and the Swami-in-charge of the Vivekananda
Vedanta Society, Chicago. He gave talks before the group and met a few interested persons
individually. Swami Ji's visits became yearly. These visits were organized by Dr. Bakhshi and
Hindu group to formalize the 'Satsang' activities. Thus, the Vedanta Society of Saskatchewan
was formed and incorporated on June 20, 1977. The first executive included: Dr. and Mrs. N. N.
Bakhshi, Mr. M. Bhutani, and Dr. and Mrs. H. L. Dhingra. Dr. Dhingra was asked to assume the
chair and became the first president of the society. At the time, it was also decided to celebrate
"The Krishna Janmashtami" function annually with great éclat. The first Janmashtami
celebrations were held at the Adam Ballroom of the Hotel Bessborough in September 1977 and
Swami Swahananda Ji of the Vedanta Society of South California was invited as the speaker for
this function.
As the number of devotees grew, the religious gatherings could no longer be accommodated in
private homes. The meetings were, therefore, moved to the Unitarian Church at the corner of
10th Street and Eastlake Avenue. The Society also started celebrating the other major Hindu
festivals.
In 1980-82 Dr. N. N. Bakhshi was installed as the second president of the society. At this time, it
was felt that we should have a place of worship of our own. Towards the end of 1981, an old
church on the 5th Street East, which was being used as a pottery, was acquired. To allow the
Society time to raise funds, the Padmanabh family initially purchased the building privately, the
title was later transferred to the Society when sufficient funds had accumulated - a significant
donation made by the Padmanabhs.
The "Satsang" began to be held weekly instead of once in a month. During the term of the next
president, Dr. U. P. Rege (1981-83), certain renovations to the old building were undertaken and
largely due to his efforts, sufficient funds were raised to pay off the full cost of the Temple, the
Society thus gaining clear title to the property. Dr. Rege also formalized the Pooja procedures
and he and his wife, Mrs. K. Rege, compiled the book of prayers and hymns that is being used at
the temple even now. The opening ceremony of this Temple was performed by Swami
Vishwatma Bawra Ji of Brahmarishi Ashram, Virat Nagar, Pinjore, Haryana, India.
In 1983, Dr. Rege was succeeded as President by Dr. M.M. Gupta. It became soon apparent that
larger premises were required to accommodate the growing number of devotees, especially
during the major celebrations. Accordingly, a committee was set up to consider the matter and it
recommended the sale of the property on 5th Street East and the building of a new Temple, as far
as possible in the Hindu architectural style. One of the first acts of the new Board of Directors
was to acquire a plot of land on La Range Road with the proceeds of the sale of the 5th Street
East Temple. Mrs. P. Padmanabh was entrusted with the task of studying the feasibility of the
project and fund raising. She later on served also as the coordinator of the actual construction of
the new Temple. The Bhoomi Pooja (dedication of the land) was performed on the auspicious
occasion of Ramanavami on Aprils, 1984 by Swami Bhashyananda of the Vivekananda Vedanta
Society of Chicago.
It was attended not only by the large number of people from the East Indian community, but also
by many city officials, including the Mayor of Saskatoon, His Worship Mr. C. Wright. The
Mayor and Swami Bhashyananda Ji performed the ground-breaking rites. The ceremony was
also witnessed by the representatives and well-wishers from the other faiths. Pending the
construction of the new Temple, prayer meetings began to be held at the Saskatoon Field House.
The initial designs were drawn by Mr. B. Mathur and Dr. K. Sareen. The multi sided concept of
their original design was adopted for the final lay-out. Mr. Bergerman was appointed as the
architect and drew up the architectural drawings based on the design and model submitted by Mr.
D. Panko. The Temple construction was started on Aug. 7, 1984 by Protask Construction
Limited with interim financing by the Bank of Montreal. The Temple was formally opened on
March 31, 1985 on the Ramanavami Day, a little less than a year from the dedication ceremony.
At that time, of the total cost of approximately three hundred forty thousand dollars, about two
hundred and fifteen thousand dollars were collected through donations and the balance of the
funds were obtained by a Royal Trust Mortgage and a bank loan secured through the Bank of
Montreal and doctors A. Thakur, K. Thakur, K. Rao, U. Bhalerao, and S. Padmanabh and Mrs. P.
Padmanabh.
Following a visit to Jaipur specifically for selecting the moortis (idols) by Mrs. P. Padmanabh,
the beautiful hand-carved marble moortis from India arrived in Saskatoon on Jan. 29, 1985. The
First Pooja in the new Temple was performed by Swami Bawra Ji on March 31, 1984.
In 1986, under the chairmanship of Dr. Padmanabh, a small committee whose other members
were Mr. Om Saini and Dr. R.L. Kushwaha, looked into an amendment of the Constitution. On
the 20th of July’ 1986, a special General Body Meeting was called to establish a change in the
name of the Society from 'Vedanta Society of Saskatchewan' to HINDU SOCIETY OF
SASKATCHEWAN. It was also decided at this meeting to elect a Board of Trustees. This
change was officially effective from August 8, 1986.
In April of 1987 a Board of Trustees consisting of 4 members plus the President and the
Treasurer of the Society, was set up to deal with the financial aspects and concerns of the Temple
management. The first four trustees were Dr. Dhingra, Dr. Avinashi, Dr. Khandelwal, and Mr. K.
Krishan. Trustees have been involved in organizing several fund-raising functions including
Annual Garage Sale & Vegetarian Banquet.
In March of 1989, a special committee was set up to make some changes in the Constitution of
the Society in keeping with the growing needs and demands of the Society, this committee was
comprised of the following members: Dr. S. Padmanabh, Dr. R. Avinashi, Dr. B. Sinha, Dr. J.
Datta, and Mr. R. Manek. The appropriate changes were formulated and presented by this
committee to the General Body in April 1989, when the changes were approved and ultimately
included in the revised constitution.
On January 7, 1990 during the term of Mrs. V. Avinashi as President, we crossed yet another
milestone in the history of the Temple. At a General Body Meeting called specifically for the
purpose of discussing the purchase of the lot adjacent to the Temple- it was unanimously agreed
that for future expansion and development of the Temple we should go ahead and purchase this
lot. Later this lot was purchased and amalgamated with the first lot.
The Temple has become a place not only of worship but also of forging ever stronger bonds
within itself and with other communities. Marriages have been solemnized and special prayer
meetings have been held at the time of sorrow, providing a place of joy as well as solace. A
Temple choir have been formed. Hindi, Gujarati, and Yoga classes have been held and
devotional concerts have been presented at the Temple. The varied cultural activities have
included the Bal Bharati Sunday School, Thyagraja festival, and Gita study group. Many special
religious functions such as Navaratri, Durga Pooja, Ramanavami, Krishna Janmashtami, Raksha
Bandhan, Saraswati Pooja, Pongal, Holi, Satyanarayana Katha etc. are being celebrated
regularly. Many distinguished visitors and holy men have imparted their wisdom within the
precincts of the Temple. Periodically, on Children's Day children are encouraged to conduct the
entire service in order that they get first hand experience of Temple activities.
In 1992, new Bhajan books were printed in Jaipur and brought to the temple. In the same year
Hindu Society printed-out its 1st yearly calendar which had the picture of the Lakshmi-Narayan
of the temple. Also, Mrs. Leela Sharma, President of the that year bought Ramayan books from
India.
As is known, the first World Parliament of Religions was held in Chicago in 1893 where Swami
Vivekananda for the first time presented Hinduism to the world religious organizations. In order
to commemorate the 1OOth year celebrations of Parliament of Religion, celebrations were
organized in conjunction with the Department of Religious Studies (courtesy Dr. Sinha). Very
prominent speakers gave lectures both at the University as well as at the Temple. Amongst them
were the renowned Dr. Cantwell Smith, Dr. Ninian Smart, and Swami Chidananda.
The mortgage of the Temple was completely and fully retired in 1995 during the term of Mr. H.
Avinashi as President. Society bylaws committee was formed with Dr. R. Avinashi, Mr.
Chandran, J. Kalra, R. Manek, Dr. K. Rai and Dr. Nawal Sharma, as Chair. Bylaws were
approved by the General Body on December 15th, 1996.
In 1996-97, a Community Support Group was formed with Dr. J. Kalra as the Chair and a
satellite of Resource People. This group organized a symposium on Cardiac Awareness. It
proved to be a great success and was well attended. The competent discussion leaders were Dr.
N. Sharma, Dr. S. Dhingra, Dr. K. Gowda, Dr. Orchard, Dr. K. Prasad, and Miss. M. Lal.
On occasion of Janmashtami (August 1999) Swami Bawara Ji (from India) and Didi Chaitanya
Jyoti (from Ontario) visited temple and presented various talks on self development. On January
23 and February 13, 1999, two Youth Seminars on various aspects of Hinduism were organized.
It provided great food for thought and stimulation for our young people. Those who attended
were full of praise for the wonderful speakers: Dr. N. N. Bakhshi, Dr. Lakshman, Dr. Gopal, Dr.
Gowda, Dr. Kanchana, Mr. Choubal, Dr. Balachandar and Dr. Sinha. Also in January 1999, a
famous Gazal artist, Raj Kumar Rizvi gave a very impressive concert at the Temple which again
was enjoyed by many devotees. Recently we had two seminars entitled, "Symbols and Icons in
Hinduism" and "Scientific Basis of Hinduism", which was well attended. Our Youth
Representatives Shweta Gowda and Shobhan Vachhrajani collected food for Saskatoon Food
Bank. Approximately $3500 was collected for Orissa Hurricane Relief in India with the help of
Dr. Nawal Sharma and Dr. Ajay Dalai.
It is well to remember that the building of a Temple is never complete. It grows and continues to
change with the community that it nurtures. Attendance also continues to increase. It is
heartening to see that Hindus from other countries are also attending services at the Temple.
Narendra N. Bakhshi
Ramji L. Khandelwal
Veena Avinashi
 
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