The first fundraising Diwali Gala dinner for the Radha Krishna Temple of North Carolina was a grand success! With a house full of 260 people at Cary, NC, it was a delightful evening with top-notch Bollywood music, Swamiji’s inspiring keynote speech, delicious food, and a Dandiya raas.
The beautifully decorated venue was perfectly set to host the very first grand gala Diwali event. Guests, dressed in their finest festive attires, looked forward to an exciting evening. The first edition of Yagna, the temple’s magazine, was handed out to guests upon arrival.
The evening started with the lamp lighting by an esteemed community leader and a founder of the Hindu Society of North Carolina (HSNC). North Carolina Senator, Jay Chaudhuri, the son of Indian immigrants, made opening remarks. He spoke about the immigrant experience and the challenges of carrying forward the cultural heritage with succeeding generations. He shared Swamiji’s vision for the community and Indian culture and eagerly offered his support to JKYog for this endeavor.
The highlight of the evening was the guest of honor, Swami Mukundananda’s enlightening keynote address. The audience listened with rapt attention as Swamiji explained the role of a temple in the Indian culture, where God was central to every activity. Some excerpts from Swamiji’s speech are shared below.
“A temple invokes devotion within us… helps us to see Radha Krishna in all. Temples are also the seat of culture where various art forms such as music, architecture, literature, dance, etc. are promoted in an attempt to glorify God…. When we bow down to the deity in the temple, we are also inviting God into our heart and life; we ask Him to guide us so that our life is led in service to God and Guru.
“Material sciences provide us the knowledge to maintain a healthy body in terms of proper diet, physical activity, sleep, etc. while spiritual knowledge is important for the journey of the soul… The focus of Indian spirituality has always been on inner growth and development… And this is why the Center of Human Excellence is being launched. Its aim is to promote holistic health—with a focus on both the physical and spiritual components. We are able to do this because of the generous donation of one family who donated the land and the building on it.
“The temple becomes the nucleus of society and gives us an opportunity to serve selflessly… By so doing, it brings together people from different walks of life, where age, status, profession, gender, etc. are made irrelevant. Everyone walks in with the thought of ‘What can I give?’ instead of ‘What can I get?’ because there are no limits to how much we can give in divine love… It said that in giving to the divine, the Lord does not see what we give, He sees the love with which it is given… So, let us give and support the construction of this temple.”
Upon hearing Swamiji’s address, one attendee remarked:
“I was not a fan of temples until Swamiji just explained their significance. No one had taught me that one goes to the temple with the intention of giving to the divine instead of asking Him for material things. What a 180-degree difference in attitude and an eye-opener! I pledge my support to Swamiji and this temple!”
Swamiji’s address was followed by a detailed presentation that included the mission of the temple, the multiple ways in which the temple would serve the community, the role of the Center for Human Excellence, and the ways in which the community can support the temple.
Many attendees supported the temple construction by becoming temple members or by pledging to donate bricks for the temple. Others participated in a silent auction where Indian artifacts and paintings were auctioned to raise funds.
This was followed by Bollywood entertainment. The perfectly synchronized talented team of local artists entertained the audience all night long by singing popular Indian songs with gusto and passion. By directly engaging the guests in the live performance they increased the enjoyment quotient manifold. The carefully selected and beautifully sung song selection showed the dedication of the artists.
After dinner, the live music changed to Navratri beats. Guests immediately took to the dance floor. The music, the dancing, the laughter and merriment created a magical ambiance. In the words of a couple of guests:
“The whole atmosphere was vibrant with glorious songs and dances – it appeared like Vrindavan.”
“I attended the Diwali-Navratri gala event for the Radha Krishna Temple of North Carolina in the divine presence of Swamiji. I felt privileged to be a part of this amazing event. Overall, it was a joyful experience.
I was deeply touched by Swamiji’s speech, especially the example of the watermelon at Jagannath Puri. It shows us how a watermelon, or any item, initially worth Rs 10, could really be worth one million when divine power is involved. The farmer made the sacrifice of one million and offered it to the Lord with pure love. The Lord reciprocated as his crown fell at the feet of the farmer indicating He was indebted to the farmer for his love and sacrifice.
The story made my hair stand on it ends. I felt the divine energy flowing throughout the entire event!
Dr. Sanjeev Aggrawal
After seeing off the last guest, the entire volunteer team, who had worked so hard for months to make this event happen, spent some relaxed moments with Swamiji.