films such as South Pacific, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Jurassic Park
have been filmed there. Kauai, a small island of sun, sand beaches and
indescribable beauty, is the oldest of the Hawaiian Islands and one of
the most uncommercialised travel destinations. Hawaiians call it Pihanakalani,
"where Heaven touches the Earth". Could this lush island also
become a Hindu pilgrimage spot?
MESSAGE BEARER: (from above) Kadavul Hindu Temple; Subramuniyaswami
with Bodhinatha; the quartz crystal lingam
After all, it is home of the Kauai Aadheenam, also known as the Hindu
Monastery, with the Kadavul Hindu Temple and the future site of San Marga
Iraivan Temple. It is the headquarters of Saiva Siddhanta Church established
by a tall, colourful American with a flowing white beard, clad in saffron,
who unleashed a Hindu renaissance, teaching American Hindus as well as
first generation Indian-Americans about their faith, and helping to build
scores of temples outside India.
Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, 74, who had terminal cancer, died last
month after undertaking Prayopavesa, or a self-imposed fast. The author
and spiritual leader, born to an American family, lost his parents at
the age of 11. He was raised by a family with Indian connections and went
to India in search of spirituality. Sage Yogaswami, the leading guru of
Sri Lanka, ordained Subramuniyaswami into his lineage in 1948, when he
renounced his American name. As successor to Yogaswami, he became a spiritual
leader of the Tamils of Sri Lanka and founded the Saiva Siddhanta Church
Subramuniyaswami opened the first Hindu temple in America, and in 1960
initiated his first monastic disciples and opened centres in Nevada and
California. From his ashram in Hawaii, the Kauai Aadheenam, he set out
to bring Saivism to the western world.
Regarded as the hereditary guru of 2.5 million Sri Lankan Hindus, Subramuniyaswami
established the Hindu Heritage Endowment to meet the needs of the burgeoning
Hindu Diaspora. He also guided the construction of dozens of temples among
Hindu communities outside India, from Malaysia to Fiji, including the
first Hindu temple in Anchorage, Alaska.
Superfan Nav Bhatia boosts the Raptors
at basketball, and the Indian community otherwise
Many Toronto fans know him by sight. Dressed in his turban,
jumping animatedly, screaming raucously, waving balloons and
towels, this man is impossible to miss, and a permanent fixture
at every Raptors game. In Toronto, he is known as the Superfan.
His family, though, had christened him Nav Bhatia.
Basketball is an obsession with Bhatia who has never missed
any game of the Raptors since its creation in 1995. He spends
$80,000 annually on six-season tickets. That, incidentally,
is only a fraction of what he expends on the game. Once he
gave away 40 tickets to a classroom of underprivileged children.
Close friends never schedule an important event at game time-they
know he'll not come. For Bhatia, life revolves around the
Raptors. "If you ever hear of me getting a divorce, it
will be because of all the time I spend with the Raptors.
My wife calls me a mental case and says that my first wife
is basketball," laughs Bhatia.
|DEDICATED SUPPORT: Bhatia
"I want Sikhs to be recognised in the mainstream."
Nav Bhatia, superfan
The Superfan status was acquired when Isaiah Thomas gave
him a T-shirt with the word printed across it. But Bhatia's
favourite remains Vince. He bid $11,200 to attend the Vince
Carter Charity All-Star Golf Classic Tournament with four
friends even though he does not play golf himself. Sometimes
he wears a Raptors headband with a white turban-his identity.
There's a story behind the attire. "I was sitting behind
Spike Lee for the playoffs in New York. After the game, Vince
came over and said, 'Thank you for your support and for coming
all this way to New York.' He then gave me his headband,"
Bhatia shows off.
At Baisakhi, he buys 4,000 tickets and sells them at subsidised
rates to the South Asians. Fans are treated to a colourful
display of bhangra at half time. "I want our community
to be recognised in the mainstream. The realisation that Sikhs
are not merely taxi drivers, but come from all walks of life
has to be emphasised," says Bhatia.
He also wants South Asian youth to get more involved in
sports, preferably basketball. "I want their energy to
be focused on positive things and have fun. Once they take
interest in the sport, they will integrate into the mainstream.
At school, they will connect with children of other cultures
by discussing the various points of the game and channelise
their energy in sports conversations." This year, Bhatia
is sponsoring a Muslim Eid game to show solidarity and support
for the community.
By the way, Bhatia has never played basketball himself.
Through his insightful and practical books, including the Siva Trilogy-Dancing
with Siva, Living with Siva and Merging with Siva-he brought Hindu rituals,
philosophy and techniques within the grasp of non-Hindus and Hindus alike.
Contemporary, witty and a problem solver, he was able to bridge cultural
and language barriers.
He and his monks presented Hinduism in an accessible manner to mainstream
Americans and first generation Indian-Americans through the 23-year-old
Hinduism Today, an award-winning international magazine with incisive
reporting on Hindu events and controversies. All the monks are computer
savvy and also produce a daily Hindu e-news service.
Subramuniyaswami's designated successor, Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami,
has been installed as guru of the ashram and work continues on making
Kauai the centre of Hinduism. An ambitious undertaking is the building
of the Iraivan Temple on the 51-acre temple-monastery complex on a riverbank
near the foot of an extinct volcano. This all-stone hand-carved granite
temple is expected to take several years to complete and includes a 700-pound
quartz crystal lingam, the largest six-sided, single-pointed crystal ever
found. According to Thiru V. Ganapati Sthapati, the India-based architect
of the temple, "If all the crystal lingams in India were put together
into one, they would still not equal the power of this one crystal."
Temple stones are being handcarved in India by 75 sculptors at a village
outside Bangalore, the only such facility in India for sculptors and their
families with Internet access and a retirement programme. Devotees in
45 countries have already contributed over $2 million toward the $16 million
According to The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook, the Polynesian natives of
this Hawaiian island have some interesting links to India: "Many
of the ancient beliefs and practices of these intrepid adventurers bear
striking resemblances to Hinduism, such as the belief in one supreme God,
Kane, along with other significant deities, and working closely with the
spirits of nature. These corollaries and recent linguistic and DNA revelations
have led some authorities to speculate that the ancestors of the Hawaiian
settlers may have begun their journey in India."
Now, thanks to Subramuniyaswami's Kauai Aadheenam, it may all be coming
full circle, as stone by stone the Hindu temple moves from Bangalore to