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Many Temple visitors to Hindu Temple of Central Illinois (HTCI, formerly known as Hindu Heritage Center, HHC) today wonder why a Hindu Temple was built here, and ask to hear the story behind the creation of such a landmark in Central Illinois.
The story takes us back to early 90s when the community was very small and the concept of building aTemple got started. While the Temple got registered as a nonprofit religious organization in early 1994, the journey really began much prior to. Many Hindu families in the area got together at each other's homes to pray starting in late 80s. With so many churches in the area, the families longed to have a Hindu Home of Worship. Thus began the quest for building a Temple.
The Temples in North America at the time were predominantly located in large metropolitan cities likePittsburgh, Chicago and New York. The general feeling was that smaller communities like Peoria, could not afford to have a Temple of their own. Our wish to have our own Temple would always be a dream. A group of us at the time decided to beat the odds and embark on the journey.
Each of us pledged so much money, not knowing whether the building was going to be of a certain size; whether it will be a prayer hall or a community center where the community came together. We filed with the State to charter the organization as a nonprofit religious organization. Upon registration, we began to function as a religious institution under the registered name “Hindu heritage center”. We observed major religious festivals by getting together in rented school auditoriums, and at times in church halls.
The name, Hindu heritage center, was chosen for a number of reasons at the time. Initially, we did not want to engage in a long drawn debate about whether we would have a Temple, if so what type of a Temple, what deities would we have and so on. Our vision was simply that this would be a place of worship, and we would showcase Hindu religion and culture. We would retain the option to pray to any deity of our choice. Perhaps, this would be a worship hall, where we would worship the sacred symbol “OM”. Thus, we avoided debating many facility design related issues. However, in our later years, we were counseled by the governmental bodies that we would be misunderstood without the Temple in our organization’s name and had to change the name to Hindu Temple of Central Illinois (HTCI). We would also realize that the facility can hardly be aTemple without the Deities present.
The community connected and built momentum. At every major festival we observed in a rented facility, the longing for having our own got stronger. With nearly $200K raised, the quest began for acquiring a piece of land where we would build our Center. We resisted desires to get started quickly by buying an existing facility. Any such purchase would lead to extensive remodeling and be costly in the long run. The build option would be challenging but get us started with a clean slate.
|Address 1||4224 W. Prairie Lane Peoria, IL|
Opps. Its empty!!