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Although the earliest Indian Immigrants came to Memphis in the1950s, most of us came here in the 1970s and 80s. During this time, there were no religious, cultural, or social organizations to serve the needs of the 250 families. With the formation of the Telugu Association of Memphis and India Association of Memphis in 1980, the people of Mid-south were exposed to Indian culture. The Indian community used to organize religious and cultural activities in the community halls of local malls, church basements and public school auditoriums. Dr. Rajagopalan and Mrs. Savitri Tahiliani used to conduct religious functions like Satyanarayana Katha and Ganesh Chaturthi. The need for a place of worship and gathering was a popular topic in social events and was considered an unrealizable dream and it remained so for a long time.
In 1981, under the leadership of Mr. Vijay Rawtani, the first President of India Association of Memphis, an exploratory meeting was organized at theUniversity of Memphis and a consensus was reached that there was a need for a Temple and a Community Center. This idea was further explored by an informal committee of interested community members under the leadership of Dr. A.P. Mahesh Kumar. This committee felt a need for an autonomous non-profit religious and cultural organization. With the help of a prominent attorney Mr. Marvin Ratner, the by-laws were written and a religious and cultural non-profit organization was registered in the state of Tennessee. A bank account was opened with $250 donated by the committee members. The India Cultural Center and Temple, Inc. was born.
The "Temple Committee" as the members were called collectively, had to endure much skepticism from the community as they were perceived as unrealistic dreamers. After a diligent search for a proper site for the project, the committee was able to buy 12 acres of land on Highway 64 in Eads for a cash payment of $48,000 on October 1985. It was a pleasant surprise to learn that this land was at the highest elevation in Shelby County. Mrs. Savitri Tahiliani performed a Satyanarayana pooja to offer thanks to the God for His blessings in accomplishing this seemingly impossible feat. The news of site acquisition was received with some apprehension by the community because of the physical distance of the site from the town.
On Vijaya Dasami day in 1985, the land was consecrated with a Bhoomi pooja done by a priest from Sri Venkateswara Temple in Pittsburg. The first religious ceremony -Sri Sita-Rama Kalyanam- was organized by the members of Telugu Association in April 1986. To help familiarize the location to the community, many festivals were celebrated in Eads Headstart School across from the temple land in the following years.
To give credibility, authority and legality to the Temple Committee, a Board of Directors was elected in 1986 as per the existing by-laws. An Executive Committee was chosen from among the Board of Directors to carryout the business of ICCT. In 1987, an ad-hoc planning committee with Dr. Prasad Duggirala as its Chairman was appointed to develop plans for the Temple and Community Center. The deities in the Temple were chosen by a democratic process of polling the community. The planning committee selected Padmasri Muthaiah Sthapathi of Chennai as the temple architect and conceptual drawings for the Temple and Community Center were developed and approved by the Broad of Directors. The publication of these drawings and an informative dinner in 1990 rejuvenated the enthusiasm for the project. The Fund Raising Committee was formed in 1990 with Dr. Vijaya Duggirala as its Chairperson. Under her leadership, the committee organized many fund raising dinners raising $500,000 by 1992. With her firm personal commitment to the project and zeal, she charmed many community members into giving generously to the cause resulting in millions of dollars of donation to the ICCT in the ensuing years.
The years 1990 and 1991 were very turbulent in the history of ICCT. To provide stability and vision during this time, Dr. N.V. Raghavaiah was elected as the President of Board of Directors. Working hand in hand with the Planning Committee, Dr. Raghavaiah was instrumental in appointing Mr. Claude Braganza as the architect for the project and in obtaining a loan of $450,000, which was guaranteed by 10 members of the community. On November 2, 1992, Mr. Varadaraja Bhattar of Sri Venkateswara Temple, Pittsburg performed the ground- breaking ceremony. There was a heavy down pour of rain through out the day, as though the Gods were blessing the event from heavens. Actual construction was started on June 27, 1993 and the buildings were completed in May 1994. Mr. Jamnu Tahiliani, a founding member of ICCT and a renowned structural engineer, graciously donated his time and expertise and designed earthquake-resistant buildings of long durability.
To provide continuity of leadership and stability to the organization, in December 1992, the Board of Trustees was created and the by-laws were amended to transfer the authority to conduct business of ICCT from the Board of Directors to the Board of Trustees. This bi-cameral system of government lasted until 1996.
Sri Srinivasacharya Vedala of Oklahoma city set the muhurtham for Prana Prathishta during June 17-19 of 1994. It was done with great religious fervor by six priests from Chicago and New York, under the direction of Sri Varadaraja Bhattar of Sri Venkateswara Temple, Pittsburg. The vibration of Veda mantras chanted by the Priests filled the air creating an atmosphere reminiscent of Nymisaranya - an abode of Rishis in ancient India. The celebrations were aptly concluded with a soul stirring devotional concert by Smt. Shobha Raju. By sending his saffron robe through her, His Divine Grace Sri Bhagawan Satya Sai Baba blessed the entire event.
|Address 1||12005 Hwy 64 E. Eads, TN|
Opps. Its empty!!