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Thousands gather for Itasca temple's anniversary
By Catherine Edman | Daily Herald Staff

Hundreds of women, members of the Midwest Swaminarayan Temple, followed three floats in a parade along Irving Park Road in Itasca, dancing and singing for more than two hours Saturday.

 

Ed Lee | Staff Photographer

A float filled with children led the parade that ended at the Midwest Swaminarayan Temple before an evening filled with cultural performances by the children.

 

Ed Lee | Staff Photographer

In a traditional call and response, a spiritual leader sang prayers while members of the temple repeated them to a rhythmic drum beat.

 

Ed Lee | Staff Photographer

The parade celebrating the temple's 10-year anniversary took two hours to traverse a mile, in large part because the crowd repeatedly stopped to dance along the way.

 

Ed Lee | Staff Photographer

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Published: 8/3/2008 12:02 AM

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Scores of women in swirling jewel-toned saris danced outside the Midwest Swaminarayan Temple as men pounded a rhythmic beat on traditional drums.

Ten years ago, no one would have that was possible.

Back then, seven families met in park district halls for their religious services. Then, in 1998, they built the first domed temple of its kind in the U.S. in DuPage County near Itasca.

Today, the group numbers more than 300 families.

On Saturday, thousands turned out to celebrate the temple's 10th anniversary, taking part in a two-hour parade down Irving Park Road.

And when that concluded, there was dancing. And feasting. And 11 different cultural performances all organized by children.

"We want to show we can retain that culture," said Nirav Patel of Roselle, the temple's youth program director.

The celebration for the anniversary actually stretched for nine days, with spiritual leaders detailing the life's accomplishments of their greatest leader, or guru, during that time. They also provided special food each day, he explained.

Saturday's parade celebrating the temple included three floats. The first housed children - the cultural future. The second included a pictorial representation of Swaminarayan, whom they believe is God, protected from the sun by a bejeweled umbrella. The final float included the sect's current guru, Koshalendraprasadji, other spiritual leaders and the men singing prayers.

Each of the floats was decorated by temple members.

When the temple was built, it was the first of its Swaminarayan sect in the U.S. There's another in Wheeling related to it, while the temple along Route 59 in Bartlett is related to another branch of Hinduism. Overall, there are now about 11 related sect temples in North America, Patel said.