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Each May, Chattanooga's Hindu community celebrates the anniversary of its temple opening.

But, in 2022, some 26 years after its first services in a Baptist church, the congregation plans to celebrate with a building designed to serve its growing community.

The community bought the current facility on Canyon Drive in 1994. The space was previously a Baptist church, said Anil Patel, president of Sanatan Mandir of Chattanooga. A two-story wing of the facility where classrooms had been was converted into the temple space.

Around 150 families were part of the community when services began there in 1996. Today, around 225 families take part in services and holidays at the temple, Patel said.

But the property totals nearly 58,000 square feet and was built in the 1970s, according to Hamilton County property records. The cost of upkeep began to weigh on the congregation, Patel said.

"The facility is getting older and hard to maintain in the manner that it needs to be kept up. As new people or people come to visit the temple, people like nicer, new facilities. As the facility gets older, it's hard to keep it maintained in the way that it needs to be."

The community is building a new temple on Hickory Valley Road. With the nearby interstate, the temple will be more centrally located for members throughout the region and allow greater use of space for outside events, such as weddings or baby showers, Patel said.

The proposed building will be around 25,000 square feet, Patel said. The space will feature a multipurpose area as well as the temple space, which will be expanded to include two additional statues of deities — Venkateswara and Shiva Parivar.

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New Hindu temple in Chattanooga

There are multiple traditions within Hinduism, each emphasizing or connecting with various deities that are expressions of the central, supreme God. These various traditions are spread geographically across India, the second most-populous country in the world, where Hinduism is widely practiced.

The various deities teach believers different moral lessons, said Sunil Shastri, the priest of Sanatan Mandir of Chattanooga.

Chattanooga is home to a diverse Hindu community, Patel said, so it is important that various traditions are represented in the physical temple space.

"We don't want to make anyone feel like we go to the temple but our gods are not there, hence the temple named 'Sanatan,' sanatan meaning 'for everyone,'" Patel said.

The community is waiting for a building permit for the site on Hickory Valley Road but expects to be finished building by March or April next year. Everyone is welcome at the facility, whether they are coming to worship or coming to learn about the religion, Patel said.

"We wanted to have a facility that everyone can come and feel that this is ours," he said. "This is something we can pray like we were in India."

Contact Wyatt Massey at wmassey@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249. Follow him on Twitter @news4mass.

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