Gangadhar Sharma and Saroj Sharma came to Raleigh in 1972. They founded Hindu Society of North Carolina in 1976. That put a foundation for a vibrant Indian community in Triangle area. The HSNC now has 1,100 members, 15 acres of land and 2 full time priests. It was my pleasure to meet them and discuss with them about HSNC and their involvement with Indian community.
Satish: Please tell me about what made you to come to Triangle?
Mr. Sharma: In 1960, I came to Canada for research at McGill University in Montreal. I completed my MS and PhD in Biology. I came to Raleigh in 1972 with wife Saroj Sharma and 5 children. I joined state government in 1974 and I am with them ever since. I currently teach blind students in department of human resources.
Satish: Tell me about what inspired you to form HSNC?
Mrs. Sharma: We started Satya Narayana Katha at our home in Raleigh. We invited friends and family. It became a monthly event. It grew big and we shifted to rental facilities. In September, 1976, we formed the Hindu Society with $2 as membership fees. The society bought a church in 1980 since it was difficult to rent facilities. We purchased 7 acres of land for $70,000 in 1984. The church was sold in 1985. The hall was built in 2000 to encourage the cultural activities. I and my husband (Sharmaji) performed daily pooja from 2000 to 2003. We wanted to save money for buildings instead of hiring a priest and paying them.
Jungle mae mangal – Many people questioned why the land was bought in a jungle? They felt that wearing expensive jewelry and visiting temple may not be safe. Temple was the second largest building in the area. I persisted and had a vision that a vibrant Indian community will be formed if there is a template and a place for a community gathering. I told people that Jangle mae mangal karenge. [The Cary News in its July, 2008 article said ‘Mrs. Saroj Sharma had a vision that Indian community will grow’]
Kids who are born in US ask ‘who is Krishna?’, ‘who is Hanumaan?’ We should help them learn our culture. We want them to feel that they belong to a great religion and a vibrant community. We want temple to be a place to worship and meet friends. God is the true friend and we pray when we feel happy and we pray we feel sorrow.
Satish: Why was it called Hindu Society?
Mr. Sharma: We had a unique concept of having all gods under one roof. ‘God is one’. Every god says ‘Do good, be good and help the needy’. These are basic rules for a fulfilling life. We had a very democratic way of choosing the idols and their position. Radha Krishna had the most number of votes and we put Radha Krishna idol in the center.
Satish: What was involved in building Hindu Society?
Mrs. Sharma: Government was very co-operative. We requested the land and mentioned that it is to teach culture and religion. We were the only Hindu organization in triangle and it was easier.
Satish: What would you like to do more for HSNC?
Mrs. Sharma: I would like to grow the organization further. Build more class rooms for both religious and cultural purpose. Extend temple hours and have 2 more priests. Help people to feel homely and build a supporting system for the community.
Satish: What should new comers to Triangle area should do?
Mr. & Mrs. Sharma: Visit the temple, become a member of HSNC and volunteer for the community events. Enroll their children for the classes.
Satish: How can they become the members?
Mr. & Mrs. Sharma: Obtain a form from the priest, fill it and put it in the membership box in temple. The annual membership is $60 for family. You can get life membership for $500. If you need more information, please contact Mr. Sharma or Mrs. Sharma at 919.460.7830 or visit http://www.hsncweb.org/
Mr. and Mrs. Sharma live in Morrisville. They have 5 children, 10 grand children and one great grandchild. Their son Alok Sharma lives in Cary with wife and 2 kids. Others live in various places in US. During the discussion, I was served with hot cup of Chai, Kachori and Gajar ka halva. I was impressed by their humble nature.