Indian temple in Kingsport celebrates 10th anniversary

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May 14, 2012

KINGSPORT — Hundreds of Indian-Americans concluded a three-day celebration Sunday of the 10th anniversary of the opening of their first temple and community center in Kingsport.

Although their religious organization has existed for more than 20 years, Dr. Darshan Shah told the Times-News Sunday that prior to 2002 members met for worship and fellowship at private residences.

May 14, 2012

KINGSPORT — Hundreds of Indian-Americans concluded a three-day celebration Sunday of the 10th anniversary of the opening of their first temple and community center in Kingsport.

Although their religious organization has existed for more than 20 years, Dr. Darshan Shah told the Times-News Sunday that prior to 2002 members met for worship and fellowship at private residences.

By the early 2000s, however, the Indian community had grown so much in the Tri-Cities region that they were able to pool their resources and build a temple and community center in Kingsport at 406 Westfield Place off of Rock Springs Road.

Previously Hindu Indians living in the Tri-Cities had to travel as far away as Knoxville, Nashville, or Charlotte to attend services in a traditional temple.

Since 2002, however, the Regional Indian-American Community Center (RIACC) has served that purpose for Indian-Americans, many of whom have lived in the region for 25 years and some as long as 40 years.

Today there are more than 150 “members” of the RIACC who contribute financially, but Shah said the center serves more than 400 families.

“We are all excited that our facility has grown, and people in the Tri-Cities region have started enjoying spiritual and social events here,” said Shah, who is this year’s chairman of the RIACC executive committee. “We are very fortunate to have the support of the community, along with all of our partners who have helped us grow this organization so that future generations can use this facility to enrich their cultural experience.”

Although one goal of the facility was to give area Hindus a place in the Tri-Cities to worship, Shah said it is also intended to help new and recent arrivals from India assimilate into the American culture, and more specifically, the East Tennessee culture.

The congregation celebrates American holidays, as well as Indian holidays, and membership is not limited to Hindus or Indians.

“We want to keep some of the Indian heritage going, but also we want to assimilate with American heritage and culture too,” Shah said.

The celebration began Friday evening with a singing competition and prizes for the “best dressed” attendee.

Saturday evening there was a children’s talent showcase, dance recital and performances, a motivational speaker from the Jonesborough Storytelling Center and fireworks. The celebration concluded Sunday with religious services, a traditional Indian meal and a traditional dance recital.

People move from India to the Tri-Cities mainly for work, Shah said.

With the medical school in Johnson City as well as Wellmont and Mountain State health systems and the VA Hospital, there is a large community of Indian physicians in the region.

Eastman Chemical Co. is also a large employer of people from India, and many move to the region to start businesses.

East Tennessee is very different from India, but Shah said his countrymen who move to the region decide to stay because they enjoy the climate, the natural beauty of the region, and the people.

“This is such a great area because of the four seasons,” Shah said. “It’s so quiet and people are so nice here. It’s a very friendly area with nice people, and easy to mix up.”


Courtesy: timesnews