In 1984, several visionary members of the Roanoke Valley’s growing Indian community collaborated to discuss the need for a place of worship. We dreamt of a site where we could follow our faith, instill our culture, and gather together for generations to come.
Our initial efforts were scrutinized as it was the first project of this kind in Southwest Virginia. We faced several obstacles including the recession in the 1990’s, but were finally able to take the first step in creating a tax-exempt organization called Indian Religious Society. Our members diligently worked on fundraising in and around the valley. During that time, the Indian community continued to grow and brought astounding energy, talent and knowledge. This was truly a “YAGNA” (devotion/or sacrifice).
Recognizing the need for a sense of community, we regularly gathered and worshipped in people’s homes. The local and surrounding members were honored by the leaders of the spiritual community which came from afar to give spiritual discourses. These included Sant Shri Morari Bapu and Sant Shri Rameshbhai Oza. In addition, it was not only important to pray together, but also to celebrate the culture and festivals of India. To reflect this, we later changed our name to India Heritage Society (IHS).
Once we were finally financially ready, we began searching for a quiet place in the Valley to build our temple. We were fortunate to have several families donate land to the IHS. With the help of an Indian architect, we were on our way and our vision was in the process of becoming a reality. The design was approved by the general body and construction commenced in 1998. As the land was being cleared, re-zoned and levelled, there was excitement in the air!
After much hard work, in 1999 we received a certificate of occupancy and started having regular worship in the temple. We then ordered marble statues of the deities from Jaipur, India and had many well wishers there who provided tremendous support and paid attention to the detail of each deity to ensure it was flawless, beautiful, and effulgent. We chose to name our new temple, Shantiniketan Temple, which means “house of peace”.
We soon realized that our community was outgrowing the current temple and discussed plans to expand it to include a Community Hall where we could accommodate more members and start additional programs and activities. This expansion was completed in 2006 with the wonderful support of the Indian community. In 2008, we were excited to welcome Priest Ragavendra Prasad Venkatarayappa who established residency near the temple to serve the community and perform various prayer rituals such as weddings, housewarmings, birthdays, funerals, etc.
Later, we realized that there was something missing at Shantiniketan Temple. It was a Shikhara, a Sanskrit word translating literally to "mountain peak", referring to the rising tower in the Hindu temple architecture over the chamber where the presiding deity is enshrined. Again with the unconditional support from our community, we were able to have the Shikhara constructed and placed on the temple in 2012. We had a 2 day celebration in which 5 priests from India joined our priest and performed a ceremony to bless the temple and the new Shikhara.
Our vision was made possible by an inspiration from God in bringing the talent and hard work of our community together to build Shantiniketan Temple. We are truly grateful to each individual that has contributed and continues to support the temple with their labor of love. Our journey continues...India Heritage Society’s Activities
India is one of the most religiously and ethnically diverse nations in the world, with some of the most deeply religious societies and cultures. Within the Roanoke Valley, we have been successful in showcasing our Indian heritage and culture by participating in Local Colors and organizing the Festival of India. The Festival of India is held every year in August to celebrate India’s Independence Day and showcase our culture, music, art and different cuisines of India to the Roanoke Valley. The music of India includes multiple varieties of Punjabi, classical, folk, Indian pop, Indian rock and Bollywood music. Each year, we organize a Diwali event in which we welcome members to sing and dance to the different genres of Indian music.
Over the years, the India Heritage Society has been actively involved in charitable and social causes locally and globally. Helping not only families within our own community, but communities outside the Roanoke Valley. We organize health fairs with cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure screening, nutritional seminars, and partner with pharmacies to provide free flu shots to members who cannot afford to do so. Locally, we have helped families who have suffered a loss, illnesses. Donations have been sent to help the families of 9/11, fight poverty in India, and natural disasters in Haiti and Nepal.
We are fortunate to have many talented members within our community and our singing group that performs at various events held by the temple. Some of the major festivals that we celebrate throughout the year include:
Maha Shivratri: Weddings & Lord Shiva & Parvati
Holi : Festival of Colors to celebrate the arrival of spring, good over evil
Mahavir Jayanti: The birth of Lord Mahavira
Ram Navmi: The birth of Lord Ram
Janmastami: The birth of Lord Krishna
Ganesh Chaturthi: The birth celebration of Lord Ganesha
Navratri: Nine days of worshiping the Goddess Durga
Diwali: Festival of Lights
Our temple gathers for worship every Sunday from 4:30pm – 6:30pm and welcomes all newcomers and visitors.
please contact us for sponsoring the Satsang via "Contact Us" form.