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Elmhurst Guyanese man raises money for temple

Ever since he moved to Elmhurst in 1989, Anil Bedasie has been organizing cultural events and making calls to raise money for his family to build a $500,000 Hindu temple in the neighborhood.

Now that the temple is built, Bedasie is at it again, this time raising money to build a Hindu temple in his native country, Guyana.

“I’m not trying to build the Taj Mahal, I’m just trying to build something modest,” said Bedasie, who spent the first 12 years of his life in Hague, a village on the West Coast of Guyana with a population of about 400.

Bedasie was roped into the project last year when several people in his native village who knew that his family was involved with temples in New York City approached him and asked him to help them set up a Hindu temple in Hague.

Together, Bedasie and the people from his village established an organization called the Hague Front Hindu Mandir. They wrote up a constitution, which spelled out the rules that the organization is governed by, and a set of by laws which states the procedures that the organization will follow.

Bedasie then did some research over the Internet and designed a temple which would fit into the 50-by-100 foot plot of land which the organization had secured.

According to Bedasie’s plan, the temple will be a one-story, rectangular, concrete building with a porch in front. On top of the porch will be a dome with three statues of Hindu deities. The deity in the middle will be Saraswacie, the goddess of learning. On either side of this deity will be Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, and Durga, the goddess of energy.

The cost of the temple is estimated to be about $26,000, or 5 million Guyanese dollars.

“Over there it’s much cheaper because of the exchange rate,” said Bedasie. “Still, it would take a long time for them to collect all that money, so they asked me for U.S. funding.”

Bedasie’s first fund-raising event for the Guyanese temple was a religious cultural show in May. The show was held in his family’s Hindu temple in East Elmhurst and featured singers and dancers who performed for free.

The show raised about $1,500 toward the temple.

“I wish I got more, but we didn’t get that many people,” said Bedasie. “It’s a long way to go.”

Bedasie and his family raised funds for eight years before beginning the construction of their Hindu temple in Elmhurst in 1997. In the meantime, they held services in the basement of Bedasie’s uncle’s house in Astoria.

“A lot of worshipers decided to raise money to build a temple because they had been in the basement forever,” said Bedasie.

“In Guyana, we don’t have basements —- it’s a tropical country,” he continued. “Currently they’re holding services in somebody’s yard. The faster they get this temple built, the faster they can move out of this person’s yard.”

Bedasie plans to begin construction of the temple in Guyana in November while continuing the fund-raising process. So far, he has raised about $5,000, mostly from Queens residents.

“If they are Hindu, they believe strongly in their religion, and part of it is that you should practice and propagate it forever,” he said. “A lot of times, I’ve gotten donations for like $10, $20.”

When not in school at the College of Aeronautics in Flushing, where he is studying aviation, Bedasie spends about two hours a day fund-raising, usually by making cold calls to businesses that have contributed to temples in the past. On weekends, he visits potential contributors to explain his project to them.

So far, about 100 people have donated. About 45 of them are participating in a new form of fund-raising which Bedasie is trying out. For a $150 donation, the benefactor’s name will be engraved on the wall of the temple.

“A lot of people like the idea of seeing their name engraved,” said Bedasie. “It gives back to the person who donated money.”

The biggest contribution of $500 came from a travel agency in Richmond Hill.

“The owner of the agency was very impressed with the children. She said for the sake of the children, she would try to help,” said Bedasie.

Anyone interested in donating, or finding out more about the project can contact Bedasie at 424-6593, or by e-mail at deonsb@aol.com.

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