Historic, painstaking and expensive renovation of the magnificent Old Temple in San Francisco, claimed to be “the first Hindu temple in the Western world” and dedicated in 1906, is nearing completion.
Old Temple, originally known as Hindu Temple and said to be built within four months, is a part of Vedanta Society of Northern California (VSNC), launched by highly regarded Hindu monk Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) in 1900. This Temple, sometimes referred as “sermon in the form of a building” and “dedicated to the cause of humanity”, miraculously survived the San Francisco earthquake and fire of April 1906.
During this renovation launched in 2014, the historic character of the building was claimed to be not compromised in bringing it up to current standards; with complete upgrading/renovation from foundation to rooftop regarding seismic upgrades, deepening of foundation, plumbing, wiring, fire-sprinkler system, energy efficiency, roofing, etc. It is planned to be open to the public and ready to use sometime in the spring. It was recently re-consecrated with ritual worship by monks and nuns from India, Canada and USA.
This four-storey Old Temple on Webster Street on north side of San Francisco was designed by Swami Trigunatitananda with architect Joseph A. Leonard, blending elements of East and West. Its style is influenced by old-fashioned Bengal temples, Shiva temples at Dakshineswar, Benares temples, etc. The building represents a striking profile of towers, domes, and pinnacles; and its various towers “are intended to symbolize the harmony of all religions and the pointed arches and domes the upward aspiration of the spiritual seeker”.
VSNC is affiliated to worldwide spiritual movement Ramakrishna Mission headquartered in Belur Math on the outskirts of Kolkata (India). Besides Old Temple and New Temple in San Francisco; it also maintains Vedanta Retreat in Olema (Marin County, California) founded in 1946 and which occupies over 2000 coastal acres, 160-acres Shanti Ashrama Retreat in Santa Clara County (California) launched in 1900, monastery and convent. Swami Tattwamayananda is Minister-Incharge of VSNC.
Swami Vivekananda introduced Vedanta to America at the 1893 Parliament of Religions in Chicago. This Order has over 180 centers worldwide, including California, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington.
Ideology of Ramakrishna Mission, founded in 1897 by Swami Vivekananda and named after his teacher/inspiration Sri Ramakrishna (1836-1886) and whose current president is Swami Atmasthananda, consists of the eternal principles of Vedanta; while its basic principles include: “God realization is the ultimate goal of life, potential divinity of the soul, harmony of religions,” etc. Its motto is: Atmano mokshartham jagat hitaya cha (For one's own salvation and for the welfare of the world). It claims to aim at the harmony of religions, harmony of the East and the West, harmony of the ancient and the modern, spiritual fulfillment, all-round development of human faculties, social equality, and peace for all humanity; without any distinctions of creed, caste, race or nationality.