Information about this center is no longer updated. This data was last updated on 5 December 2013.Phone: 864-967-2852
Activities and Schedule
Monday-Friday: evening puja, 8:00 P.M.
Saturday and Sunday: evening puja, 7:00 P.M.
Sundays during school year: Balvihar, 11:15 A.M. - 12:30 P.M.
2nd Saturday of the month: Sri Venkateshwara Suprabhatam, 9:00 A.M.
Major festivals observed:
Shiv Ling Satsang
A few times a year, lecturers are brought in (sponsored sometimes by the center itself and other time by members or businesses) to hold talks on Hindu life and practices, such as meditation and yoga.
Weddings, anniversaries, graduation parties, dinners and other community gatherings are often held at the Vedic Center, though it serves mostly as a religious center. Usually, it is the India Association of Greater Greenville, not the Vedic Center, that sponsors various Indian cultural events, e.g., dance and musical events, some of which are held on the Furman University campus. Art, music, and dance competitions for children are also held regionally.
The Vedic Center publishes a semi-monthly newsletter to keep community members up to date on the center’s activities, special religious holidays, and lectures. At the time of the installation of the murti in the temple, a special booklet was published detailing the process and history of the group and explaining the significance of each of the temple’s deities. An end-of-the-year report reviewing the center’s activities is also published.
Several times a year, members of the Vedic Center are asked to present information on the Hindu religion to schools and other local groups.
Starting in the mid-1960s, the first generation of Indian immigrants came to South Carolina. In 1969, a group of 20-30 Indian families in Greenville decided to form a Hindu Association in order to preserve their cultural and religious practices.
During the early years, this group of families rented space and met in churches and community buildings, but in 1983, the group, which had grown significantly, began a process of fund-raising and organization in order to purchase a site on which to build a permanent temple and gathering place for the community. One of the factors in deciding to build the temple were comments from the children about having no place to pray and worship.
Donations were made by community members (some over $5000) and in 1987, the community purchased five acres of open land at the corner of Bethel Road and Bethel Drive. A large ceremony called bhumipuja (“Earth worship/honor”), comparable to a groundbreaking ceremony, was held for the dedication of the site. Several Jain and Hindu priests were brought in to perform purification rituals and the blessing of the site. (The significance of the bhumipuja is twofold: to consecrate the ground and to give thanks and apologize for any and all damage done to the earth.) Construction then commenced, and the center was completed in 1989. It was the second Hindu religious center established in South Carolina. (The first was in Columbia.)
The Inauguration service in the Vedic Center was held on December 2, 1989, but at the time only pictures/paintings of the deities were in place as the murti had to be ordered and shipped from India. The Murti Sthapana, the installation of the murti, took place May 20-22, 1994.
The center’s relationship with its surrounding neighborhood has been a peaceful one—it has encountered little or no difficulties or prejudices during its history.
The Vedic Center community has grown by leaps and bounds since its establishment, and by 2005, there were about 1500 families regularly utilizing the temple hall. The temple hall could only accommodate 150 to 200 people at a time and soon it became necessary to expand. The administrative body as well as the temple’s patrons were inspired to create a shared space between the Hindu and non-Hindu community. Mr. Dhulekar, now President of the Vedic Center, imagined the creation of a “Greater Greenville community” sharing a space which encompassed both the sacred and the secular, the traditional and the modern. This dream was realized in the development of the Ahimsa Hall (ahimsa means non-violence).
The new Hall, completed in 2007, was constructed adjacent to the existing temple hall to facilitate easy transition from one space to the other. The giant hall can officially accommodate 650 people and includes a stage with a state-of-the-art sound and lighting system, library and fully equipped in-house kitchen. The Hall is large enough to accommodate several badminton nets and a basketball court, and still have room for practicing dance troupes or children’s activities. Since its inception, the Hall has hosted a variety of community functions including senior citizen group activities, yoga meditation classes, health fairs and sports tournaments. Lectures, plays and dance performances utilize the stage area, and most of these events are in English. The Hall can be rented by the local community for weddings, baby showers, birthday parties, religious ceremonies and graduation parties. The only limitation is there can be no serving of meat or alcohol products since the facility is adjoined to the worship hall.
Ahimsa Hall cost a million dollars to construct and would not have been possible without generous donations from the community and various fundraising activities. Many kitchen appliances and library cabinets were donated by patrons and local businesses to help support the Vedic Center’s endeavors.
In December 2009, the preexisting worship hall was remodeled and outfitted with new window trimmings, lights and ceiling fans.
The Vedic Center, now a nonprofit organization with over 2000 family patrons, is funded entirely by donations and fundraising. 2010 marks the 20-year anniversary of the Vedic Center’s establishment and they look forward to continued growth and successful interfaith activity in the community.
The Health and Culture Library
A young student, Nirav Gandhi, built this new library as a project while pursuing Eagle Scouts. A longtime goal of the Vedic Center community, Gandhi literally built the library into Ahimsa Hall with financial contributions from sponsors as well as his own funds. He purchased all the materials and bought the books for the library. Cabinets for the books were donated by Handi Restaurant, Northwest Mutual, Allstate, Neeta Rana Medical Group and Krishna Groceries. The Health and Culture Library is truly a unique addition to the Ahimsa Hall and an inspiration for community volunteerism.
Currently, a group of about 400 Indians worship at the Vedic Center. The members of the community are immigrants from various parts of India, with the majority (over 80 percent) speaking Gujarati and Hindi. The worship services are conducted in three languages: Gujarati, Hindi, and Sanskrit, but there are booklets with transliterated versions of the three languages for children (most of whom were born in the United States) and visitors. The 1990s saw an increase of people of Telegu and Tamil backgrounds; these number about 25 families. They often take the lead in preparing the Venkatesvara festivals. Booklets of Bhajans (hymns) sung during puja now include Telegu. Members of the Vedic Center represent a variety of devotional traditions: Saivite, Vaishnavite, adherents of Sri Aurobindo's philosophy, Satya Sai Baba devotees, and Jains. The Jains were among the first Indian families to come to Greenville. Today, about 20 families live in the greater Greenville area. Many are members of the Vedic Center, where they occasionally go for puja. Most Jains in South Carolina are Svetambara.
The community is made up of all age groups, though the younger population (under 30) is the largest with around 100 people. Senior citizens number around 25-30, and there is a large number of children in the group as well. There is a Youth Committee that sponsors youth and young adult activities. There is also a Senior Citizens group.
The facility now includes two adjoined structures: the worship hall on the right and the Ahimsa Hall on the left. There are separate entrances for each structure. The main worship hall has an outside overhang with a wooden bench on either side of the entrance for visitors to observe the beautiful bushes which bloom in the summer and decorate the concrete walkway to the entrance. The Ahimsa Hall may be entered directly through its double doors which connect it to the facility’s large parking lot or from a set of doors on the left side of the main worship hall.
Once inside the worship hall, there is a small room immediately to the left with wall to ceiling cubbies to place shoes upon entering the temple. Further in is a small table and bulletin board displaying information about upcoming local community events at the Center. As visitors proceed into the main hall, a decorative Ganesh head hangs on the wall in greeting. The main hall is freshly painted in white with all new lighting and ceiling fans. Facing the large open room is the Devasthan which is on a stage raised above the floor level of the hall.
The entire room is focused on the array of murti (images) at the front. Facing the front, on the far left is Lord Balaji—the only murti composed of black granite. (All others are carved from white marble.) To the right of Balaji is Lord Shiva, wearing his characteristic leopard skin. Next is Rama, an incarnation of Vishnu, and his family: his brother Lakshmana, his wife Sita and his monkey general Hanuman. In the center of the array sits Ganesha. Most worship at the temple begins with the worship of Ganesha; as the “remover of obstacles,” he “opens the door” to good worship. Next are Krishna—also an avatar of Vishnu—and his favorite gopi (cowherder’s daughter), Radha. To their right are Durga (a goddess figure) and Lord Mahavira—the prominent figure of Jainism. In the center, in front of Ganesha, is the Shiva linga, a nonanthropomorphic murti of Shiva. (The linga was installed two years after the others. Its location in the center of the Devasthan has to do with symmetry, not privilege.) A small figure of Shiva’s consort, Parvati, sits on the rim of the basin containing the Linga. Such a wide array of murti is characteristic of American temples reaching out to a more diverse community.
In keeping with traditional temple architecture, there is a hallway behind the murti for post-worship circumambulation.
To the left of the worship area is the entrance to Ahimsa Hall. At its farthest end is a professional-grade stage complete with maroon-shaded curtains and a state-of-the-art sound system. Often when entering Ahimsa Hall, there will be many social groups using the facilities, i.e. sports groups, school children, etc. There are usually volleyball and badminton nets up. Other times, there are men playing basketball. The large room can be cleared and set up for health fairs and bazaars, or even performances and lectures. The Ahimsa Hall has another entrance in the front of the building so visitors are not required to enter through the worship area. The buildings were deliberately constructed this way in order to facilitate the separation and/or integration of religious and secular functions as necessary depending upon the utilization of the facility and preferences of the renter. The Health and Culture Library is a small room with couches and a table along with five wooden book cabinets painted in white with small golden plaques on them indicating the donor. On the back wall of Ahimsa Hall is a large, fully-equipped kitchen, capable of enabling the preparation of meals for hundreds of patrons and visitors.
The leadership of the Vedic Center is very well organized, with an executive committee (President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, Membership Coordinator, and four other members), Board of Trustees (five members), Balvihar Committee (five members) and a Maintenance Committee (four members). The center has a constitution, and decisions are made by vote of all the members (those who pay the $125 per year membership fee). Committee members are elected every one to two years and the Board of Directors changes one person every year, with each member serving for five years. The community seems to be very ambitious and has the wealth to continue expanding its facilities.
Although there is an official administrative division of the Vedic Center which oversees its operations, the entire community is encouraged to participate in developing the Center. New ventures are not acted upon without approval by the community. All decisions are made jointly using this “consensus-based approach” which strengthens community support for the Center. Committees made up of a combination of administrators, patron members and local residents work on improving and maintaining different parts of the facility. Additionally, teenagers are invited to take part in the Vedic community via the Indian Youth Association (IYA), where they develop projects and assist with public events and educational programs for children.
Current concerns and future plans
Prior to July 2010, the Vedic Center did not have a resident priest, and thus, the members of the Vedic community shared the responsibility of administering worship services. Each family was required to provide the food and lead the ceremony once a month.
As of July 2010, the Vedic Center acquired community approval and the resources needed to sustain a resident priest for a period of one year. In August 2010, a resident priest was selected to perform ritual functions and the administration of worship protocol on a trial basis. As such, the community members will no longer administer prasad and will be called upon to focus on fiscal contributions in order to sustain the resident priest beyond the one-year timeframe.
The membership dues are now $125 a year which provides access to the sports facilities of Ahimsa Hall, subscription to the Center’s newsletter and free or reduced-price tickets to Vedic Center-sponsored programs. However, the Center is willing to consider a reduced cost student membership for local college students.
The Vedic Center wishes to keep its facilities open to the community whenever needed; “temple 365” is their motto. There had been previous complaints that the temple was not open when patrons arrived so a member had been appointed to open the temple daily at 7:45AM, rain or shine, and earlier when Ahimsa Hall sports facilities need to utilize the space. Now that a resident priest has been established, he will be ensuring open access to the facilities.
Additionally, the Vedic Center is now beginning a recycling initiative headed by Veena Khandke, an active Vedic member and professor at Furman University.
Relationships with other faith communities
The Vedic Center has established fruitful, cooperative relationships with several area churches. The Center also has an on-going relationship with Greenville Faith Communities United, a local organization that works to promote interfaith understanding and cooperation.
Special report on Balvihar at the Greenville Vedic Center
“Bal,” meaning young, and “vihar,” meaning together, combine to develop the understanding that Balvihar is a time for children to embrace the Hindu tradition. Balvihar’s objectives involve the development of basic reading, writing, and communication skills in Hindi. It also develops awareness of Hindu cultural heritage, traditions, and values by celebrating important Hindu festivals. The purpose of Balvihar is to instill traditional Hindu values and develop self-esteem through the study of great Hindu personalities. The activities of the youth and Balvihar promote team spirit and leadership qualities through sports and games.  Balvihar may be compared to the Christian “Sunday School” tradition in America.
The Vedic Center has been conducting Balvihar each Sunday (11:15 A.M. to 12:30 P.M.) for the past ten years for children pre-school through high school. Volunteers in the Center conduct the classes for free. Although Balvihar is in English, the songs and prayers are in Hindi.
About 60-70 children attend Balvihar each week, and the number of children participating has been growing each week. First, Balvihar begins with everyone sitting down on the stage near the murti. They learn a new prayer in Hindi and practice it several times. Next, everyone performs yoga for 15 minutes. A teacher leads the children in a series of breathing exercises and stretches. The children listen with respect to the teacher’s instructions and obediently participate. Then, the children separate into groups: preschool, elementary and middle/high school.
The Vedic Center uses the Vedic Heritage Program for Balvihar. “The Vedic Heritage Program is a guide for families and communities that wish to teach the Vedic heritage to their children in an organized and systematic manner. The subject manner has been organized in three volumes, tailored to the ages of children.”  As part of the Vedic Heritage teaching program, Balvihar is an important component of children’s education of their culture and religion. The teaching program incorporates reading and discussion for children to learn more about their culture and its application to everyday life in America. The teaching format is based on a school year consisting either of 40 classes lasting one hour to one and a half hours per class per week, or two classes per week lasting 30 or 45 minutes. The entire program is thus covered over a period of ten school years. 
According to Sastraprakasika, a center dedicated to the spread of the Vedic tradition, the first volume includes selected stories and instructions for puja. This helps the children learn values and cultural expressions through the lives of the heroes represented in the Ramayana, the Bhagavatam and the Mahabharata. The second volume covers religious disciplines, cultural forms, rites of passage, and Vedic knowledge. The children are taught the meaning behind food, dress, language, fine arts and home culture. The third volume includes topics on Complementary Vedic Literature development and contemporary teenage issues.  In Greenville, a young Jain father named Menoj teaches the oldest group of children. Even though he is a Jain, he wants the youth to understand their Hindu heritage and encourages them to do so.
Not only is Balvihar the time for children to learn about the Hindu temple, it is also a time for them to learn about their culture and be with other people with the same background. Samantha, a 14-year-old student, remarked that she was one of only three Indian children at her high school. But at the Vedic Center she felt more included and accepted because she was around people like her. All the kids attend various schools around the Greenville area, but they all come together at the Vedic Center for Balvihar each week.
For more information about Balvihar at the Vedic Center, contact Shoeba Vadoothker at 864-268-1963.
Balvihar report researched and written by Elizabeth Catoe and Stephanie Haik in the fall of 2002 at Furman University, as an assignment for Dr. Sam Britt's senior seminar course on South Asian Religions in South Carolina.
Andrea Mills and Alison Prevost, 1998
Updated by Benjamin Coleman and Melissa Peterson, 2000
Updated by Alex Florez and Jacob Moody, 2002
Updated by Amanda Pruitt, research assistant of Dr. Sam Britt, Furman Advantage Research Fellowship, 2010