The first Hindu temple in North America as far as we can ascertain, was built in a somewhat remote corner of Nova Scotia at Auld’s Cove in 1972. It is located just two kilometers west of the Canso Causeway on highway #4.
This beautiful structure, though relatively small, overlooks the Strait of Canso and the hills of Western Cape Breton Island from its prayer hall windows.
The idea for building a temple first arose at a Diwali celebration gathering at the residence of Dr Shiv Ram Sharma, a family physican in Port Hawkesbury, in 1969. Everyone present thought it was a dream as Port Hawkesbury consisted of fewer than 25 families within an 80 kilometer radius of Port Hawkesbury.
The dream took a very different direction in 1970 when Dr.Sharma offered a 300′ by 100′ foot piece of land for the temple and a donation of $1000.00. In one easy stroke the dream of a Hindu Temple became more of a reality. However, it was not until the summer of 1971 that a group of people across the province met in Truro and decided to form the first Hindu Society in the Maritimes.
Thus, the Hindu Sanstha of Nova Scotia was born and it was granted a charter, registration #702, by the Province
of Nova Scotia on October 19, 1971.
The following are the founding member of the Sanstha:
Mr. & Mrs. Amrit Anand
Mr. & Mrs. Krishan Bhardwaj
Mr. & Mrs. Asim Bose
Mr. & Mrs. Krishan Lekhi
D., & Mrs. Shiv Ram Sharma
Mr. & Mrs. Dharam Bhushan
Mr. & Mrs. Jiwanand Bhanot
Pt & Mrs. Ravi Dogra
Mr. & Mrs. Surjit Verma
Dr. & Mrs. Mangal Gautam
Dr. & Mrs. Yogi Joshi
Dr. & Mrs. Suresh Sharma
Mr. & Mrs. Satish Joshi
Mr. & Mrs. Shankar Mehta
Mr. & Mrs. Collapancheni Raghvan
Mr. & Mrs. Surat Mathur
The first Secretary-General of the Sanstha was Dr. Mangal Gautam. Pt. Ravi Dogra was appointed Head Priest of the Sanstha with Pt. B.D. Tiwari as a Priest.
The groundbreaking ceremony was conducted by the Sanstha priest, Pt. Ravi Dogra, by performing the Yajna on the site in the presence of representatives from all parts of the province. A copy of the holy Gita was placed in the foundation before the cement was poured.
The construction was finished in early August, 1972, and the temple was officially inaugurated at the Diwali function in October, 1972. Mr. Krishan Lekhi donated the pure marble statue of Lord Krishna, which was installed at that time. The dream ahs come true. The inauguration was attended by people of all faiths and was well attended by Hindus from all over the maritime Provinces. It was indded a day filled with emotions of joy for all who witnessed the opening of the
landmark institution in the history of Nova Scotia Hindus. It is with pride that the Hindu Sanstha claims that this is the first Hindu temple built in North America.
The temple is a matter of pride for the community. Even though the credit for the remarkable achievement goes to the entire community for their generosity and to the volunteers who crisscrossed the province many times to raise funds, two persons have to be singled out for special recognition. Dr. Shiv Ram Sharma, whose generous donation set the project going, and Dr. Mangal Gautam without whose leadership and dedication to this cause, the project could not have been completed. He went from coast to coast in Canada to collect funds for this temple. Unfortunately, Dr. Gautam was killed in a car accident a few months later in January, 1973, which plunged the entire community in grief.
We all have fond memories of him. As our thanks, and to keep his memory alive, the temple’s library is dedicated
in his name.
Since its inauguration, the Sanstha has gone through many ups and downs. The community in the immediate vicinty of the temple has shrunk to half its original size of 1972. However, the temple and the Sanstha has continued to provide religious and spiritual services successfully to the community from New Glasgow to Sydney.
Besides the prayer hall on the top floor, this temple has two bedroom, a library, kitchen and two bathrooms. The temple is open from April to November. Due to inclement weather and heavy snow in the area, the temple temporarily shuts down for the winter months.
Mr. Anand who lives very nearby the temple, has been looking after the maintenance of the temple since 1972. He can be reached at 902- …………….. We all are grateful to his dedication and help.
Note: I must add that the building of this temple was done by its members. Mr Ghosh was the architect and Mr Lekhi and Mr. Anand were the develpoers/contractors – all free of cost. Dr. Gautam, Dr. Joshi and Dr. Sharma were the main fund raisers. Mr. Verma and Mr. Dogra and Mr. Anand were part of the fund raising committee who were responsible for collecting all the funds for this project.