COLUMBIA — With a multitude of brightly colored saris, vibrations of laughter and the aroma of food, the banquet room at the Courtyard by Marriott’s hotel was a tribute to the senses on Friday night.
Shanthi Mandir, the Hindu Temple and Community Center of Mid-Missouri, commemorated its second year in Columbia with a traditional meal of North Indian cuisine followed by a show of karaoke-based Bollywood hits sung by Dhiren and Jalpa Buch.
Shanthi Mandirunited the growing Hindu population of Missouri.
“We decided we needed a place where we can bring everyone under one umbrella,” said Gopal Ratnam, president of Shanthi Mandir. “It’s been quite an effort, and it has been going on for a long time.”
Shanthi Mandir now boasts approximately 100 lifetime members and 150 regular members. Ratnam estimates that there are at least 500 Hindu residents in Columbia and the surrounding areas of Missouri.
“We have come such a long way from where we started,” said Leela Jashnani, a member of Shanthi Mandir. “It’s an achievement in itself for a community of this size.”
Shanthi Mandir has undertaken a number of charitable projects, including volunteering at the St. Francis House, the Central Missouri Food Bank and Clean Up Columbia. The members have joined with interfaith groups to promote a blood drive and to build a house with Habitat for Humanity.
“We serve the community, and we also can remove some of the ignorance that breeds fear,” Ratnam said. “We can get to a point where we are much more tolerant of each other.”
The celebration’s theme, “We can make a difference,” reflected this goal of serving the community and participating in outreach programs.
In the lobby of the banquet room, children’s artwork detailing how “we can make a difference” was propped against a wall. The crayon and color-penciled sketched drawings promoted conserving water, donating food, educating and helping out.
Nearly 350 people, including members of the interfaith community, attended the event, and the resounding sounds of laughter and music could be heard throughout the cream-colored hallways of the hotel.
“I’m still happy, still smiling, still happy to be part of the community,” Yash Sethi, a Hindu resident of Columbia, said.