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MORGAN HILL, California — It was a cool and cloudy Saturday morning when a small group of people gathered in an open field here to start an almost seventeen mile walk to San Martin.

Volunteers and worshippers at the Vaidica Vidhya Ganapathi Center, commonly known as VVGC, gathered to kick-off a fundraising walk to raise awareness of the temple and community center.

The Center houses the Sri Vallabha Maha Ganapathi Temple and was founded in 2003. In August 2012, 12.7 acres of land were purchased in San Martin to expand the temple from its warehouse location in San Jose.

Pandit Sivasankar Hemmanur performs a small puja before participants begin their walk on Aug. 27. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.
Bananas, coconuts, puja materials and a small Ganesha idol sit on a table at the start of the fundraising walk. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.
Senthilkumar Ayyasamy breaks a coconut after a small puja is completed on Aug. 27. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.

Pandit Sivasankar Hemmanur started the off participants Aug. 27 morning with a short puja. Walkers quickly got in gear, briskly striding down the roads, guided by county cars as needed.

There were food and hydration stations along the way as well as a halfway point during which another set of participants joined.

Devotees gather at the San Martin temple building after the walk on Aug. 27. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.
A volunteer handles cups of mini tulsi to be given to walk participants. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.
Volunteers hand out food to go at the Vaidica Vidhya Ganapathi Center in San Martin. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.

Volunteer Strong

With a strong core of volunteers, the temple is slowly gaining more visitors. The fundraising walk was inspired by Concord’s Shiva Murugan Temple’s walkathon and conceived by volunteer Kamesh Velu.

Volunteer Bhavani Ganesan was on hand, checking to make sure everything was running smoothly. “This is our community temple, our cultural center,” she said. We are walking “to bring awareness for the new temple building.”

Pandit Ganesh Shasthry stands next to the new temple building to house the consecrated idols. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.
The area behind the new commercial kitchen building where a children’s play center is being built. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.

With two large buildings, one housing temporary idols, the other a commercial kitchen currently being built, the Center has a courtyard with a water fountain between them, and a large on-site garden. The area behind the kitchen building will house a kid’s play area along with farm animals and plants.

VVGC is the largest Hindu devotional center in the South Bay, and second largest in the San Francisco Bay Area, according to Pandit Ganesh Shasthry, with Livermore’s Shiva-Vishnu Temple being the largest. Construction completed in 2019, but there were delays due to Covid and the installing of gas, electricity and water. But as of August 8th, “it’s all done,” says the Pandit.

Rajarajeshwari Vaddiparty, age 80, talks with with a priest and volunteers from the temple. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.

At the halfway point was where Rajarajeshwari Vaddiparty, age 80, joined the walk. “Because I’m being 80 nobody thinks I can walk,” she said, “[but] I made it to the temple.”

To learn more about the Vaidica Vidhya Ganapathi Center, visit https://vvgc.org/

This story was produced in partnership with CatchLight as part of the CatchLight Local Visual Storytelling Initiative. To learn more about this collaborative model for local visual journalism, sign up for CatchLight’s newsletter.

Sree Sripathy

Sree Sripathy is a writer, photographer and disability advocate based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a 2022 CatchLight Local Fellow and part of the California Local Visual Desk program. Sree also...