Iraivan Temple

A Temple Built to Last 1000 Years

Iraivan is our Sivalingam temple, currently under construction. It began with Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami's vision of God Siva in 1975; carving began in India in 1990; and assembly at Kauai's Hindu Monastery began in 2001.

Gurudeva's Sacred Vision

Located in the heart of a traditional Hindu monastery complex reminiscent of ancient mathas and aadheenams of India, Iraivan is more than a temple; it is a pilgrimage destination, a place of sadhana and spiritual rejuvenation. Iraivan Temple is a living edifice that brings ancient tradition into the 21st century, a stable anchor sustaining and strengthening Hindu Dharma for our children, their children and generations to come.

Our Fund-Raising Goal for
September 2012 to August 2013

The total amount needed next year to keep
this sacred project funded in both India and Hawaii
is $60,000 per month, or $720,000

Times remain uncertain for many, and it is just during such times that projects wane. Iraivan Temple needs your support now more than ever. Be generous and send your special year-end contribution today. Download the full 2012 annual report (PDF) here.


We want to share with you what has been accomplished and what next year promises. The carving on the Nandi Mandapam in Bengaluru, expected to be completed next fall, is progressing well. It is a wonder to behold, and we all look forward to seeing it assembled on Kauai in the years ahead. Selvanathan Sthapati's wife, Ponni, during a recent visit to the worksite, put it like this: "I have only seen such carvings in the old Chola temples around Tanjore." Isn't that inspiring? It means one of Gurudeva's key aims--to preserve this temple-building craft into modern times--has been accomplished. A 21st century temple is emulating those built in the 10th century.

If all goes as planned, the stones for the second prakaram wall will be quarried and transported to the worksite over the next year, and carving will move forward, though at an extremely slow speed due to a dwindling number of available shilpis. The illustration above shows eight of the 45 panels that constitute this important wall.

On Kauai, planning for the extensive grading work around Iraivan Temple, which includes piping for irrigation and drainage, is almost complete and will be costed in this coming year.

Our family of San Marga devotees continues to grow, mainly by word of mouth. Iraivan itself is inspiring support from those who can see its form and intuit its power. Pilgrims find their experience spiritually fulfilling and eagerly encourage their friends to discover Kauai's Hindu Monastery for themselves.

We just missed--by $18,447.85--last year's fund-raising goal of $720,000. Especially in these continued difficult financial times, we continue to count on your contributions to meet our goals in the twelve months ahead. We are grateful to our global family of temple builders for your continued and generous support.

With blessings for a bountiful family life and spiritual progress,
Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami

2012_quarry_DSC_0157 Harvesting granite slabs: At the quarry owned by brothers Manjunatha and Sreenivas, a huge block of stone, one of 45 that will be needed, has been broken loose by driving wedges into drilled holes, then pulled off the shelf by two cranes. Inset photo (lower right) is a prototype of a perimeter wall section. Watch the video of this stone being quarried at Watch the exciting extraction of stone at the quarry on YouTube.

Plans for 2012-2013

The main focus for the year ahead will be in Bengaluru. The work on the Nandi Mandapam is underway, and the stones should be shipped to Kauai next year. The entire shilpi team will then shift to the major work before us: the massive perimeter wall. For the first time, our craftsmen will be employing saws and hand-held grinders, which will greatly accelerate the progress. Stones from the quarry will be sliced to near-finished size with the worksite's giant stone saw. Still it will take 400 man days for each 12-foot-long wall section. We are working on the shipping of three or more containers in the near future. They will hold the avudaiyar, the five bronze Siva murtis, the entrance steps with yallis, and the 15-foot-tall Hanuman, who will be placed on the small rise on the west side of Iraivan. Once we have the stones for the balance of the Nandi Mandapam and entrance steps on Kauai, we will finalize our plans for when to bring the next batch of silpis to Kauai. A tentative date is the beginning of 2015. We remain eager to have the silpis back, but patient, as there is no gain in pulling them away from the work in Bengaluru until there are sufficient stones on Kauai to keep them busy for at least a year.

2012_nandi-mandapam-intricate_DSC_1260 Above: Silpi Manikandan marks designs on the Nandi Mandapam beams. Behind, silpis carve the pothigai (pieces that tie the pillars to the beams).

Gurudeva's Vision

Photo of Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami
It was in 1959 that my path led me to the Hawaiian Islands for the first time. In 1968 I returned to the islands on a vision quest, seeking and finding a place to move our international headquarters, there to live a contemplative life in harmony with the ultimate attainment of the Self within man.
— Gurudeva

"One early morning, before dawn, a three-fold vision of Lord Siva came to me. First I beheld Lord Siva walking in a valley, then I saw His face peering into mine, then He was seated on a large stone, His reddish golden hair flowing down His back. That was February 15, 1975.This was the fulfillment of the quest for a vision of what the future might hold, which led me and my followers to the lovely Garden Island of Kauai, held the most sacred of all by the Hawaiian peoples long, long ago. It is alongside the sacred Wailua River, leading to the top of Mt. Waialeale, that this place of pilgrimage is being built, a temple of kaivalya, granting freedom from the past and a vision for the future. The temple's 700-pound 50-million-years-in-the-making crystal icon is a kalpaka (spiritual wish-fulfilling) ever-giving Sivalingam. So many blessings await each pilgrim. None are ever neglected."

A Temple Built to Last 1000 Years

[General Temple Project Description Goes Here]

General Building Fund Raising Summary, Construction Update

Fund Raising Progress Bar

[General Temple Project Description Goes Here, I just dropped in the thermometer here for kicks. and also at the bottom of the side bar if we want it to appear on all Iraivan pages which is my recommendation. The stewards and Bodhinatha did want us to make the fund raising effort "come to the top" of these pages and not just have them "talk story." Otherwise people thinks it's all done. ]


With little fanfare, the first hand-carved, all-stone Hindu temple ever erected in the Western Hemisphere is slowly taking shape on a Hawaiian island in the mid-Pacific Ocean. It began, as Hindu temples traditionally do, with a vision. Early morning on February 15, 1975, Lord Siva appeared in an ethereal vision to Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami (Gurudeva) at his ashram on the island of Kauai. Gurudeva resolved to permanently capture the immense spiritual power of that vision. Thus was born the Iraivan Temple, its riverside site already sacred to the ancient Hawaiian people. Iraivan, "He who is worshiped," is one of the oldest words for God in the ancient Tamil language. From the beginning, the temple, located at the foot of an extinct volcano on the northernmost of the Hawaiian Islands, was conceived to be as rare as the vision that birthed it. Already the Americas had Hindu temples, but this was destined to be unique, a hand-carved white-granite edifice to be brought stone by stone from India, to reflect the ultimate in craftsmanship and design and to be surrounded with as beautiful a setting as the paradise island could allow. He directed that all aspects of the construction were to be engineered to last more than one thousand years--an ambitious goal by Western standards, though many temples of such age and older exist in India today.

Nearly every recent temple--and thousands have resulted from the last few decades' explosion of Hindu devotion--has adapted modern methods of brick and concrete, steel and wood to the ancient designs. Cost and the time required to build were thus reduced, but at the expense of longevity and beauty, for plaster--no matter how skillfully applied--never equals the power or permanence of stone. In August, 1987, Subramuniyaswami acquired a giant quartz crystal--a sphatika Sivalingam--to enshrine in the Chola-style temple. At 700-plus pounds and 39 inches tall, it is the largest six-sided, single-pointed crystal ever found. Natural stones are used in Siva temples to "mark" the presence of God beyond all forms and qualities. Scriptures decree that, of all possible kinds of stone, crystal makes the supreme Sivalingam. The temple's Tamil architect, who visits the island site regularly, believes the crystal Lingam to be the greatest wonderment of this temple--"If all the crystal lingams in India were put together into one, they would still not equal the power of this one crystal."

Master builder: Our current architect is Selvanathan Sthapathi who trained for years under the temple's designer, Thiru V. Ganapati Sthapati, former principal of the Government College of Architecture in Tamil Nadu, arguably India's greatest living builder, was hired. Gurudeva decided to have the stones carved, all 3.2 million pounds, in Bangalore. He directed builders to follow and preserve the old methods, shaping the stone with simple chisels and hammers, and not to use any modern rock-cutting equipment. Even the quarrying was to be done by hand, for the architect explained that rock blasted out with dynamite is subtly shattered and loses the pure "tone" of hand-quarried stone. To him, rock is a living element, not inert, and the sound of the granite, which he terms "its song," is a key part of the spiritual integrity of the temple.

Help from India: Two eminent swamis with hundreds of thousands of followers--Sri Sri Sri Sivaratnapuri Mahaswamigal (popularly known as Tiruchi Swami) and Sri Sri Sri Balagangadharanathaswami--came forward to assist with the project, and in 1990 provided eleven acres of land outside Bangalore [see page 17]. There, a village was built, and 75 silpis, traditional stone carvers, were hired, and their families moved to the San Marga Iraivan Temple carving site, the only facility in the nation with Internet access and a retirement program. As we completed the bulk of the carving there, the site was moved and fewer silpis were needed. Today there are 20-30 carvers at the village.

Financial strategy: By the late 1980s, the extraordinary 51-acre temple lands on Kauai were paid off and sufficient money raised to begin construction. From the beginning it has been a "pay as you go" project. Gurudeva's edict is as simple as it is unusual: build this temple with no loans and no debts.

It was Gurudeva's intention from the beginning to not only construct this unique temple, but to simultaneously endow it. Thus, of the us$16-million-dollar fundraising goal, approximately half is for building the temple and related facilities, landscaping, etc., and half provides a yearly income to maintain and improve the temple regardless of future economic conditions. So far, $2 million has been contributed by devotees in 45 countries. When asked when the temple will be completed, the monks reply, "Progress depends on contributions. There is no completion deadline. Realistically, the temple will take another decade, and only when the full $16 million is raised will our San Marga Iraivan Temple be formally dedicated." The building of Iraivan is equal to its completion.

Why on a remote island? "Why not build this beautiful and not inexpensive edifice in a more convenient location--say Sacramento, California," one critic asked, "rather than in the middle of nowhere?" The monks explain: because that is where the vision took place. There are many pilgrimage destinations in remote places. For example, millions trek each year to the Ayyappan shrine at Sabarimala, hidden in a South Indian jungle. On the mystical side, Gurudeva explains, pilgrimage is not supposed to be easy--witness the dangers faced by hundreds of thousands of Hindus who trek annually into the desolate Himalayan mountains, facing blizzards and fearing landslides. While the greatest hazard of pilgrimage to idyllic Kauai is a serious sunburn on the beach or getting wet in the rain, the oceanic remoteness does require serious commitment from those pursuing real spiritual progress. The public reaction from Hindus and non-Hindus alike is enthusiastic--local Kauaians are delighted to have such a masterpiece on their island, which takes pride in its cultural diversity, especially one that is close to the island's ancient Hawaiian and contemporary Buddhist religious heritage [see page 34].