Scaled down plans for Moncure’s Hindu temple under way

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Plans to build a Hindu temple in Moncure are still under way, Carolina Murugan Temple organizers say, though construction will be scaled down and divided into multiple phases.

Initial plans for the temple were presented to Chatham County in December 2018. By March 2019, temple organizers had purchased more than 130 acres for the facility, the News + Record reported, which would include a 155-foot statue of Murugan, the Hindu god of war whose purpose is to protect people from destructive forces.

Now, “due to the nature of the project and cost,” those plans changed, said Kaali Dass, chairperson of Carolina Murugan Temple. The Phase 1 construction plans include a 2,500 square foot “temporary temple,” multi-acre ECO garden, walking trail to the riverfront and a 6-foot Murugan statue — and according to its website, will cost $7 million.

“We submitted the Phase I scope for approval with Chatham county,” Dass said in an email to the News + Record. “We are waiting for the Phase I approval process with Chatham (C)ounty. At this point, we do not have any new updates to share. We will have more information by the end of September 2021.”

According to its website, the temple is set to be located on the banks of the Deep River on the Chatham side of the Chatham County-Lee County line. The listed address is 272 First Road, Moncure, which is near the U.S. 1 highway.

Previously, one of the temple’s donors, Radha Ravi Varma, told the News + Record that there was no set date for constructing the temple, but that it might take “five to ten years to start the construction.” Dass said the target for the statue and building is 6-10 years.

While the first phase of construction will include a 6-foot Murugan statue, the group still plans to eventually add the 155-foot monument, advertised on its website in 2019 as “the tallest statue of Lord Murugan in the world.”

“Our immediate goal is to operationalize the Moncure site as quickly as possible, with a minimal budget,” the temple’s website says. “We have been tirelessly working with Site Design Engineers, Surveyors, County government, and other agencies to accelerate the permitting process. This approval will give us the green light to construct the full temple or temporary structure for us to operate at the site.”

Carolina Murugan Temple submitted its Phase 1 plan in December 2020, Dass told the News + Record, with review still in process.

“We hope to get it approved soon,” Dass said.

The land is zoned R-1 Residential, which means the temple, like other places of worship, doesn’t require site plan approval from the county’s Planning Board or Board of Commissioners under county ordinances.

Drew Blake, on staff with Chatham County’s Watershed Protection department, said the county is currently waiting for revisions to the temple’s plan before moving forward.

“The Carolina Murugan Temple is still in the plan review process for Soil Erosion and Sedimentation Control as well as Stormwater,” he said in an email. “We are currently waiting for a plan revision submittal based on our last round of comments.”

The temple’s website previously said the temple would promote economic growth as well as bring social and charitable programs for the residents of North Carolina. Since its founding in 2018, there are more than 260 temple members, 310 volunteers and the temple has hosted 21 events.

“The Carolina Murugan Temple will provide an experience of Tamil spiritual heritage and language to the international community in North Carolina,” the website stated in 2019, when the News + Record first reported on the temple. “Our objective is to retain the traditional culture and rituals performed by Tamils for thousands of years and will follow ‘Lord Muruga’s Tamizh Vazhipaattu Murai’ in all ceremonies and celebrations.”

Eventually, the website says the land will feature not only a temple, but a wedding area, playground, world cultural museum and more. The group chose to build in Chatham County because of its proximity to Research Triangle Park and the availability of land, the News + Record previously reported.

Elon University Religious Studies Professor Amy Allocco told the News + Record in March 2019 that temples like the Carolina Murugan Temple are significant for Hindus who don’t live in India. Allocco studied abroad in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, the home of the Tamils, as an undergrad and regularly visits the state for research as a professor.

“In places where Hindus are the minority, like North Carolina, temples take on important community functions,” she said at the time. “They become community centers in important ways. If you’re a young Hindu kid in North Carolina, you might go there to learn about the deities and the language and the history of your religion.”

While the website indicates its preliminary planning phase is 100% complete, Phase 1 is listed at 10%.

“The availability of the funds is the primary limiting factor,” the website says, “and it will be a major constraint for us to accelerate the approval and construction process. We will need approximately 1.9 Million US dollars to get the infrastructure and other utilities.”

To donate, go to: https://www.carolinamurugantemple.org/donation/.

Reporter Hannah McClellan can be reached at hannah@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @HannerMcClellan.

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