‘Dream becoming true’ as Fort McMurray breaks ground on Hindu temple

The Sanatan Mandir Cultural Society is breaking ground in Fort McMurray Sunday on the community’s first Hindu temple. 

The project, 10 years in the making, is expected to cost about $6.5 million.

The society was formed in 2010 with the intent of opening a temple for the community.

It had hoped to start building when it bought the property a few years ago, but the Fort McMurray wildfire and economic downturn made it difficult to raise the money.

“We slowed because of oil, and a lot of people started moving out from Fort McMurray,” said chairman Kalpesh Patel. “That was a big challenge for us.”

In the meantime, the Hindu community has been practising their faith in school gyms and basements, Patel said.

“That’s called the dream becoming true. Everybody feeling that now we will have our own building where we can practise, where we can have our cultural events.”

There are about 800 families that have been waiting for the temple, he said, and the society has relied on those families to donate to the build.

Kalpesh Patel stands in front of the construction site in Fort McMurray. He calls the the temple a ‘dream becoming true.’ (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC)

“I personally feel this is a very proud moment for us,” Patel said.

The temple will be the northernmost Hindu temple in the world, he said.

The temple will serve as a cultural society, include a library and offer yoga classes.

Bhavesh Patel, the society’s joint general secretary, said the temple will help in passing on their culture to the next generation.

His son is in Grade 12 and has been in Canada since he was three years old.

The Sanatan Mandir Cultural Society set up tents for Sunday’s groundbreaking. Construction will start as soon as the celebration ends. (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC)

“We have left all our religious and culture behind,” Bhavesh Patel said. “We want to see that culture continue in our next generation, so they understand family ties, they understand the culture, where we are coming from.”

He said his son likely won’t be living in Fort McMurray when the temple opens, but Patel can’t wait to bring him to the temple when he visits.

“I’m really excited [for him] to join us, to continue to be part of community and understand our culture.”

The temple is expected to be finished in October 2020.

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