Will Pledges for New York Mahapurana be Paid?

Pundit Deen Bandhu Pokhrel reciting the Bhagavata Mahapurana last August. (Photo via vishwanews.com)

It’s already been more than three months since the Ridgewood Nepalese Society, the nonprofit organization based in New York, conducted a weeklong Bhagavata Mahapurana. (In the Hindu religion, Mahapurana means the ancient tales of followers of the Lord.) The event raised funds to construct a Hindu temple and Nepalese Community Center in Ridgewood, Queens. But many people and organizations haven’t paid the amounts they committed yet.

About $1.5 million was pledged during the program and until now only the Overseas Nepalese Forum, a community organization based in New York, has paid what it pledged.

The Society conducted the “New York Mahapurana” from Aug. 23-29 at Satya Narayan Temple in Woodside, Queens.

Nepal’s influential spiritual speaker, Pundit Deen Bandhu Pokhrel, was invited to the event to help raise the funds by reciting the Bhagavata Mahapurana.

A total of $1,436,256.56 was committed by the end of the weeklong event, among which a sum of $116,568.12 was collected during the process.

The highest commitment was $125,000 made by Nepali Public Relations Committee USA, a community organization based in the city, which is linked to the largest party of Nepal, Nepali Congress. They have not paid anything yet. Likewise, the majority of other prospective donors have not either.

However, the Overseas Nepalese Forum, commonly seen as the sister organization of the second largest political party of Nepal, the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), paid $4,000 in October and another $4,000 last month. The Forum has committed to donating $111,111 over two years, said Rajesh Bhatta, the coordinator of the Mahapurana.

The donors can pay the committed funds in monthly, bimonthly or quarterly installments.

Interestingly, reputable organizations and community members haven’t paid a penny of their pledged amount. Among them are: The Ridgewood Nepalese Society’s former presidents Shree Parajuli ($111,111) and Mohan Gyawali ($50,000), Non Resident Nepali Association President Dr. Keshab Poudel ($10,000), attorneys Khagendra G.C. ($50,000), Keshab Sedai ($35,000) and Ramesh Shrestha ($20,000), community leaders Bed Kharel ($66,666) and Janak Parajuli ($22,222), and Texas businessman Gauri Joshi ($61,150).

Bhuwan Adhikari, one of the members of the organizing committee, said, “Most of them are busy with Nepal’s ongoing election. They have informed us that they will be fulfilling their commitment soon.”

Community leader Suman Shah committed $51,111, of which he paid $10,000 during the Mahapurana.

Ironically, the coordinator of the Mahapurana, Rajesh Bhatta, himself hasn’t paid his committed $75,000. “I will be paying a certain amount by the end of December,” he said. “I have also called other people to pay the money they have committed before Dec. 31.”

According to Bhatta, if somebody pays the money before Dec. 31, they can show that on their tax filing for 2017.

“Most of the members of Nepali Public Relations Committee USA, the highest donor, are in Nepal so it’s difficult to reach out to them,” he said. “They have 20 months to pay the money now.”

The Society planned to create a separate working committee to work toward collecting the committed funds but they couldn’t decide on who should be on the team. In the end, Tulsi Acharya, the treasurer of the Society, was given the responsibility to lead the ongoing fund-collecting task.

The president of the Society, Rabi Kiran Koirala, said that they are currently busy working on the design of the temple and community center. “We have also created a team of three Nepalese engineers for this,” he said.

Surya Lamsal, Narayan Baral and Om Dhudari are the engineers. “Once the local [authorities] approve our design, we will work with the construction company,” he said.

If people become reluctant to fulfill their financial commitment, then the construction will be affected. “We don’t even have enough funds to pay the initial fee to the construction company,” Koirala said.

According to the treasurer, Acharya, Pundit Pokhrel was paid $20,000 for his services, and $74,258.49 was spent on various administrative work.

“I have been in touch with most of the people who have committed,” Acharya said.

While a large population of Nepalese has lived in New York for a long time [estimates range as high as 20,000], they still don’t have their own community center. The Society had organized a similar Mahapurana in 2010, which helped them purchase land at 1647 Hancock St. in Ridgewood, Queens.


Watch video produced by Anuz Thapa in August of the Ridgewood Nepalese Society’s “New York Mahapurana” fundraising event to build the Durga Temple and Nepalese Cultural Center.

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