- Associated Press - Friday, August 22, 2014

SHESHQUIN, Pa. (AP) - People from as far away as Canada, Chicago, New Jersey and Philadelphia gathered earlier this month at a Hindu ashram in Sheshequin Township, Bradford County.

They had come to the one-story building to participate in a ceremony to mark the 15th anniversary of the expansion to the United States of a Hindu organization called Vishwa Gayatri Mission, which owns and operates the ashram in Sheshequin Township.

Swami Alakhgiriji Maharaj, who established the ashram in Sheshequin Township in 2010, said the Vishwa Gayatri Mission founded its first center in the United States in Chicago, Ill., in 1999, and has centers in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Atlantic City and other locations in America.

Swami Alakhgiriji Maharaj, also known as “Swamiji,” is “very famous” as a yoga expert and yoga teacher, and is known for that expertise in countries such as China, Nepal, Tibet, the United States and India, said Pallavi Dave, who manages the ashram in Sheshequin Township.

Swamiji, who is from the state of Gujarat in India, said he founded the Vishwa Gayatri Mission organization in 1954 and established eight ashrams in India.

People gather on Sundays at the ashram in Sheshequin Township to pray and practice meditation, Dave said.

About 200 people regularly worship at the ashram in Sheshequin Township, and they come from Towanda, Troy, Athens, Sayre, Mansfield, Elmira, Allentown and other locations, she said.

When there are Hindu festivals, people from all over the United States and Canada come to the Sheshequin ashram, which is called the Vishwa Gayatri Yogashram, Swamiji said.

Swamiji said that Vishwa Gayatri Mission, which is a non-profit organization, is planning to expand the Sheshequin ashram.

The Mission is going to construct a building on the ashram’s 3.2-acre property where people would go to practice yoga, he said.

The Mission is also planning to build a guest house at the Sheshequin ashram where yoga teachers and yoga students would stay, he said.

The guest house would be able to house more than 100 people, and it would include a large kitchen and a library that would have books from all religions, he said.

Each room in the guest house would have living quarters for two people, Dave said.

“We are planning to have (the buildings built) within two years,” Swamiji said. “We are raising funds from donors” to build the buildings, he said.

After the buildings are constructed, the Sheshequin ashram would be the Mission’s main location in the United States, he said.

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