N.H. Hindu temple-school files bankruptcy

Saraswati Maniram, a Hindu temple and school, filed for bankruptcy last week in order to thwart a foreclosure threat on its property, which spans 100 acres in Epping.

The temple, which suffered a fire in January 2004, was attempting to rebuild when the holders of the note – Gourley and Gourley LLC, a Virginia-based financing firm – started foreclosure proceedings, said Pandit Ramadheen Ramsamooj, founder and president of Saraswati Mandiram Inc.

Ramsamooj claimed that G&G had verbally assured him that he would have enough time to rebuild, but when he tried to get that in writing, the company reneged on its agreement. He said all he needed was an extra 30 days to put financing in place, when a foreclosure auction was scheduled for May 15.

While the original note was $1.2 million in 2003, G&G now claims Ramsamooj owes $2.5 million, which he says works out to a 22.4 percent interest rate. However, the property — which comes with residential facilities with over 30 bedrooms, eight kitchens, an auditorium and a commercial kitchen — is worth as much as $6 million, Ramsamooj said, so he should be able to secure another loan.

“They see they have a valuable strategic property in town, so they decided not to give me anytime,” Ramsamooj told NHBR daily. “I thought they were just a private bank, but they are venture capitalist hawks …. They are bent on sending me to the dogs.”

“He can say anything he wants,” retorted Dave Cordingley, production officer for G&G. “He is the one in default. We don’t make verbal agreements. This is all documented, and he has every opportunity to cure the default.”

Saraswati Mandiram(which means, respectively, goddess of learning and a place where the mind is stimulated and enlightened) is an international organization with affiliates in India. The New England chapter started outside Boston as a private school in 1990 as a place where students go through their schooling at their own – usually at an accelerated pace. The school claims that many of its students have the equivalent of a high school diploma at 15.

It moved up to New Hampshire in 1997 – replacing the Christian Retreat Center on the banks of the Lamprey River – eventually purchasing all of the property by 2003.

At the time of the fire – which investigators at the time thought was caused by an electrical problem — the school had 24 students with plans to expand to 300 — but without the main temple building, the private school could not function, Ramsamooj said.

The facility still holds religious services and hosted a retreat last August that attracted several thousand worshipers, but in addition to financing problems, Ramsamooj said that donations have fallen off in the wake of slew of major disasters that have siphoned off charity dollars.

In addition to its mortgage, the temple owes at least $150,000 to a number of individual creditors. These appear to be mostly temple members who have lent the temple money. The largest, a resident at the facility, is owed $41,000.

More detailed schedules have yet to be filed. – BOB SANDERS

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