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MERRILLVILLE – Laying the foundation for the future facility for the Chinmaya Mission of Northwest Indiana didn't involve spreading concrete.

Prayers and blessings were used Sunday afternoon to prepare the site for construction.

Through the Chinmaya Mission, people can experience spiritual growth and learn virtues and values from spiritual texts. It's associated with the Indian American Cultural Center and the Bharatiya Temple of Northwest Indiana, both at 8605 Merrillville Road, and it will be adjacent to the facilities.

Although the center is tied to Hinduism, the Chinmaya Mission is open to those of all beliefs and backgrounds, said Padmini Makam, of the IACC.

Under a tent, the large group who attended the ceremony offered flowers, milk and gems. They asked for forgiveness knowing their actions will disrupt the land and nature.

Makam said an idol of Ganesha will be placed in the new Chinmaya Mission center. Prayers also were said to Ganesha during the ceremony.

At its conclusion, the event moved inside the IACC for a cultural program that included music and dances.

Sunday's events were viewed as a historic day to advance the Chinmaya Mission. The next step in the process will be construction of the center. That work will begin before the end of the year. The facility, which will include classrooms, is expected to open in 2018.

Chinmaya Mission classes have been conducted at the IACC facility. Leaders there felt it was important for the Chinmaya Mission to occupy its own space.