Sunday, January 23, 2011

Temples of North America - Introduction

I am thinking about writing a series on the Hindu Temples of North America aiming to cover the temples in US and Canada. To cover wider audience let me stick to English and may resort to Sanskrit / Tamil where needed if I feel English cannot do justice for the context.
With the spurt in immigration from India to other countries, people try to preserve the culture in the new home by trying to mingle with the people of  the same culture socially and pass on the values back home to the next generation by teaching them the same. An easy way of achieving this is by temples. A temple with the presiding deity of their native land is built by these immigrants and they have a sentimental and pshycological feeling that they are close to their native land.
The path to these temple's constructions wouldnot have been smooth - from monetary constraints to bureaucratic hurdles and local resident's opposition.
Money is the major constraint. This is where the believer's society pitches in for the initial efforts of building the temple and for the upkeep afterwards. Certain contributions could be tax deductible and that could be an inducement for donations.
The next is the bureaucratic hurdles and local resident's opposition. America has a concept called Zoning Law whereby if  a new development comes in an area, it has to be consistent with the area's charecteristic. You cannot bring a business complex in a residential community because it will lead to increase in vehicular traffic causing more commotion and noise pollution in the area. The same gets applicable for building a new temple too. When a plan is conceived for starting a new temple, a local resident's meeting of the area is organized and the residents can veto the project if they have the numbers. Also in addition to building the numbers for support, it is essential to keep the local government in the good books by inviting them to the functions conducted in the temple etc. A lobbying group has to be built for this relationship exercise.
All the existing temples now in North America would have gone through this and are now running offering spiritual solace to the visiting believers. Most of the temples also have  a Community hall to provide platform for devotional, music and dance classes and also a place for concerts of visiting talents  from India and within the country. All the major religious festivals of Hinduism are conducted aplomb based upon the North American calendar (Panchangam in Tamil). This is because the sunrise and sunset times differ between India and North America and may cause the auspicious time of the festival to come the same day or the previous/next day. Some are even conduted the nearby weekend to enable working people to attend the same.
I hope this would be of interest to you. My point in this exercise is - Not everything in western world is fashionable or ultra-modern and there are certain things that are followed devotedly even after leaving the Indian shores.

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