Hindu Temples are Getting Americanized… …

 By K S Venkataraman


We go to great lengths to “Indianize” Hindu places of worship in the US by changing their exterior facades with Gopurams and Shikharams and interiors with Hindu murals and architectural features.
However, even as these places maintain a façade of “authenticity,” in reality they have taken a leaf out of the way churches are organized here. Like American Protestant churches, our temples Malibu Temple 1have bylaws, annual membership dues, elections, general body meetings, budget allocations, appointment of employees and priests — and scandals too.

There is nothing new in this. Even animals, when they migrate, learn to adapt to their new ecosystem. That is their only way to survive. Otherwise, they become extinct. Even plants learn to adapt and evolve.

Many temples have also added Indian twists in this adaptation: providing de-facto quota system on the basis of linguistic groups for electing members and temple officers, appointing committees, hiring employees, priests, even cooks. Caste-based reservation is not there, at least not yet! Another feature the temples have most passionately embraced from American churches are fights and schisms spanning from the most trivial to mundane, to serious matters.
Coming from India, one feature that surprised me the most in my early days was the use of places of worship – churches – as polling stations. This is a taboo in India, given the religious strife among and between Hindus, Muslims, and Christians. But then, when I learned more about the early political history of this great nation, I realized that places of worship have always been places where people gathered to discuss politics and social issues, often with church leaders taking a stand on political, social and cultural issues.

Malibu Temple 2Finally, the Hindu temples in the US seem to be slowly taking a baby step internalizing this one good feature of American democracy. In the recent primary season in California, the Malibu Hindu temple opened its doors as a voting center.  The pictures in this story are taken at the Malibu Temple in California, used as polling station in the recent primary.

The Malibu Hindu Temple, though, is not the first one in setting this good example. The Hindu Samaj Temple in Duchess County in Upstate NY has been doing this for years. Hopefully, other “premier” institutions will follow this good example and become Americanized.  ♣       


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