Leaving the bright lights of the big city and travelling into a more rural area of Central Ohio called Powell, you’ll find something unexpected – the Bharatiya Hindu Temple. In a large brick building built specifically for them, the unorthodox design of the temple reveals much about Hindu culture in America. Unlike temples in India devoted to one specific god, the Bharatiya temple is built in an octagon shape to honor several gods. Temples in India might typically have a large tower attached to the building, but due to zoning laws in Powell, Bharatiya lacks this. Most importantly, the temple is not just a place for religion; it teaches culture and language as well.
“It shows harmony and peace. It teaches values for how to live better. It is very disciplined.” – Nagesh Manne
The Hindu religion differs in many ways from the dominant American religion of Christianity. Hindus believe in a god with multiple names, and some believe in multiple gods. They also celebrate hundreds of Hindu holidays, and utilize yoga for a “One Reality.” The fluidity of the religion makes it hard to pinpoint a single “textbook definition.” Most Hindus, however, generally believe in the authority of the Vedas and the Brahmans, reincarnation, and the law of karma. A huge part of the Hindu religion is festivals. The sounds and scenery of these festivals truly represent Hinduism – colorful, whimsical, and musical.
“Is it [my religion] important? It is a way of life.” –Venkat Punugu
I attended two seasonal festivals at the Bharatiya Hindu Temple. Diwali, the festival of lights, is one of the larger celebrations in the religion. Ganesh Chaturthi is the festival in honor of Ganesha, the elephant-headed god of wisdom, knowledge, and new beginnings. The clips from the site are a mixture of two festivals, ambient sounds, chanting, and music. These clips offer a representation of what you would hear attending the temple. I have also attended the temple a couple of times outside of the festivals, and what I saw was passion and devotion to their religion – not just at the festivals, but at regular temple hours as well. Three members spoke to me about their religious views, and all three agreed it was a way of life, not just a religion. Their entire existence is based upon Hinduism. This can easily be seen and heard in the temple; the sound clips will give you a sense of the passion within the institution.
“We want to pass this to our kids, so they can pass further.” –Shavani Kumar
The Bharatiya Hindu Temple is more than just a religious institution – it’s a community and a cultural center. The temple propagates Indian culture by offering different cultural education classes. Intertwining the religious practices with Indian culture brings diversity to the Midwest in more ways than just religion. The temple brings new languages, new practices, new ideas, new communities, and even new foods to the Columbus area. The culture, religion, and community offer a rich new additive to the melting pot of the United States.