Minnesota's largest Hindu temple gets grand ceremonyby Curtis Gilbert, Minnesota Public Radio
Maple Grove, Minn. — Thousands of people are expected to flock to Maple Grove this weekend for the grand opening of the Hindu Temple of Minnesota.
At 43,000 square feet, it's the largest Hindu Temple in the state, and one of the largest in the whole country.
It's a far cry from the Twin Cities Hindu community's old worship space: an old Episcopalian Church built in 1897.
Local Hindus bought the church in 1978, when the congregation was a fraction of its current size.
"It started with maybe five or ten, and it became maybe up to about 100," founding member Kumud Sane said. "But later we had 200 to 300 people coming, and we could not accommodate that many people here."
There are about 20,000 Hindus living in Minnesota today, and they want a place where all of them can feel welcome.
They bought 80 acres of cheap farm land on the outskirts of Maple Grove, and began construction in 2003.
"We started using it in 2006, and no temple is really complete without the archway," temple president Mythili Chari said. "And so this archway is the final seal that it is completed."
Made from a special concrete designed to withstand Minnesota's winters, the Divine Gateway stands 65-feet tall above the temple's front door. Artisans from India carved intricate figures and designs into every inch of it by hand.
Inside the temple there are 19 shrines. They also have elaborate hand carvings and designs. The tallest one almost touches the ceiling in the large prayer hall, making it close to 50-feet high.
Each of these shrines is dedicated to a different Hindu deity.
Many Hindu temples focus on one god -- or maybe a few. But early on the Hindu Temple of Minnesota's trustees decided they wanted to incorporate as many strains of the religion as possible.
"However that culture or that style of worshipping is practiced in various parts of remote India, that part is represented here," Chari said. "So that's what is so unique and beautiful about this temple. It basically is a microcosm of India, itself."
Minnesota's Hindu community hasn't always felt total acceptance here. In 2006, two young men broke into the temple and vandalized some of the shrines with a baseball bat. But Chari said that story had a happy ending.
"When the court asked us what we wanted to do to punish the kids, they really wanted them to do community service for us," Chari said. "So it turned out those two boys are part of our community now, and they help us with our work. They've been great citizens."
The boys even participated in a ceremony at the temple last month, when the shrines they desecrated were buried in the temple garden.
This weekend's ceremony culminates Sunday with the consecration of the temple's Divine Gateway. The organizers have erected temporary stairs next to it so attendants can climb up and sprinkle rose petals and basil leaves on its domes.
The celebration is free and open to the public, but for $151 you can drop your rose petals on the gateway from a helicopter.
There's also a raffle with prizes, including a Lexus.
The temple cost more than $6 million to build and the Hindu Society of Minnesota hopes to have the debt paid off within the next 10 years.
- Morning Edition, 06/26/2009, 7:45 a.m.