Never I my life did I ever imagine walking into a religious building that is not in my nature. As me and my friend park into the Hindu temple parking lot, we saw an amazing white structure that looked enormous. We attended a Hindu Temple near 28th Ave and Maryland named Bharitaya Ekta Mandir. It was a Saturday morning at 9:30 am and that day was the day they worship the deity named Shree Vishnu Sahastranama and Sri Venkateshwara Suprabhatam. It is common for Hindus to perform Puja, daily worship, and this temple had a calendar for each day of the week to worship a different deity at a certain time. Temple Pujas are performed at dawn, dusk, and midnight. We were welcomed by kind people and a man who managed the temple. He led us to the entrance where there was a sign that said “Shoes must be removed before going inside the temple.” We had to abide by the rules and regulations for their religious purposes such as: No shoes, no food/drinks, do not disrespect or touch the shrines and wear clothes that is conservative and non-revealing. Once we have made sure we were dressed properly, we entered the Temple.
The top of door had many colorful Hindu designs that lit up the room and around it were lettering of Indo-Aryan language. There were many symbols such as “the Om” that signifies dignity and authority. Around the corners of the room were little statues of the deities like Ganesha and Parvati decorated with flowers. There was another door we had to walk into to get to the main room. As you walk in there is a scent of burned incense which is commonly used in the ritual practices. There was also a big gold and silver chest that had flower designs and a Swastika on the center. The Swastika is the second most important symbol to Hinduism that symbolizes the eternal nature of the Brahman.
On top of the Chest, there was a big bell that you had to ring before you walked in. it was important to ring the bell because it lets the Deities know that the devotees were present and the devotees touched the chest with their right hand as they bowed. In the Big hall, there are five rooms that include two miniature areas. Each five rooms had different deities that were covered in so many decorations. The first room had Mahavir swami, Bhagwan Adinath and Parshvanath. The second had Lord Shiva, Parvati, and Ganesh. The third was Lord Krishna, Radha, Srinathji. The Fourth had Lord Rama, Sita, Lakshman, and Hanuman and the fifth had Lord Venkateshvara, Bhudevi, and sridevi. On each room the bottom of the floor had a beautiful flower looking designs in the center of the areas of the shrines called “Sankranti Muggulu.” And they each also had the same golden chest to offer donations.
The priest named Varadarajan walked in the room holding several trays with cups, herbs, coconuts, raisins, candles and incense. He wore a red and white robe and on his forehead, he had a Tilaka mark that can be worn on a daily basis. He began singing a Hymn to the deity of Shree Vishnu Sahastranama while he placed the trays carefully with the cups on top of it, and began to pour coconut water in them. He also lit candles and picked up the cup and poured it on a tiny statue that was the same replica of the deity next to it. He got the herb and chanted as he placed some to the deity’s lips. He also had 4 tiny brown balls that he poured into the water, he repeatedly placed them on each eyes and then his heart and placed it on the deity’s feet. The priest chanted for at least 45 minutes and while he prayed, he also rang bells and offered grapes and raisins in a basket. After the priest was finishing up his prayer, he gave the devotees a handful of coconut water that was touched by the statue and the people began to drink and pour some on their heads.
He had also given them raisins and finished by placing his hands together and kneeled for the shrine. After the priest was done, the people went their separate ways and went to hymn to the other deities on the rest of the rooms. All the rooms had a bell and they all had to ring the bell to make sure they deities knew their presence was there. We observed people who placed their hands together, made a chant to the deities, went down on their knees and kissed the floor to them several times. Each temple had room for the devotees to circle the shrine in a clockwise motion, another popular form of worship. Each deity had beautiful decorations. The first room we saw had three deities Mahavir swami, Bhagwan Adinath and Parshvanath. They all had their knees crossed. The second deity was Lord Shiva and there was a cow covered in red robes that people kneeled down to it. The third deity had Lord Krishna, Radha, Srinathji which had 7 arms. The fourth room that we saw had Lord Rama sitting on top of a lion next to Sita, Lakshman, and Hanuman and the fifth was the one we observed the priest worshipping which was Shree Vishnu Sahastranama.
The history of this event comes from the earliest layers of devotional Hinduism in the Harappa culture. Puja, devotional ritual commonly performed at an altar, involves offerings to the deity’s such as food, flowers, incense and signing of hymns. Most Hindus worship daily, and from what I experienced on my on site visit, there are special days dedicated to individual gods. They worship female divinities and the nature of spirits. In Hinduism, all gods and everything else as well, are considered to be expressions of a single divine reality which are known as Monism. There are many events that Hindus celebrate such as birthdays of these deity’s or even share stories of them all across the world.
I chose this event because I was mostly interested in this religion than I was with the others. My most favorite deity in the chapter of Hinduism I’ve read was Vishnu because Vishnu is associated with loving-kindness and I was very eager to learn more and see the statue in person. I learned that Hinduism is very much about peace and I admired that! I could see it in everyone’s personality when I met people in the temple. I personally think their culture and religion is beautiful as well as the Gods because they represent the aspects of nature. The religion had captured my interest and I was very excited to attend this event with my friend. I had learned something different that I have never experienced and it was pretty awesome. I definitely recommend the Ekta Mandir temple to anyone else who is interested in this religion. The people were very kind and gave me so much information about their religion and what every symbol meant. I had a lot of fun observing this temple and would love to go again.