MAPLE GROVE, Minn. -- In a few months, the Hindu Society of Minnesota will celebrate 45 years in our state. In this week's Finding Minnesota, John Lauritsen learned about the past and future of one of the largest Hindu temples in the United States.
"It took us about three to four years to construct the temple," said Sushumna Aggarwal, chair of the Hindu Society of Minnesota.
In the city of Maple Grove, you'll find a passage to India. The city's Hindu temple draws people from across the Midwest. Some drive several hours through several states just to worship there.
"Hinduism is like 3 million deities. We see God in everything," said Padma Naidu, president of the Hindu Society of Minnesota.
Nineteen of those deities are represented at their shrine. Their mini temples were built by Indian artisans who specialize in this complex and eye-catching architecture.
"We started with six and by the time we got done, it took 15. They were brought in from India to do the construction," said Aggarwal.
Each day Aggarwal and other Hindus begin praying to their god Ganesha, for good reason. In India, elephants are a symbol of strength, humility and wisdom. They have good memories and big ears for listening.
"Its trunk can uproot a tree if it wanted to but also pick up a gentle blade of grass and put it in your arms. So strength should come with humility," said Dr. Prasad Bastodkar.
"He removes any obstacles in the process so we start praying to Ganesha," said Naidu.
That's the idea. With members from India, Bhutan, and Nepal, 24 languages and 1,700 dialects can be spoken here. The deities bring everyone together in Maple Grove, and are the symbol of a 5,000-year-old religion. Though each one means something different to each member. Aggarwal said a food analogy helps explain why.
"In a family, one family likes pasta and we cook that. And one family member likes cheese quesadillas and we do that. Welcoming and relating however you wish to relate meaning. There is no right or wrong," said Aggarwal.
Hinduism also focuses on the five senses, the universe, and acceptance.
"It's a beautiful temple and a welcoming place," said Naidu.
This is shown through the 60 yearly festivals, including Diwali, the festival of lights, where both Hindus and non-Hindus are welcome. Dance, food, vibrant colors and even yoga have continued through generations.
"I consider Hinduism as a way of life. It is rituals, traditions, festivals, celebration," said Naidu.
The group considers themselves the temple's second generation. Their hope is that the third generation carries on their traditions while keeping the doors open for everyone.
"Whatever resonates with you, that's the one you'll gravitate towards," said Aggarwal. "Everything is universal. Whatever works for you is the right thing."
The Maple Grove temple is 15 years old and is mostly run by volunteers. It opened in 2006. They also give tours to the public on the weekends.
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