I haven’t been doing any pujas at home but occasionally I go to the temples over here … mostly for exams … When I feel like I need someone else whom I could believe in, possibly that is one of the reasons [I go]. I believe I can go to the temple and I can rely on god, whenever I think about, in addition to the hard work, where luck also plays the role, I trust them. – Aadhira
Hindu temples dominate the landscape throughout India. Most of our informants spoke about how easy it was to visit a temple in India because they were everywhere, they could find numerous temples within just a mile from their home. Many interviewees attended temples on a regular basis. They did not always attend to worship in the same way we think of in the United States which is usually organized around a service. Instead many of the Indians stated they would attend a temple to worship privately or with family.
Much of worship within Hinduism is done in the home with families and information on these practices can be found here. However, many informants frequently attended temples either daily or weekly for their own needs. Sabrang attended a Hanuman temple near his home. He chose the Hanuman temple based on the reading of his astrological sign.
Krithik has a family temple in his ancestral home which is dedicated to Lord Muruga, a popular Hindu deity in certain regions of India. Raghev attends certain temples on specific days according to which would be most auspicious. On Saturdays he would attend a temple dedicated to the popular deity Ganesh who is easily recognizable with an elephant head. However, he frequently picks which temples he attends based on their convenience, which ones are closest to his home or work and while he is in the temple he offers his own prayers rather than taking part in the temple puja.
Since coming to the United States most informants have been unable to attend temples on a regular basis. The closest temple to the Muncie area is the Hindu Temple of Central Indiana. However, many interviewees stated that this temple is unlike temples in India. They instead seek out temples farther away than Indianapolis because these temples are more similar to those they find at home, the two most commonly mentioned were the Hindu temple of Dayton, Ohio and the Sri Venkateswara temple of Aurora, Illinois.
The temple in Indianapolis, which is relatively new, lacks the familiar architecture which reminds many informants of temples in India. This temple along with many other temples in the United States differ from Indian temples because numerous gods are housed under one roof where in India these gods would have separate temples. American Hindu temples also have fewer priests serving the needs of the gods and adherents. Jiya points out that even the idols in temples here differ from those in India. The facial features, dress, markings and decorations vary from those she is familiar with in her home state in India. She prefers the Sri Venkateswara temple in Aurora because the main idol is more familiar to temple idols in her Indian state.
Bairavi tries to visit a temple on major festivals, however, since there are not many Hindu temples in the general area and she does not have a car she is unable to attend one frequently. For her visiting a temple is not just a place to practice Hinduism but also a place to remind her of home,
“I don’t visit a temple for praying, I just feel like visiting so I visit it because I pray at home too, it doesn’t matter if you pray in a temple or you pray at home, it doesn’t make a difference. It’s just that sometimes you just want that feeling of visiting a temple … I feel like I have prayed when I visit the temple even though I pray every day at home. … to have the feeling of going to the temple, that’s what is important … its just that feeling of being alone here, like, if you go to India you see Indian people all over, its very obvious … it just that if you go to temples [here in the USA] you tend to find a lot of Indians, at one time … something like a social gathering, like at Diwali, you see a lot of Indians and you feel a little bit at home. Maybe something like that because in a temple you find Indian people.”
Other informants choose to attend Christian churches as a replacement for temple visits. Haripriya explains, “It really doesn’t matter if it’s a temple or a church, its important that you follow some religion. That gives you peace as in you really feel good after you attend a religious service whether church or temple”