BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS, June 4, 2020 : When Keshav Kishor Sharan’s Hindu community bought a retired Friendly’s restaurant for the community’s new temple, the group renovated the building completely, replacing every fixture and window. Every window, that is, except for the ice cream takeout window. Sharan’s fellow Hindus in Holbrook, Massachusetts, south of Boston, ended up preserving the pass-through as a piece of the building’s past life, an outpost of New England’s iconic burger-and-a-sundae chain. Plus, Sharan said, “we thought it looked cute, having that little ice cream window.” A decade later, the decision is paying off in a way members never could have predicted.
Since mid-April, worshippers have been using the window at Braj Mandir, a Nimbarki Vaisnava Hindu temple that teaches Bhakti yoga, to receive socially distant holy food offerings and attend drive-thru darshan services every day of the week. Step up to the window now and you won’t get ice cream. Instead, people of all faiths can pick up a maha prasadam box — a religious offering of vegetarian food to the Goddess Sri Radha, normally shared after services — to take home and eat with their families. Because the temple’s altar sits in the center of the room, visible from the temple’s front window, worshippers in the parking lot can participate in darshan without leaving their cars. For those who do not come in person, Braj Mandir has also been streaming services online and arranging darshan via Facebook and Zoom, like many temples in the area.