The Hindu community of Rochester took an auspicious step toward a new spiritual and cultural home on Sunday.
Starting early in the morning and continuing through the day, the Hindu Samaj Temple of Minnesota performed a Bhoomi Pooja, a traditional groundbreaking ceremony, to make way for the construction of the new temple, which will be located at 1548 Hadley Creek Dr. NE.
The ceremony, said Dr. Suresh Chari, chairman of the temple’s board of trustees, is designed to consecrate the earth where the new temple building will be located, pray for success in the building of the temple, and ask the gods to clear all obstacles for success. The first step began with the groundbreaking Sunday morning, which consisted of digging a hole, lining it with bricks and placing grains, flowers and other offerings into the hole, which will be covered up.
The new temple will be built in two phases, Chari said, each about 10,000 square feet. Phase one will include a commercial kitchen, offices, restrooms and cultural space. Phase two will be a more traditional Hindu temple.
“We’re in about 1,500 square feet now, so this will be six or seven times the current size,” he said, referring to the size of the current temple at 911 11th Ave. NW. “We’re just outgrowing it the last four or five years.”
Phase one should be completed this fall. It will take several more years before the community is ready to build the traditional temple of phase two, he said.
Dharani Ramamoorthy, a member of the temple board, said the 500-plus family community of Hindus in and around Rochester are in need of a new space for the growing community. Phase one, will cost $1.8 million. Phase two, if done today, would cost between $3 million and $4 million. “We would need people from India to do the carvings to make it look like a temple in India, and that’s what makes the price go up.”
Bhoomi Pooja, Chari said, goes back roughly 5,000 years, and has been basically unchanged over that time. The items placed in the hole represent all that is needed to build the new temple.
Santhi Subramaniam, president of the temple, said that after the groundbreaking, there are chants to invoke the protections of several Hindu gods.
“We start with Ganesh, the remover of obstacles, then Lord Shiva and Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Hanuman.” Shiva is responsible for destruction that brings rebirth, the goddess brings love and prosperity, and Lord Hanuman brings strength and valor to the temple.
“We have asked the gods to remove obstacles and shower blessings upon us,” Subramaniam said. “We say, ‘We invoke this for you.'”
While the actual construction for phase one will not begin until July or August, Subramaniam said the Bhoomi Pooja needed to be completed now because the window for holding such a ceremony would end within a few days. Otherwise, the community would have held its ceremony in the fall, and construction would be delayed.
Instead, she said, she hoped the community would be able to enjoy its new home in time for Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights. The holiday represents the victory of light over darkness, and is the most significant holiday in Hinduism, and is a busy time at the temple.
But the new temple will mean more than just expanded space for worship and gathering, Subramaniam said. The new building represents a way to hold the community together.
“We’re hoping to get the community together not just religiously but culturally,” she said. “For us, religion is intertwined with our culture.”
The new space will allow the teaching of music and dance, traditional language, and experiencing the Hindu culture. “It’s not just for my generation but for future generations,” Subramaniam said.