Hindu temple provides place of peace for worshipers

Carbondale Hindu TempleCARBONDALE — Padma Chandrashekar knows where she can find peace.

Praying before the 13 deities in the Hindu Temple and Culture Center, Chandrashekar finds a sense of calm and rest for her thoughts each morning.

“Every place of worship provides the same thing and that’s peace to your mind,” Chandrashekar said. “I come here and pray in the morning. To sit down, it’s so peaceful. It’s a meditation kind of thing. It gives me a good feeling.”

Built more than two years ago, the Carbondale temple is the only Hindu worship center in Southern Illinois.

More than 400 visit the temple for major festivals and between 5 and 20 participate in morning and evening prayers, with about half coming from outside the Carbondale community and as far away as Paducah and Cape Girardeau.

Two Hindu marriages have also been performed since the temple was constructed.

The ancient religion is not creedal, but an evolving philosophy with no one founder, fixed rules or single set of scriptures. 

The 13 deities, which are forms of a supreme being, are selected by the temple board from the millions of Hindu deities as representative of a broad set of Hindu beliefs.

Each deity is regarded as equal, but Lord Ganesha is situated in the center of the deities. 

The deity, which is depicted with an elephant’s head, is intricately involved in morning prayers at the temple. Known as the “mover of obstacles,” any “auspicious event” begins with prayer to Lord Ganesha, said temple board member Sanjeev Kumar.

The temple is open and a priest is present from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. on weekdays for morning prayers and from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. for evening prayers. On weekends, the temple is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

“Like any other god, whether it’s Allah, Christ or Hindu gods, we do our  prayers every morning and in the evening,” Chandrashekar said. “In the evening, we usually have what’s called an aarti. It’s almost like an evening end and then we close the temple.”

Curiosity often brings people to the temple and said those wanting to find out more about the religion and its practices are welcome to visit.

The temple usually hosts one or two groups a month seeking to understand more about the religion that is practiced by more than 900 million people worldwide. A group of SIU students is scheduled to tour the temple in April.

“Everybody’s now aware of the temple being here,” Chandrashekar said. “It is a prominent structure here. Either the people are curious to know about it or they want to know about the religion or sometimes they just want to see what’s happening.”

The temple has plans to construct a shikara or temple steeple in 2016 and a community hall is hoped for but remains years away.

Source: The Southern