After years of traveling and teaching in about 150 countries throughout the world, Swami Balgopal has chosen to settle down in Wilton, opening the area’s first Hindu temple at 68 Westport Road.
A member of a Hindu religious brotherhood whose monks are known for traveling the Indian subcontinent on foot spreading the virtues of their religion, Mr. Balgopal said last week he has taken a more modern approach to his wanderings: He uses airplanes.
“During training for monkhood, originally you walked around India,” he said. “I’m a little more modern, so I flew in airplanes and found individuals in many different places” across the world.
A man with a near-constant smile and a jovial, yet refined, style of speech, Mr. Balgopal is a traditional Hindu monk who describes his position in the religion as “near to the bishop” in Christianity.
“My goal is to merge the valuable Eastern teachings with the Western world,” Mr. Balgopal writes in a biography of his life. “I encourage the life of simplicity, truth, humility, peace, and of love and I try to guide each person to reach his or her potential…”
Hindu Mandir Temple is the official name for the place of worship on Westport Road. It is generally open Monday to Friday from 5 to 9 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The temple is run under the auspices of the American Hindu Religious & Cultural Organization, a federally identified nonprofit, tax-exempt organization founded by Mr. Balogpal in the early 2000s.
Among the religious services offered at the temple are:
- Aarti (celebrations offered in praise of a deity);
- Havan (offerings made into consecrated fire);
- Abhishekam (the bathing ceremony and anointing that takes place on certain festive days);
- Discourses on Hindu philosophy;
- Wedding and birthday celebrations.
Born in the soaring mountains of Nepal, near the base of Mt. Everest, the monk joined his first monastery at the age of 2 and has remained a religious man since. From the age of 9, he was largely raised in New Delhi, India, where he attended school while also completing religious training in a monastery.
“Hinduism is a way of life,” he said at his temple last week. “We pray especially to nature and to protect nature.”
Mr. Balgopal holds advanced academic degrees in Hindu philosophy and has extensive monastic experience. A speaker of six languages, he has spent the majority of the last 15 years as a religious leader in New York City, where his American Hindu Religious & Cultural Organization was initially founded to support Hindu immigrants arriving in the United States.
Its mission now is to ensure that “every Hindu family is equipped spiritually, mentally, socially, physically and emotionally.”
The monk traveled the world extensively for 15 years after his studies — he says the Seychelle Islands are the most beautiful place he has seen — but is more proud of his new temple than any of his own biography.
“I am very proud [of this new temple],” Mr. Balgopal said, “Wilton is small, nice, and naturely, just like where I grew up in the mountains.”
His experience in town so far has been enjoyable, Mr. Balogpal said.
He visited town offices early in the year, and found government workers, police officers and firefighters were all happy to welcome his temple into the community — despite his bright orange robes and large beard.
“I’m the new guy, but they still wanted to help,” he said.
“Wilton is like one family. We are very appreciative of that.”
For information about the new temple, visitwww.facebook.com/hindutemplewilton.