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This weekend has been one of celebration for the Hindu Temple of Minnesota...including not only religious ceremonies, but also concerts, fireworks and helicopter rides. It was a real privilege to be so warmly welcomed as visitors to this joyful celebration yesterday.
The building of the temple actually started 11 years ago, when the Hindu Society of Minnesota picked out a cornfield in Maple Grove as the location of their new home.
Construction of the actual temple began in 2004, and in 2006 the first Shilpis (artists) arrived to begin work on the 19 small temples housed in the large temple space and the sculpted 65-foot tower.
The impressive tower stands at the archway over the temple's main entrance, but when we arrived Saturday morning we parked on the east side of the complex so went to that entrance.
It was a beautiful approach to the temple but although we heard chanting, as we got closer it became apparent this was not the main entrance...at least not for today's events. We were warmly greeted by someone from the temple who explained that the priests were chanting and fire was burning as part of the ceremony for purification and consecration of the site and temple.
There were tables with what appeared to be altar/shrines, beautifully colored and decorated for the celebration, and stunning gold doors at the entrance to the main temple...but this was not the place for us to enter.
We went around to the entrance below the tower and between the temple and the activity wing. We left our shoes on the temple side and ascended the stairs up to the stunning main temple itself. Many people were seated for the consecration ceremony taking place (with the priests we had just seen outside), but many were also visiting the individual temples.
We learned that the 19 temples were all sculpted and built by Shilpis, artists who came mainly from rural India, where this sort of apprenticeship work has been handed down for a thousand generations. Twelve Shilpis have been living here and working exclusively on the individual temples and tower for the past three years.
This is the largest Hindu temple in North America, and the only one in the United States to represent all four of the major geographic regions of India. It serves as the cultural and spiritual hub for about 30,000 Hindus not only from Minnesota, but also Wisconsin, Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota and southern Manitoba.
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