Forum on “Are Lavish Temples Necessary to do God’s Work?” (Khabar, February 2008) Hits a Nerve
Mickey Desai made the point that “God is not going to ask how much it costs for you to pray” and that God’s work is “to serve my fellow man. To help a family own a home and get off the streets.” BAPS, in response, argued that mandirs play an important role in society, providing a net benefit. In their own words, “the well-being of a society is dependent on mandirs (temples) which help individuals physically, mentally, and spiritually.”
I’m not going to couch my words in diplomatic language and take a nuanced position. I whole-heartedly agree with Desai and whole-heartedly disagree with BAPS. One of BAPS’s justifications for spending $19 million on a temple is that BAPS seems to feel temples help maintain our Indian culture. BAPS fears that second and third generation Indian Americans are going to suffer a loss of identity. BAPS seems to not understand that culture isn’t a static institution but an entity in a constant state of flux.
As second generation Indian Americans become the new face of India in the United States, it is inevitable that our ties to traditional Indian values will loosen. Indian Americans will marry for love. We will live together before marriage. We will seek to learn Latin more than Sanskrit. We will prefer rap music to Bollywood tunes. This is not to say that Indian Americans will lose culture. We will still have a unique identity. My name after all is Sagar and not Sam, and I still prefer shrikand to ice cream. But our culture and set of values cannot—and will not—be the values of our parents, of India. To justify the construction of a $19 million temple as a means to prevent such a change is futile and foolish.
Sagar Bapat by email
I have to admit that whenever I visit temples I feel they are showcases of wealth and ego and not places of humility and serenity. It’s like bribing God for success. If community members are truly compassionate and caring, why don’t they build schools, libraries, and hospitals in India? Most of these temples are in fact community centers where they gather and do cultural activities; so build big arenas like Royal Albert Hall, Sidney Opera House, or Madison Square Garden instead and help spread Indian culture. If they can’t think of anything else, build another Taj Mahal. Building more temples raises more eyebrows and spreads hatred in a land where the majority of people are Christians.
By publishing opposing views on the building of temples, you have touched the very nerve that has been bothering second generation NRIs like myself for a long time. My parents came to this country in 1965, and I was born here. When I was growing up I was forced to go with my parents to temples and other religious activities. Many temples have big halls where there are celebrations for Diwali, Holi, and other festivals. On those occasions people hardly took notice of the statues of Gods that were seated in a small glittery room. Now I’m in my 30s and married. I have a 10-year-old and I have a hard time taking her to the temple, because she does not understand why we worship so many Gods and why some of our Gods like Ganesh and Hanuman have resemblance to animals.
When I try to talk to my daughter about Hindu religion and its mythological Gods, she asks me questions I cannot answer. My daughter prefers to go with her school friends to a church where they worship only Jesus Christ. And she enjoys Biblical philosophy more than Hindu philosophy.
I believe that most first and second generation NRIs are wasting their money in building temples wherever they live, because the third generation is not interested in worshiping the way we do. It is true that they do enjoy some of our festivals. But for these we do not need temples; we need cultural halls. The monumental temples are no more than a reflection of our ego that we have gained wealth. In other words, we are worshiping our wealth rather than God.
I was glad to see a fellow Indian agree that spending such ridiculous amounts on a temple is highly unnecessary and a waste of money. Our Bhagwans (Gods) are in our hearts and don’t ask for such an expensive place to live. They live in our hearts, and among those needy people in India. The millions spent on the BAPS temple could have been spent on building homes for the poor in India and for the victims of Katrina, tsunami, 9/11?the list goes on. Even though our new temple is a landmark, it hasn't fed the hungry and homeless people here in Atlanta. Mickey Desai made a great point.
B. Bhatt by email
What’s on YOUR mind?
We welcome original, unpublished letters from our readers. You could either respond to a specific article in Khabar or write about issues relevant to our community. Letters may be edited for length and other considerations.
Fax: (770) 234-6115.
Mail: Khabar, Inc.
3790 Holcomb Bridge Rd. Suite 101, Norcross, GA 30092.
Note: Views expressed in the Letters section do not necessarily represent those of the publication.
Enjoyed reading Khabar magazine? Subscribe to Khabar and get a full digital copy of this Indian-American community magazine.
blog comments powered by Disqus