Historical Perspective of the Bharatiya Hindu Temple, Columbus (Powell), Ohio
According to the 2014-15 Pew Research Center’s survey on America’s changing religious landscape, Hinduism in America is a minority religion, representing about 0.7% (less than 1%) of the of the U.S. population. However, the number of Hinduism followers in America, has been on the rise. For majority of Hindus, the Hinduism is practiced more as a daily philosophy of life, rather than a totally ritualistic and strict religion. Majority of the Hindu immigrants to the United States of America came from India (Bharat). Hindus to USA also came from many other developed countries and geographic regions of the world. Additionally, the United States has a number of individuals who converted to Hinduism. Conversion to Hinduism is controversial and complex in nature, as it is based on acceptance by other followers of faith, and the informed decision made by converts as their voluntary choice. As Hindu population in USA grew, they saw the need of establishing formal houses of worship called Hindu Temple or Mandir. The first commercial Hindu temple was established in San Francisco, in year 1906. As time went by another Hindu temple opened up in Hollywood in 1938. Later on a Hindu temple was established in Santa Barbara in 1956. Following the trend and lead of California Hindu Temples, Hindus from all over the United States including Ohio, began to plan and establish temples in other states of America. Based on similar movement, entrepreneurial and religious Hindus from Columbus, its suburbs and central Ohio, saw the importance and need of establishing a formal Hindu Temple in Columbus, Ohio.
Evolution and Growth Timeline:
In 1985, a non-profit religious corporation Bharatiya Hindu Temple Society of Central Ohio was formed and through its membership temple’s Board of Trustees adopted the constitution, bylaws and named the place of worship as Bharatiya Hindu Temple in Columbus, Ohio. The main mission of Temple was to fulfill the religious, spiritual, educational, and cultural needs of Hindus believing in Vedic philosophies and traditions. The Bharatiya Hindu Temple was built by renovating an old house at the 3903 Westerville Columbus, Ohio 43224 location. Key Hindu deities were installed on an altar. Many Hindu festivals and religious lectures were arranged and celebrated in large groups. Temple’s first publication letter “Anjali” was launched in 1985. Temple started to offer Hindi classes in 1986. The first permanent Priest (Acharya) was hired in July 1990. As the membership grew, by 1991, temple management decided to search for a bigger place to accommodate the growing population of Hindu community that depended on the temple services. In 1992, a parcel of 20.7-acre farmland was purchased, at the 3671 Hyatts Road, Powell, Ohio 43065 location. Temple’s publication committee started “Sanskriti” magazine to publish religious articles in 1992. To raise funds for the temple youth and temple publications, few temple volunteers established “The Ramayan Mandali” in 1993. Ground breaking for the new temple building at the Hyatts Road, Powell location, took place on July 24,1993 and the new building facility was ready for use on July 9, 1994. The main building included an octagon shaped temple on a raised platform, housing a cluster of six dedicated temples and a place to perform Yajna (Homam) with sacred fire. Other parts of the facility included restrooms, library, small assembly hall and a religious kitchen. A beautiful pond was created at the east entrance of the main temple building. First murti installation of Shri Ganesha Ji took place in one of the temples, on July 9-10, 1994. Next year, on July 15-16, 1995, Shri Radha-Krishna Ji temple installation took place. Sanskrit language and Religious classes also started in 1995. Veda classes were added in1996. On July 20-21 1996, installation of Shri Sita-Rama Ji temple (including Laxman Ji and Hanuman Ji) was completed. Lord Venkatershwara Ji (with Laxmi Devi Ji and Bhoo Devi Ji) temple installation was performed on October 18-21, 1996. Shri Shiva lingam, Devi Parvati Ji and Shri Kartikeya Ji installation took place on August 9-10, 1997. Temple established and education committee and adopted the term “ Gurukul School of Hindu Dharma and Sanskriti” for its educational wing. First graduation of ceremony of temple students took place on July 11, 1998. In 1997 temple organized the 1st weeklong Gurukul summer camp. In addition to Hindi (Devnagari), Tamil language classes were added in 1998. First graduation of ceremony of temple students took place on July 11, 1998. Devi Durga Ji, Devi Gayatri Ji and Devi Saraswati Ji installation ceremony was done on September 25-27, 1998. Dance, Yoga and Carnatic music classes were added in 2000. Utsav (chal) murti installations of Shrinath Ji chal murti took place on August 10, 2002. Installation of Lord Ayappa chal murti was done in August 2002. Temple started a free medical clinic for the community in 2002. In year 2003, The Ohio Bicentennial Commission and The Ohio Historical Society recognized the Bharatiya Hindu Temple with a unique Historical Marker Number: 12-21. In 2008 temple unified all classes under an umbrella term of “ Gurukul” and a major revision of curriculum and educational guidelines took place under a new educational committee. Jagannath Ji chal murthi installation took place in July 15-17, 2010. A major 2-story extension of temple facility took place in 2010, which included improved temple entrance, commercial kitchen, 3 community halls (Sanskritc Bhavan, Shakti Dham and Shanti Dham) and 2nd story multipurpose rooms for education or meetings. Navgraha Murti installation took place on July 14-17, 2011. Pond walkway and Yagyashala area improvements took place in 2014. Over the years, temple has purchased three more properties with priest houses, storage shed and open lots, pushing the temple land area to be about 30 acres. In the final phase of temple building development, the Rajgopuram (praveshdwar) and six Shikhar installation date is on June 21-24, 2018. Temple has been involved with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Interfaith Association of Central Ohio, select International Festivals, FIA and several other community organizations.
Bharatiya Hindu Temple’s Architecture:
When it comes to the design of a typical Hindu temple, there are so many acceptable varieties and options available to create a unique temple. Oldest temples were simply in the form of a cave or were carved out by cutting huge rock formations. As technology progressed, temples complexes became more symmetry-driven and were erected by using durable building material such as stone, brick and iron. Designs of Hindu temples are deep seated in the Nigam (pure Vedic System) and Agam Shastra (handed down by tradition and lokachar) traditions and their combinations. The exact religious- science of temple building is further explained in detail in the Shilpa and Vastu Shastras. Since Hindu religion is one of the most flexible and scientific religions, its philosophy provides many acceptable ways to achieve the same final goal for being associated with God. Hindu temple structures have a most important section called garbhagriha (inner sanctum), where a main murti or multiple murties (single deity or multiple deities) are housed or installed. Around or next to the inner sanctum, there are other structures usually displaying some sort of symmetry. Temple design includes a circumambulation (parikrama) for going around the deity and a mandapa to be used as a congregation area for people to worship. On the exterior of temple, there is a single tower (shikhar or vimana) or multiple towers. On top of shikhars there may be other structures such as Amalaka (crowing ornament in the form of a wheel or amalok fruit), Kalasha (culminating point element) and a temple flag. A well-decorated entrance called Praveshdwar or Gopuram is also a desired feature of Hindu temples. Geographically speaking there are many prominent commercial Hindu temple styles, but the North Indian (Nagar) and South Indian (Dravid) style of Hindu temple designs are most common. In the spirit of inclusion, location and evolution, the Bharatiya Hindu Temple’s design incorporates both South (Dravid) and North Indian (Nagar) features. Since Hindu temples are symmetry driven, the Bharatiya Hindu Temple sits on a high ground and the temple building is variation of a square grid, where the typical square has been modified into an octagon. The main entrance of Bharatiya Hindu Temple faces east (a desired feature) and has a pound at the east entrance. Temple’s east entrance through the mandapa, provides darshnam to six shines and a yagya kunda, all strategically arranged in a circular fashion. In summary, the design and layout of the Bharatiya Hindu Temple is based on the fusion of Agam and Nigam Shastra principles. Temple Building represents a modern, yet simple design, where the main focus is on God’s worship and living our lives under the teachings and guidance of God and the timeless (Sanatan) Hindu Philosophy.