Archive for September, 2010

A tale of two temples

I am an Indian that lives in a small mid-western town with another 1000 people of Indian origin. I am guessing, like most mid-western towns, the town has its Tamil Sangam, Indian Association, Telugu Sangamam, Indian Students association, and other nondescript associations.

Most of these associations are created by the older IT / H1 crowd that is not “settled” down in the respective towns. The main purpose of these associations  are typically to celebrate festivals, and inculcate some sense of culture for their children, who, other than the occasional friends, grandparents that visit once a year, and glimpses of India watched on the Indian channels through Dish TV, are on their path to become the quintessential ABCD. The whole idea is to make them just be ABD by making them C the light. Ok the last part was lame.  The celebrations are in some public convention center of school, that is summarily messed up with a healthy serving of authentic Indian food, the main attraction at these events. The Tamil sangam then competes with the Telugu sangam, who then compete on the format of the programs and food, not realizing that in a town with limited Indian,  even more limited talented Indians, the same set of folks tend to perform the same kind of programs, Bharathanatyam, Kuchipudi, Khathak, one dude or dudette that knows to play an instrument, and then unavoidable bolly/tolly/kolly wood dance, visited, critiqued and enjoyed in equal measure by the same populace.  

Cynicism apart, in this context you would think that one temple would suffice for the whole populace, never mind that the nearest temple is only a 45 minute drive. The town had a “part-time” gurudwara for a long while though.  These temples evolve over a period of time, starting as converted barns, with the priest and their family living in the farm house next to the barn. Eventually when the population grows and the revenues of the temple grows, it gets to afford the whole mandir construction, gopuram, haloed steps and all.

One such temple started in one part of town supported by mostly north Indian and some Tamil families. All good intentions, over the past two to three year period, the temple had grown and was financially sustainable.  Then, interesting events unfolded that makes you wonder which form of Krishna is more powerful, and which one should. A competing temple (I guess competing temple committees, as temples themselves do not compete) was started in another part of the city, by folks that feel unrepresented and unincluded (read politics). The second temple is still a little fledgling, however, both to me provide equal doze of solace and  sense of divinity, I believe that is the point.

The sole proprietor that managed the funds of the first temple bet on some wrong investments, I guess gods are not immune to the economy either. Commonsense dictates that you merge both the temples, and move on. But hey, we are Indians, neither temple’s management is likely to consider this option. The first one has significant investments in idols, and other such sacred property that is anyone’s guess where they are going to land up.

I eagerly await the events that are likely to unfold. I hope the temples merge, and in a utopian thought, maybe brings the people together. But seriously, how did we get here? How did we get to have so many versions of the same deities??? Could it be that Krishna statues in the north are made of marble and the south made of black stone?


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