Eye On KELOLAND: Hindu Home

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - A construction project wrapping up on the outskirts of Sioux Falls is the latest example of the growing religious diversity of KELOLAND.  When the new building opens its doors to the public, it will become the first Hindu temple in South Dakota. 

The new building southwest of Sioux Falls is the answer to a prayer on the prairie.

"I think it's going to be wonderful.  This community has worked so hard to build this temple and is so excited to have their own place of worship after many, many years of working towards it," Dr. Archana Chatterjee said.

The Hindu Temple of SiouxLand will include a prayer hall, kitchen, offices and restrooms.  And that's just for starters.

"There is a second phase, which will be the community hall and we are still raising money for both the prayer hall and the community hall at this point in time," Chatterjee said.

The local Hindu community is going through spiritual growing pains requiring a move into a larger building after holding services at Spirit of Peace church in Sioux Falls.  Thirty years ago, you could count the number of Hindus on one hand.  Today, they number nearly 2,000.

"A large majority of the growth has been through jobs that these individuals have been recruited to.  For example, I got recruited here by the medical school and Sanford Health.  There are a number of physicians and other professionals at both the health systems, Avera and Sanford, who are here," Chatterjee said.

Volunteers will serve as priests until the temple hires a permanent priest.

"I was born in a priest family in India, so I had some exposure so I had been celebrating the community as a Hindu priest for almost 30-plus years," Chandradhar Dwivedi said.

Hindu tradition calls for the celebration of 16 rites of passage throughout the course of a lifetime. 

"I do everything, starting from the birth celebration to first-feeding ceremony to hair-cutting ceremony, to the wedding," Dwivedi said.

But popular culture, especially Hollywood, has given many people the wrong impression of Hinduism.

"Have you seen Indiana Jones movie, Temple of Doom?  Which is really not us," Dwivedi said.

One of the biggest misconceptions people have is that Hindus worship many gods.

"Although there is one God. That is very clear in the ancient texts; the scriptures that are followed.  However, that deity, that God is sometimes visualized in many different forms and so some people misconstrue that and think that there are many gods and there really are not," Chatterjee said.

The Hindu faith is believed to be the world's oldest religion dating back more than 5,000 years B.C. Its origins are in India, but this religion of peace has had to adapt because of the realities of war.

"India has been invaded by almost everyone and the religion survived because of its flexibility and acceptance," Dwivedi said.  

Because of that flexibility, Hindus say their faith is more a way-of-life that's open to everyone. An Eastern religion coming west to find a home in South Dakota.

The Hindus had hoped to hold their first service at their new temple this Sunday.  But last week's rain has slowed completion of the parking lot, so the temple's opening will have to wait until a future date. 

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