TEA, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota’s only Hindu temple turns one-year-old next week. The Hindu Temple of Siouxland, located northwest of Tea, opened its doors for the first time to people of all faiths on October 14, 2018.
Just one year later, Hindus who worship at the temple are already looking at expanding.
The Hindu Temple of Siouxland has become a spiritual melting pot for worshipers in South Dakota. The rapid growth of the local Hindu community is a reflection of the overall population boom throughout the Sioux Falls area.
“We did not realize how many Hindus lived in this neighborhood and because of this temple, everyone has come together and the community has flourished quite a bit,” temple board trustee Ajay Kittur said.
The temple is a colorful collection of sacred statues of Hindu deities hand-carved in India.
“The artisans, 365 days they do the same thing, they supply all over the world,” temple president Ramesh Singh said.
Before the Siouxland temple was built, local Hindus would have to travel all the way to Omaha or Minneapolis to worship together.
“To be away from home from India and to experience the same ontological and that inner peace that we have a place that we can call home,” temple program coordinator Pankaj Goyal said.
The temple also features a Sunday School, to instruct future generations of Hindus.
“We call them balvihar and it kind of teaches kids about Indian culture, religious aspects of things, deities and all the various cultural aspects,” Goyal said.
Hinduism is the world’s oldest religion, tracing its religious roots to India, where practitioners absorbed many Eastern rituals, customs and traditions over thousands of years
“There’s no one size fits all,” Singh said.
Hinduism’s spiritual variety attracts many curious non-Hindus who visit the temple to learn more about the faith.
“It’s a little bit of a culture shock because they don’t know what to expect,” Kittur said
To many people here, Hinduism isn’t so much of a religion as it is a way of life. They want to share their traditions with people of other faiths, not to covert them, but rather, to bridge cultural differences between the faiths.
“We will welcome everyone with open arms and then the more people we have, it’s better for the society as well,” Goyal said.
The temple’s been open for a year now, but it’s already experiencing growing pains. The next goal is to build a community hall where people can go after Sunday services for food and fellowship.
“Food is a very important part, so eat together, it will be called pashad, an offering to the god,” Singh said.
“And the involvement in the community is far more now than it used to be. So you see new people come in, you see new faces all the time, so that’s very encouraging,” Kttur said.
Construction of the community center is expected to begin next year. One more step for local Hindus to expand their outreach to the community, and grow together in faith and friendship in the years to come.
“And as the city grows, as South Dakota grows and as people start pouring in, we are hopeful that it’s going to get better, every day,” Kittur said.
Everyone is invited to attend the temple’s Festival of Lights next month, it’s a kind of Hindu version of a Christmas celebration. To learn when it is and where it’s at, click here.