Center for Faith and Vocation

Hindu Temple of Central Indiana

Hindu Temple

3350 N. German Church Road
Indianapolis, IN 46235

Temple contact information
(317) 891-9199
webmaster@htci.org

To arrange a special service
(317) 815-5524
seva@htci.org

To arrange a temple tour
htcivasu@yahoo.com

Hours of Operation

Monday-Friday
10:00 am-12:00 pm and 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm
Services at 6:30
Saturday and Sunday
9:00 am - 8:00 pm
Services at 9:00 am

Institutional History/Information

The Hindu Temple of Central Indiana (HTCI) opened on Sunday, February 5, 2006. It is the first and only Hindu temple in all of Indiana, and thus its opening prompted much celebration amongst the Hindu community. The temple itself, along with the members present, were blessed and purified with holy water during the opening ceremony. Regular worship commenced after the introduction and honoring of various statues of the deities, followed by much praise and applause from the worshiping community present.

Prior to the opening of the HTCI, Hindus had worshiped at the India Community Center (ICC). It was first built in 1985, then expanded and renovated in 1991. At the opening of the temple, the ICC presented the HTCI with a statue of Radha Krishna, which had resided in the ICC for the previous 20 years.

The temple was created in order to accommodate the rapidly increasing Hindu population in Indiana. The community was in need of a place designated to strengthen their spirituality through worship and for other religious experiences, together as a community.

The individuals that make up the Hindu community in Indiana are very diverse and encompass a variety of backgrounds, both religiously and ethnically. One of the goals of the temple is to be able to accommodate the diversity of the sects of Hinduism that worship there, while also creating a sense of unity in the community.

The current structure of the temple is merely the foundation for what will eventually be an architecturally elaborate building. The community is currently conducting multiple fundraisers for the building of the temple. After two more phases of construction and renovation, the completed temple will have various structural designs representing the architecture present in the different regions of India where Hinduism is most prevalent. The variety will be most apparent in the four towers on top of the temple, which will represent the four major sectarian groupings of Hinduism: Vaishnavas, Shaivas, Shaktas, and Smartas.

Demographics

The HTCI holds worship services daily; however, many members of the religion perform daily worship services at home. Saturday, Sunday and Monday nights are the most well attended, but because many choose to worship at home it is difficult to estimate the number of Hindus that reside in Indianapolis. Attendance during the week is generally low, but many Hindus come to the Indianapolis temple from all corners of the state, driving several hours a few times a month. The majority of people that practice Hinduism are of Indian decent and the Indianapolis temple is composed of a wide variety of Hindus with varying traditions. Many different Indian dialects and languages are also spoken; however, the most common is Hindi. There are a wide variety of ages at the Hindu temple; it is generally a very social and family-oriented environment. As a whole, Indianapolis Hindus are not of any particular profession, many work mostly middle to upper class jobs. The caste divisions that are still somewhat prevalent in India do not carry much importance for Indian-Americans.

Service Style

Hindu Service

There are many variations on the ways in which Hindus choose to worship. Although the majority of Hindus perform puja or devotion services, daily in their homes, there are daily pujas held at the Temple regardless of attendance. The worship space inside the Indianapolis Hindu Temple is temporary, but is still very much suitable for the current congregation. The space is large enough to accommodate around 200 people and an altar. The altar is also temporary and contains most deities that are popular throughout India.

Upon entering the worship space, one is surrounded by the smells of Indian incense and the sunlight which streams through a large window across one side of the wall. The floor is covered with soft carpet and rugs and there are live plants as well as few Sanskrit inscriptions on the walls. There is also a drawing of what the temple will look like upon completion, with four towers representing architecture from all corners of India. The daily worship is somewhat brief compared to that of other religions. The Brahmin, or priest, arrives early to meditate privately next to the altar. Once the service begins the Brahmin chants in Sanskrit and gives offerings to the various deities. Each puja focuses on specific deities, but the priest makes some type of offering to most of the deities that are represented. The various names of gods and goddesses comprise a significant proportion of what the priest chants. Because the Divine is everything in Hindu thought, the Divine has unlimited names. By saying all of these names over and over again the namelessness of the Divine is stressed and hence, the Divine's oneness. During the worship, the Brahmin decorates the deities with necklaces of flowers and waves a handful of incense over them. The Brahmin also offers the offerings which have been given by devotees to their deity. Prasad can be any material that is given to a deity as an offering, but is normally food, like fruits and nuts. At the end of the service, the community of worshippers comes forward and receives back some of the prasad to take and eat. Visitors are welcome to join them. Worshippers are only allowed to approach within a few feet of the altar; there is a barrier in front of it that only the Brahmin may cross. At the barrier are colored and scented ashes that a devotee may choose to place on his or her forehead as a sign of devotion.

What to Expect

The Hindu Temple of Central Indiana, upon first glance, is probably not what one would expect. It is a plain building in the middle of a large field. There is a playground in the front, and an unceremonious sign that simply says "Hindu Temple." This is in stark contrast to the elaborately decorated temples of India and many places in the United States. A gate blocks the parking lot, and it is closed except for when services, ceremonies, or festivals are taking place. When the gate is open, the visitor can feel free to park and enter the Temple.

Upon entering the Hindu Temple, guests must remove their shoes and wash their hands. While some worshipers wear traditional Indian clothing, visitors may wear anything modest and presentable (e.g., khakis and a collared shirt). The visitor may sit on either side of the room, regardless of gender. There are only a few chairs, so the visitor should be prepared to sit on the floor. The service is brief, lasting ten or fifteen minutes, though services at important times in the Hindu calendar may take several hours or more. The priest will present offerings to the deities, and chant verses in Hindi. This will all be done in Sanskrit, for the most part. There is not much participation, although there are times when the assembled worshipers put ash on their foreheads, move a candle in a circular motion (a ritual called arti), or stand up and spin three times. It is not required that the visitor participate, though visitors are welcome to join in. At the end of the ceremony, the prasad (food that is offered to the deities) will be given to those assembled. Visitors make take prasad as well. It is expected that the prasad be eaten.

Those wishing to visit the temple and to have some guidance should contact Mr. Vasu Vasudevan via e-mail at htcivasu@yahoo.com. He and his wife, Indu, orientate visitors to the Hindu religion by providing a plethora of information. They cover topics such as the history of Hinduism, its development, and how it is practiced in contemporary society. They also explain the symbolism behind many of the Sanskrit characters (such as "om"), and of the deities. While the enthusiastic student may want to take pictures inside the temple, one should not take pictures directly of the deities.

For more information regarding the Hindu Temple of Central Indiana, the temple website is an excellent resource. There one can find service times, contact information, and directions.