June 25th, 2011
04:00 AM ET

Sacred Spaces: Inside a Hindu temple

Editor's note: Sacred Spaces is an occasional series on the Belief Blog. In this installment, CNN Senior Photojournalist Anthony Umrani takes us inside Sri Siva Vishnu Temple, a Hindu worship space near Washington, DC.

By Anthony Umrani, CNN

Lanham, Maryland (CNN) - On a cool spring evening just outside Washington, a steady stream of worshipers arrive at Sri Siva Vishnu Temple for prayers. People are dressed in a mixture of colorful Indian attire and customary Western clothing.

In this residential Maryland neighborhood about 12 miles from downtown, the temple stands out with a striking white exterior adorned with statues depicting Hindu gods.

In India, a temple is typically dedicated to one particular god, but the Sri Siva Vishnu Temple has many gods to accommodate the diversity of Indian people in the area.

"We have a wide variety of congregation and each one of them says, 'I want this god' or 'I want that god,' " said S. Krishnamurthy, one of the founder/trustees of the temple.

The idea to build a temple to bring together the burgeoning Hindu population near the nation's capitol began with a few friends in 1976. Fourteen years later, the Sri Siva Vishnu Temple was born.

The consecration and installation of the first shrines were viewed by 1,400 people. The growth has continued over the years, evidenced by the current construction of a new adjacent parking lot to handle the crowds.

There are a number of special days in the Hindu calendar, but worshipers may come at any time during temple hours to offer prayers.

Krishnamurthy said there are three things devotees think about while offering prayers. First, one may ask God to help solve or overcome a problem. Second, is to give thanks to God and third, to ask God to touch one's heart and become a better person.

Unlike other religions, there are no sermons, lectures or homilies. The role of the Hindu priest is to help the people pray to any of the 17 deities in the temple. Priests go through extensive training, from 10 to 15 years, on the methods of prayer.

Even with all that training, priests are not to direct worshipers on what to do, Krishnamurthy said.

"Each person has a responsibility to find out his own unique way of connecting with God ... and I want to show here is that there's no one here telling people what to do, you are completely free."

Krishnamurthy has been tapped by the congregation to explain the faith to non-Hindu visitors, some of them middle school students. He has found a way to simplify why Hindus come to the temple.

"Each of us has a little nastiness in us. ... so when we come to the temple, what do we pray for? 'Remove my nastiness.' "

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • DC • Hinduism • Houses of worship • United States

soundoff (146 Responses)
  1. Udupi

    Good article about Shive Vishnu Temple. Here one more Great temple about lord Sri Krishna in Udupi. Visit the page of Krishna temple Udupi http://www.udupipages.com/temples/sri-krishna-temple-udupi.php

    January 21, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
  2. DJ

    God or no God,.... religion or no religion. As long as we don't kill each other for all that I am happy with whatever people want to follow. Yes it is difficult for a rational mind to understand why people believe in god but things are not rational all the time and people aren't either. Most people want that unknown spiritual support to live life and that makes them believe in things including religion and god. Faith is a powerful thing.

    December 25, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
  3. comprar Sustanon

    vale la pena leer. Me pareció muy informativo religion.blogs.cnn.com como he estado investigando mucho últimamente sobre cuestiones prácticas tales como hablar acerca de ┘

    December 5, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
  4. winstrol

    ¡Buenos días! Este mensaje no se podría escribir nada mejor! Leyendo este post me recuerda a mi compañero de habitación buena edad! Él siempre se mantiene hablando sobre esto. Yo transmita la presente escritura a él. Bastante seguro de que tendrá una buena lectura. Muchas gracias por compartirlo en religion.blogs.cnn.com!

    December 4, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
  5. Testosterone enanthate 250 mg

    religion.blogs.cnn.com es excelente. Hay a menudo toda la información correspondiente a las sugerencias de mis dedos. Gracias y mantener el trabajo superior!

    November 30, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
  6. sonia

    India and its history thrives on its Temples some of which are more than 100 years old. The architecture, design, relics, worshipping idols, gopuram, sanctorum sanctum, all of these present a age which went away with these ages old temples.
    For further information visit:http://www.bharattemples.in/

    October 5, 2011 at 2:43 am |
  7. Radnik

    Very superficial article, but its nice to know that these temples are helping various groups practice their religion...

    July 17, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
  8. Miller67

    I would like to respond to those people who say there is no God. Explain what is behind the wind currents, the production of rain from the sky, the movement of our Earth and whole solar system? Think real hard on this...Who is controlling your heartbeat, Who gives you life and makes you breath again every morning? Who gives you the gift of eyesight, hearing, thought, body movement? Don't say 'its mother nature' or 'science', there is a God behind all actions of nature and we humans have a piece of God in our bodies, our soul which brings life to our body and gives us our five senses.

    July 10, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • Miller67

      God exists, for those who deny His existence what is your mission and purpose in this life?

      July 10, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • Helios

      The tide goes in, the tide goes out. Ask Bill o'reilley. 😉

      December 26, 2011 at 12:57 am |
  9. PeterD

    Hindusim is not a Religion. It is a way of life, And Just like life it is well and alive.

    July 10, 2011 at 11:46 am |
    • Kochumn

      Surya Posted on You are bloody right. i did not read about this inndceit until this evening. This scares me too. And you are bloody right again it could have been me or any of my friend or family. Rana and Gang SHOULD be brought to justice.

      November 10, 2012 at 12:23 am |
  10. Andrew

    I don't believe in this religion, I am catholic, but I found the video at the top very interesting to see what it is like inside of a hindu temple.

    July 10, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • JC

      All religion are stupid including Christianity.
      Christianity told people that the Earth was flat, is at the center of the universe and Sun and stars revolve around it.
      Tried to prosecute major scientists and philosophers like Galileo Galeili for heresy.
      On the factual basis, Christianity is the worst of all.

      July 10, 2011 at 11:50 am |
  11. Mangesh

    This article really skims the surface ......it represents a small slice of American Indians one who go to temples, eat vegetarian....and practice l the Swaminarayan cult which is not Hinduism; these guys worship a living guy (who had cardio-vascular surgery a few years back in NY to preserve his life), where they separate women and men in the temples .

    Get your facts straight and don't clump everyone in one group. Just like in the broader Christian world David Koresh, Jimmy Swaggart, the pope and Jesse Jackson all comprise the multifaceted outlook we have our own pedophiles and crowd enthralling priests/leaders.

    Many people from all religions practice their faith for a few hours a weak and go out in the world and are mean to their fellow human beings or to the world in general. Sicilian mafia, mexico cartel members, Hindu or Muslim fanatics to name a few of the extremes.

    Overall religion is for the weak-minded !!!!

    July 10, 2011 at 11:12 am |
    • j

      The swaminarayan Sampraday is not a cult ... BAPS is a leader in helping people live spiritual and god centered lives .. how can you say that swaminarayans are not Hindu! they are vegetarian, believe in the authority of the vedas and the guru – disciple tradition!! males and females sit separately at BAPS mandirs because if they sat together , there would be distraction and minds would wander away from God , which is why Hindus go to mandir! Pramukh Swami Maharaj is the leader of BAPS and he did have surgery in New York! When God s saint descends on earth he agrees to live a human life ( prone to illness) religion is not for the weak minded but rather for strong and humble people! Pramukh Swami teaches his devotees to love all humans and care for all .. his motto is " in the joy of others lies our own " you need to grow up and just as you said you cannot group all sects and denominations into one group as you clearly have! i m not sure what your problem is with BAPS but BAPS today is helping millions of people lead honest, and moral lives! GOD BLESS!

      July 20, 2011 at 12:15 am |
    • j

      as a note Pramukh Swami who is the leader of BAPS is not God and swaminarayans do not worship him! they believe that a god realized guru can lead one to God and that is why Pramukh Swami is revered because the followers of BAPS realize that he is such a guru ...

      July 20, 2011 at 12:18 am |
  12. Truth

    I hate to break it to everyone here but there is no god...

    July 10, 2011 at 10:22 am |
    • lachman

      you are absolutely mistaken, because it is GOD who has created the whole universe and everything that exists i n it.

      July 10, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • Dr.Tong

      There are many *gods*.

      July 10, 2011 at 11:28 am |
    • JC

      we don't know that. That's the fact.
      Believing in imaginary Gods and fairy tales is plain stupid.

      July 10, 2011 at 11:44 am |
    • JC

      @lacman – What makes you so sure? Can you support with evidence? Have you seen what happens to a person after death?

      July 10, 2011 at 11:46 am |
    • guest

      Gods are actually extraterrestrials.

      July 10, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • SG

      ""There is no God," the foolish saith, But none, "There is no sorrow." And nature oft the cry of faith In bitter need will borrow: Eyes which the preacher could not school, By wayside graves are raised; And lips say, "God be pitiful," Who ne'er said, "God be praised."." —Elizabeth Barrett Browning

      July 14, 2011 at 10:49 am |
  13. Guru

    @Ken u r mom is stupid

    July 10, 2011 at 8:52 am |
  14. Retspool

    As a Hindu, i find this article extremely broing

    July 10, 2011 at 3:41 am |
    • raj patel

      can you explain why this article is boring ...
      In fact it is very good. The last sentence is more weighty. I can add nastiness and EGO...
      When you are in front of GOD, you surrender, keep your EGO away. You get PEACE..

      July 10, 2011 at 6:43 am |
    • mumtaz

      he is on of those ABCD's so he is lost and bored with life .

      July 10, 2011 at 8:52 am |
    • lachman

      Retspool you should feel ashamed for what you say as you are a Hindu, I can understand if this was said by a non-Hindu.

      July 10, 2011 at 11:00 am |
  15. Sandeep

    Why do hindus or muslims or christians or jews need to americanize religion? Religion is not fast food. Hinduism teaches belief in one universal god with multiple paths to worship and multiple ways of realizing the truth. God is within each one of us and it is the destiny of our soul to be one with god. It is due to hindus belief in multiple path to god – they are able to fold their hand in worship in a church, synagogue, mosque, or gurudwara with complete devotion and respect. In my observation – human beings dont like o be told to do things in a rigid way, look around among your own friends and family, individuals differ on most basic of issues and thoughts! So forcing individuals to lead their lives by ONE religious book is not going to give them the freedom they need to search for god and understand true purpose of life.

    July 10, 2011 at 2:54 am |
    • Andy

      You answered your own question. Just as you stated that there are multiple paths to find God in Hinduism, why can't one of those paths be an Americanized form, a form that reconciles American culture with Hindu thought? By shunning the Americanization of Hinduism you are inadvertently displaying your own hypocrisy– while you say that you support the idea of an individual finding his/her own path to God, you are unwilling to accept that someone would follow an Americanized path to God. Let people realize God in their own way– if Indian Americans want to assimilate western culture with traditional Hindu beliefs then so be it.

      July 10, 2011 at 3:13 am |
    • paul

      I agree wih you.

      July 10, 2011 at 10:10 am |
    • Rao

      This is where overplaying Americanism or Americanization comes in. Have you ever heard of Europeanizing or Africanizing Hinduism or any other religion, for that matter? Just individualize it. That is what Hinduism is all about.
      Andy, I apologize to you. i thought i was hitting 'reply' button. Turned out that it was 'report abuse' button. I did not consider your remarks abusive and hope nothing happens of my reporting. But, I do want you and others to consider that nothing needs to be Americanized. It is already, when it is being practised in America.

      July 10, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
  16. Satya

    With your ignorance and narrowmindedness you have actually shown your religion in poorer light

    July 8, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
  17. Marie Kidman


    July 1, 2011 at 10:57 am |
1 2
About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.