Minnesota Hindu Dharmic Sabha Vishnu Mandir
The temple that is known today as the Minnesota Hindu Dharmic Sabha Vishnu Mandir has evolved over a relatively long period. It is the oldest official Hindu temple of Minnesota.
In the early 1970s, a small community of Hindu West Indians settled in the Twin Cities. Many had known each other while in Guyana or Trinidad. The kept in close contact upon arrival in the United States. The social gatherings of this group soon took religious form. These new immigrants began to search for a functioning priest and location to conduct the necessary samskaras or rites of passage, including marriages, funerals and births. Pandit Paul Persaud, the only resident priest within Minnesota at the time, assumed the leadership of the community.
Weekly religious services were held at different member’s homes. Approximately seventy people regularly attended these early programs. The services lasted for six or seven months, until the organization officially disbanded. Pandit Paul Persaud explained that the institution lacked a central mission, common goals, or even a clear structure.
Then in 1975, efforts were made again towards the creation of a Mandir. After a series of yagnas, held by various members of the community and conducted by visiting priests, Hindus began to demand a more stable religious center.
For the subsequent ten years, the organization met in several temporary locations. During this time, temple members collected funds for the eventual purchase of a building. The first services of this renewed organization were held at the home of the Latchman family, a long-established Guyanese family in the Twin Cities. Nearly three hundred people attended the opening events. A formal temple was built in the basement of their home. Services were held weekly and attended by an average of eighty people. Within a few years, however, the congregation grew too large and the services moved to a refurbished one-car garage on their property.
Again, the community was forced to find a new location. A new garage was built on the property of Pundit Paul Persaud with temple funds. Services were conducted here for nine years.
In early 1984, the temple leaders found a store-front building on Lyndale Avenue in Minneapolis and decided to renovate it to use for a mandir. Before the temple could be officially opened in 1995, it had to register itself with the state as a non-profit religious organization. This led to creation of a governing constitution and the adoption of a name, the Minnesota Hindu Dharmic Sabha Vishnu Mandir.
The community has continued to grow over the last two decades. More than 100 families now attend functions regularly at the temple. Today, the Vishnu Mandir serves as a model for more recently-created temples in the Midwest.
The Vishnu Mandir was founded to maintain the traditions and forms of Hinduism practiced in Guyana and the West Indies, within the United States. Vishnu Mandir focuses its efforts to include the youth in temple proceedings and educate them in their religion and culture.
The community consists of approximately 100 families. The overwhelming majority of these members of Vishnu Mandir are Indo-Guyanese and West Indians. All are either first or second-generation immigrants. Many migrated first to New York then to Minnesota. Like other Indo-Caribbean temples in Minnesota, many attendees belong to large extended families, all of whom attend service. In addition to the adult members of the congregation, there is a sizable youth population, consisting of about fifty members between the ages of 8 and 18.
Weekly Sunday Service
The main activity of the temple, is the weekly worship held on Sunday mornings from 10 AM to 12 PM. Every week, one of the officiating pundits leads the service. The functions begin with the performance of the havan. Members of the youth group participate with the priest in the havan. A repeated chorus of bhajans is sang during the havan. The havan is followed by the officiating pundit conducting a thirty minute discourse. This is followed by aarti, closing prayers and more kirtan. The bhajans are accompanied with dholak, harmonium and dhantal.
M.H.D.S. Vishnu Mandir celebrates all major Hindu festivals, including Shivatri, Holi, Ramnaumi, Hanuman Jayanti, Sita Jayanti Raksha Bandan, Pitri Paksh, Navratri and Diwali. Cultural shows are held to commemorate Holi and Diwali.
The temple is also used for any family functions, including weddings and pujas.