America / ARTICLES

The Boston Globe: “Hindu temple planned”

NASHUA

Space needed: A large parking lot, two nice bathrooms, and a room with ceilings that aren’t too high – so heating costs don’t spiral out of control.

Since the only Hindu temple in New Hampshire was shut down in January, a group of immigrants from India has been trying to rent a place in Nashua that can accommodate about 100 people.

“It’s very difficult to find what we are looking for because we are not looking for a house, [and] we are not looking for an office,” said Doraswamy Subramony, president of the temple organization.

The group has about $1,500 a month to spend, after more than a dozen Nashua residents and businesses committed to supporting the temple with $100 donations for each of the next 12 months.

In recent weeks, temple members have looked at a church off Route 101 and a hall in Maplewood Estates that was last rented by a presidential candidate’s campaign.

“Probably within a couple of weeks, we’ll rent a place,” Subramony said.

The temple organization – which recently registered with the Internal Revenue Service as the Hindu Temple of New Hampshire Inc., hired a priest, and developed the website hindutemplenh.org – is just one of the signs of the growing Indian community in southern New Hampshire.

There are 4,508 people from India living in the state, according to the 2006 American Community Survey, an increase of about 40 percent since 2000. Today, Indians outnumber immigrants from any other country except Canada, said University of New Hampshire professor Ross Gittell, who coauthored a forthcoming report on the state’s foreign-born population.

Nashua is home to more than a third of the state’s Indian immigrants, according to US Census data, and has several Indian grocery stores, a handful of Indian restaurants, and five cricket teams, with almost all players hailing from India.

Cricket began in Nashua about 10 years ago with two teams. The current teams sport such names as the Nashua Nukes, the Nashua Spearheads, and the Hudson Freaks. A few years ago, local cricket enthusiasts established the New England Cricket League, in which 10 teams will participate this year, said Jay Agasthi, captain of the Nashua Nukes.

Agasthi, whose team practices on Sunday mornings at Nashua’s Yudicky Farm, says he sometimes has to decide between playing the sport and spending four hours to travel to Massachusetts to attend temple with his family.

“Sometimes if we decide to go [to temple] that weekend, then obviously we have to sacrifice cricket,” he said. If there’s a temple in Nashua, “it will give us more time to play cricket.”

Asked why Nashua has so many cricket teams and not a single temple, Agasthi replied: For “cricket, all you need is the ground, [but to start a] temple you need a lot of funds.”

The effort to establish a temple in Nashua began in January when the Saraswati Mandiram temple was evicted from its campus in Epping, N.H., together with its four cows (cows are a sacred animal for Hindus) for allegedly failing to make payments to its Virginia-based lender.

The temple used to draw hundreds of worshipers on holidays and housed a private Hindu day school where Sanskrit, yoga, and Indian music were taught, according to its priest, Ramadheen Ramsamooj. He is living in Massachusetts and performing some religious services as he awaits resolution of the case in the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

With the Epping temple out of the picture, the state’s Hindu residents have no choice but to travel to Massachusetts.

According to Subramony, it takes an hour to drive to the Sri Lakshmi Temple in Ashland, Mass. – a costly proposition with such high gasoline prices.

“There are enough people [in New Hampshire] to support the temple, so [we] thought it would be a good idea,” he said.

Environmental issues are also a concern, “if you think about 500 families traveling to Massachusetts” on weekends, said temple member Usha Dwarakanath, a Nashua resident.

The Hindu Temple of New Hampshire has hired a priest, Sri Lakshmana Sasthrigal, who lives in Nashua and performs religious services in people’s homes. He is the only Hindu priest practicing in the state.

The organization has also arranged to bring a stone deity of the God Shiva from India this weekend. Shiva Lingam, an elliptical stone sculpture, will become the first deity in the new temple. Subramony said the sculpture is a representation of Lord Shiva, the God of Longevity, who is thought to have no form.

Once a space is rented, the temple will be open for offerings on weeknights and weekends, Dwarakanath said, and will offer study activities for children and a yoga class. Until then, Nashua’s Indian immigrants are keeping their eyes open for appropriate real estate for rent.

“So I’m asking if somebody has any place to let me know,” said Anita Khanna, whose husband owns the Palika Bazaar grocery store in Nashua.

Khanna, who has lived in New Hampshire for nine years, travels to the temple in Ashland, but said it’s too far away. “A full day is wasted just like that,” she said.

Ravi Singh, owner of the Global Flavors Indian grocery in Nashua, said he manages to go to temple only once or twice a year because he doesn’t have the time. But if there were a temple in the city, he would love to stop by every morning – the way he did when he was a child in India.

“Mostly to pray and to be in isolation away from my work so I could meditate there,” he said. And “to be one-on-one with God.”

Supporting the Hindu Temple of New Hampshire was “an instant decision,” said Singh. “Something good is happening in Nashua, and I want to be part of it.”

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