For the second time this year Greenville, North Carolina’s Hindu Temple has been broken into and vandalized. Stealing nothing, the vandals seemed content with desecration, smashing the shrine and altar, and overturning the murti (divine images).
“It looks very odd. My first impression was that they must have stolen something, but looking at the shrine of worship, it appears they just came in to do this,” temple member Rajesh Verma said, pointing to the desecrated shrine. Another television, DVD equipment, other electronics and a collection box with money inside were not stolen, Verma said. [...] It was the second time this year the temple has been burglarized, Verna said. In January, someone broke in through a bathroom window and stole a television, he said. Nothing was vandalized during that incident, he said. The members are not feeling secure now, Verma said. “I’d never experienced anything like this in 15 to 20 years, but to have this happen twice in a year is very worrisome,” Verma said.
The verdict is still out as to whether this is a religiously-motivated hate-crime. The police say there is some evidence of “possible juvenile involvement,” though the involvement of younger people doesn’t preclude this from being an anti-Hindu incident.
This incident is truly tragic because, for the most part, Hindu temples have been growing and thriving in the United States. A quick scan of the news will show the local government in Sugar Hill, Georgia aiding a Hindu congregation in getting their temple plans off the ground, a new 10-12 thousand square foot Hindu temple starting construction this Summer in Michigan, and a $2 million addition to New England’s oldest Hindu temple in Ashland, MA.
“The temple, first conceived by a small group of Indian immigrants in 1978, was built slowly over the next dozen years. Its ornate exterior iconography was carved by a team of Indian artisans, and its granite deities, including Sri Lakshmi, the goddess of auspiciousness and prosperity, were shipped from India. The community has grown dramatically since the high-tech boom of the mid-1990s, when many Indian professionals moved to the Boston area, leaders of the temple said.”
Hopefully the problems facing the Hindu community in Greenville are truly isolated, and don’t signal the beginning of some sort of anti-Hindu sentiment. The growth and acceptance of Hindu sacred spaces is a positive omen for modern Pagans as we start to gather the recourses and will to create our own dedicated spaces, like the new Goddess Temple in Ashland, Oregon opening in the Spring.
“The temple, founded by Graell Corsini and 18 others, will open under a full moon on the spring equinox, the women say. It will enshrine the great goddess mother of ancient times, working in equal partnership with the “sacred masculine” God to “celebrate the divinity in everything,” Corsini said. [...] Corsini founded AvaSha Goddess Temple in Mount Shasta and came with two of its priestesses to found the Ashland temple. For the Ashland site, she says she “received a vision” from the Celtic goddess Bridgit to draw together 19 trained priestesses, the same as the number at Avalon, a mythical sacred isle associated with Glastonbury and Arthurian legend.”
Modern Pagans have much to learn and gain from the Hindu community, and we should support them as they spread their temples across the United States, learning from their experiences. This could be an excellent time for Pagans in the Greenville area to reach out, and show solidarity and support during this time of trials.