I visited to the Hindu Temple of St. Louis in the West County twice. The first time was on the weekend, and the second time was on a weekday. The priests said that they were too busy on the weekend and couldn’t show me around because there were too many people who came to the temple on the weekend. He told me if I want I can come back on the weekday. I decided to go home and come back on the next Tuesday because I needed somebody to show me around and explain their religion.
I located this temple very easily because I saw the sign beside the road. The first thing that caught my eyes was the big white temple. I later was told by the priest that the white color of the building represents purity and all the carvings outside the building were just decoration.
The temple was divided into three parts. Two small buildings were side by side of the main building. They were symmetrical to the main building. There were five goddesses and two animals on the walls of the two small buildings. They were carved on the wall. I asked the priest later what they represented, and he told me they were just decoration.
The main building sat between the two small buildings. There was a big door in the main building, but that door was never used. There were many carvings on the big building too. They were there just to make the temple looks more like a sacred place of the Hindus. I turned my face upward so I could see the top of the main building. There were seven golden crowns at the top. I wondered what those seven golden crowns were representing; so I jotted that down to remind me to ask the priest. Later the priest told me that the seven golden crowns served as a transmitter. They transmit the gods and goddesses messages in the temple to the whole city, and take the voice of the Hindus from their home to gods and goddesses.
I came inside the temple by the right side door. The first thing that I saw was a small room for people to put their shoes. A sign on the wall said, “Please Put Your Shoes Here.” Because upstairs is a place where they worship gods and goddesses, so there must be no dirt. That is why no shoes are allowed upstairs. In the corner of the room was a place for people to wash their feet. Only the Hindus must wash their feet; the visitors don’t have to. I took off my shoes and walked upstairs.
I entered a big room; the place looks very sacred. Everything is white, and all the lights hanging on the ceiling make the room even more white and pure. I looked around the room and saw many icons in the little abodes. The inside of the temple was divided into three parts: a main room and three small rooms. The main room is the biggest one. One small room is located to the left side of the main room. Another two small rooms are located to the right side. The center of the main room is for the Hindus to sit cross their legs and meditate. As I stand in front of the main door staring around, the priest, named Swaminath, came by and asked me if there was anything he can help me with. I said yes and explained why I was there. He was very glad to show me around and answered every question clearly as I asked him.
He led me to the right side of the room and showed me the gods and goddesses they worship. The first to the right side of the room is Sri Saibaba of Shirdi, a great saint of India who lived during the later part of the 19th century. According to the tenets of the highest Hindu thought, this god attained the realization of the “All Pervading Self.” The next abode contains many gods and goddesses. They together took a title of Utsava Virgrahas. He explained that these are the replicas of main deities. They were made of gold, silver, copper, bronze, and brass, and are used for worship services, in processions, etc.
He walked across the room to the left side, and told me to follow him. I saw the words in front of an abode that said Sri Ganesha. He explained to me that the word Ganesha means “the Lord of all beings.” They worshipped this god to remove all obstacles. This god is also the God of wisdom and success before the start of any Hindu ritual. The next one is Sri Durga, which symbolizes Shaktithe power and energy by which the whole universe is permeated and energized. The third one is Dattatreya. This one is considered the incarnation of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, the Hindu Trinity.
He led me to the next room, which is to the left side of the big room. This room only has one goddess, which is Sri Mahalakshmi. This goddess is the consort of Lord Vishnu. She is the embodiment of all types of wealth and power that are manifested in the universe. Therefore, she is called the goddess of prosperity.
The room next to this room has two gods worship in one abode in the center of the room. They are Tirthankaras-Mahavira and Parshvanatha. They lived in India around 800-500 B.C. They are considered spiritual teachers and are revered and worshipped by Jains.
The right side of the big room also has another room, and this room has many gods and goddesses. The left top of this room worships Sri Ganesha. This god took the form of an elephant-head, represents a great physical strength tempered by gentleness, wisdom and peace. His vehicle, the mouse, represents the ego. The large ears and head symbolize the enormous wisdom. The trunk represents the intellect, the faculty of discrimination. The next god they worship is Sri Kartikeya, which is located at the right top of this room. Sri Kartikeya means the highest state of spiritual perfection. He is the second son of Lord Siva, and is the leader of army of gods, to destroy evil and protect the good. At the bottom right of this room is Sri Parvati. He is the consort of Siva, who represents Shakti, the dynamic aspect of the Supreme Being. Siva is the infinite source, while Shakti is the active manifestation. At the very bottom of the room is the Navagrahas, the nine planets. These planets are regarded by the Hindus as of great astrological significance and are believed to influence the life of the individual and also the course of history. Finally, at the center of this room is Sri Siva, the Supreme Being. The god is the destroyer of ego and illusion, and the material universe at the end of each cycle of creation. He is worshipped in the form of a Linga, which represents the dissolution and unification of all forms into one undifferentiated reality, and the source of creation.
We came back to the main room. In the center of this room they worship their main god. His name is Sri Venkateswara, Vishnu-the Supreme Being. He is the sustainer, protector and preserver of the universe. “Vishnu” means “one who pervades,” one who has entered into everything. So he is the transcendent as well as the immanent reality of the universe.
After he had shown me around, he did a little ritual. He held a plate with a candle on it. He rang the bell while chanting with the gods. After chanting with gods, he held a plate in front of the Hindus for them to transfer the heat from the light of the candle to their bodies by grabbing the heat and put it over their face. He said that the light represents the energy. The next thing he did was hold a hat and put it over the head of the Hindus. He said that they were being touch by the feet of god to purify their mind. He also gave them some holy water. Finally, he gave them some fruit. He said that when the Hindus come to the temple and bring something with them, in return he gives them something back. Even when they don’t bring anything to the temple, the priests still give them something to bring home. He said that it is not good to leave the temple with an empty hand.
He also explained to me a red dot on his forehead. He said that this red dot was there to cover bad luck. I saw the white stripes on his forehead, just over the red dot. I asked him what those white stripes was represented for. He told me that those were the holy ash. We live for our soul, not for our body, because when we die we’ll become ash when the body is burned.
I really enjoyed my visit to this temple because the priest was very nice. The architecture, both external and internal, of the temple was amazing. Moreover, I learned many things from this experience; such as, the way the Hindus worship their gods and goddesses and the way they do their religious ritual.