Dr. Vasudha Narayanan

Dr. Vasudha Narayanan is distinguished professor of religion at the University of North Florida. She was instrumental in the founding of the Center for the Study of Hindu Traditions at the University of Florida. Dr. Narayanan became a Pluralism Project affiliate in 1998 and profiled Hindu templesA Hindu temple will be called a mandir in northern parts of India or a koyil in the south. There are many styles of temples and temple-complexes, but most temples are laid out according to precise dimensions and proportions and erected to be the symbolic ... in Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and California.

Profiling Hindu TemplesA temple is a house of worship, a sacred space housing the deity or central symbol of the tradition. The Temple in Jerusalem was the holy place of the Jewish people until its destruction by the Romans in 70 CE; now the term “temple” is used by th. Ref... in Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and California

Symbols may represent more than one temple.

Map of Hindu Temples within the areas of research. Symbols may represent more than one templeA temple is a house of worship, a sacred space housing the deity or central symbol of the tradition. The Temple in Jerusalem was the holy place of the Jewish people until its destruction by the Romans in 70 CE; now the term “temple” is used by th. Ref....

Dr. Narayanan focused her research on religious organizations which have an explicit “Hindu” agenda (devotional, meditational, and/or service) and inter-faith institutions which have strongly recognizable Hindu elements in them. The mapping and creating of profiles focused on Georgia, North Florida, parts of Michigan, and California and covered 18 institutions. For each institution, information was gathered about the following:

  1. A brief history
  2. Purpose and mission. Is this primarily a devotional organization (eg. Sri Venkateswara temple, Atlanta), an organization focussing on meditationMeditation is the disciplined practice of quieting and focusing the mind or cultivating the heart’s attention. Different meditation practices commend focusing attention on a word, a prayer, a form, or the breath as a way of practice. Meditation is commo... and acquisition of wisdom, (for example, the Brahma KumariThe Brahma Kumari movement is a worldwide spiritual movement founded in India in 1936 by Prajapita Brahma, with its international headquarters at Mount Abu and over 3,700 branches worldwide. Under the leadership of its present head, Dadi Prakashmani, the ... centers) or one that provides humanitarian service (like the Gayatri Parivar).
  3. Deities installed.
  4. Are there any unusual/interesting elements? For example, some temples ritually sacralize the land using a number of strategies. These may take the following forms:

(a) Devotees physically consecrate the land with waters from sacred Indian rivers and American rivers.
(b) Devotees compose songs and pious Sanskrit prayersPrayer is the vocal or silent address to the Divine. It may consist of fixed words, spontaneous words, or rest in silence with no words at all. Some forms of prayer are accompanied with specific postures or gestures, while others are not. extolling the state that they are in. Dr. Narayanan focused specifically on a Sanskrit prayerPrayer is the vocal or silent address to the Divine. It may consist of fixed words, spontaneous words, or rest in silence with no words at all. Some forms of prayer are accompanied with specific postures or gestures, while others are not. which glorifies every American city where Venkateswara, a form of VishnuVishnu is one of the great Gods of the Hindu tradition. He is known in the Vedas and comes to be famous as the Lord who pervades the entire universe. He is Supreme but wholly auspicious, only occasionally displaying the dark side that is embraced by Shiva..., has a temple. For example, this Sanskrit poem, called “Appearances of Venkateswara in America,” hails Texas as the majestic state garlanded by the Rio Grande river, a land where Vishnu sports with the GoddessGoddess is a term used to refer to the female deity, either in the singular as the supreme divine reality, or in the plural as one of many particular or localized feminine deities. In the Hindu tradition, the Goddess refers to the very powerful, even supr... LakshmiLakshmi is the goddess who embodies auspiciousness, wealth, and good fortune. She is often regarded as a wife of Vishnu or Narayana and is worshipped especially in the fall festival of lights called Divali. and so on. By singing about the place, it is ritually claimed to be part of one’s tradition.
(c) Worshippers adapt Sanskrit Puranic Cosmology by identifying America as one of the “dvipas” or islands quoted in the texts. These formulas are used in the performance of all rituals.

  1. What kind of architecture and spatial arrangements are negotiated?
  2. Who participates in leadership and ritual functions? Where do the priestsA priest is the leader of a religious community or congregation, specially trained and often ordained to service, who leads members of the community in the rituals and practice of shared and individual life. Many traditions have forms of priesthood.In the.../ monksA monk is a man who renounces worldly life and is ordinarily a member of a monastic order or community, thereby undertaking a special commitment to study, service, asceticism, prayer, or disciplined spiritual practice. In the Buddhist tradition, fully ord... come from?
  3. What kind of people come to this center (ethnicity, approximate economic class, gender, laypeople, or renunciants, etc.).
  4. Specific classes, programs, visiting specialists.
  5. Contact person, priestA priest is the leader of a religious community or congregation, specially trained and often ordained to service, who leads members of the community in the rituals and practice of shared and individual life. Many traditions have forms of priesthood.In the..., ritual specialist, internet/webpage addresses.
  6. Primary means of communicating with devotees/members (internet, email, newsletters etc.)

Where appropriate, Dr. Narayanan highlighted the architecture and spatial arrangement of the religious center. There are correspondences between the physical environment of the center and group’s beliefs and/or compromises with the environment. Specifically, the architecture and spatial arrangements may reflect the group’s negotatiated peace with the larger American milieu; compromises worked out between Hindu traditions and other South Asian traditions (usually JainismThe term Jain or Jaina refers to the tradition of the Jinas, the “victorious ones” who have won spiritual liberation, and to those who follow it. The Jain tradition as we know it dates back some 2500 years to the life of the teacher Mahavira, said to ..., but occasionally SikhismSikhs call their tradition the “Sikh Panth,” meaning the “community (panth) of the disciples of the Guru.” The tradition reveres a lineage of ten Gurus, beginning with Guru Nanak in the 16th century and coming to a clos. with the death of Guru Gob...), north and south Indian forms of Hindu worship, between ShaivaShaivism is the name fo. the tradition of those who worship Shiva, one of the great Gods of the Hindu tradition. Shaiva is an adjective describing that tradition or form of worship. A Shaivite is one who follows Shiva. There are several streams of Shaivis..., VaishnavaA Vaishnava or Vaishnavite is a worshipper of Vishnu or one of Vishnu’s many forms, such as Krishna or Rama, as Supreme Lord. Vaishnava is also used to name the Hindu traditions of Vishnu worship, such as the Sri Vaishnava and the Gaudiya Vaishnava trad... and GoddessGoddess is a term used to refer to the female deity, either in the singular as the supreme divine reality, or in the plural as one of many particular or localized feminine deities. In the Hindu tradition, the Goddess refers to the very powerful, even supr... traditions, casteCaste comes from a Portuguese word “casta” which was used by early traders to describe India’s complex class structure of varnas. The four major inherited varnas are the Brahmins (priests), Kshatriyas (kings, warriors), vaishyas (merchants), and shu.../ community traditions; and finally, the institution’s financial situation and prognosis for the future.

Hinduism“Hindu” was originally a word given by the Greeks, then the Persians, to the land and peoples beyond the Indus or “Sindhu” River. The term “Hinduism” came into common use only in the 19th century to describe a complex and dynamic pattern of li... in Gainsville, Florida

Hindu Temple of Atlanta

Shridi Sai Temple (Inverness, Florida)

Hindu Temples in Michigan, Illinois, and California

Selected Links and Publications