Arya Samaj of Essex County-OM Temple

This profile was last updated in 2006

History

The Arya Samaj was founded by Maharsi Dayananda Saraswati on May 6, 1875 in India. Through out the 70s and 80s, Arya Samajis in the tri-state area went to the Arya Samaj community in Jamaica Queens to participate in group meetings. The North Jersey group’s first meeting in NJ was in Dr. Singhal’s house on August 25, 1985. In 1987, they started to meet in a rented Masonic lodge, their current property. In 1998, they made a bid for the property, having raised $30,000 in the first decade of their corporate existence. The Masons accepted their offer, and they proceeded to raise the rest of the $720,000 in the span of one year. The fundraising effort was extensive, and included non-Arya Samajis and non-Indians, particularly from the medical community. The main meeting hall is on the top floor, along with two small classrooms. The seats are still configured in the Masonic model, with a stage up front and three rows of seats along each side wall, leaving an open floor in the middle of the room.

Affiliation

The temple is loosely affiliated with the Arya Samaj International (ASI), with whom they may occasionally coordinate international or regional conferences and activities. The group has close contact with the Arya Samaj of Bergen County, which worships in a rented church, but the group has little contact with the Ni Arya Samaj Mandir, Inc., in Jersey City, which is largely a Guyanese Asian Indian congregation. The “Ten Principles of the Arya Samaj” held by all Samaj organizations help create a sense of communal identity. According to Dr. Singhal, the word “Arya” means noble, and the community strives to become noble by helping others. Dr. Singhal made a distinction between worship and learning about religion and culture. He noted that the Arya Samaj emphasizes preaching and teaching in each community meeting, and lays less stress on ritual. The community is also very egalitarian; any member who is respected by the group as a learned and able speaker can be invited to lead worship and preach.

Activities

The temple’s main activity is its Sunday afternoon meeting and worship, from 3-5 pm every other week. The meetings are usually in English, and occasionally in Hindi. The typical ceremony consists of a Havan (Vedic fire), bhajans (hymns), and speeches on religious subjects. Other activities include Hindi language classes and religious classes for children. The focus of the group is on community building.