This profile was last updated in 2005
In 1990, fifteen people rented a space in a small shopping mall in Lake City to hold worship services. At the same time this group attempted to acquire land for a building site. The first two sites chosen by the community were blocked by local community resistance. Members believe that the present site was approved because they requested the zoning through an American (rather than Indian) zoning company and they described the building as a “community center” rather than as a “Hindu worship center.” The original plan was to build houses around the worship building, but the leadership altered these plans. They feared that neighbors in these homes would engage in activities that might conflict with worship activies (e.g., holding a backyard barbecue during worship services). In August 1992 the present worship building was opened.
Members are mostly Indian immigrants from Gujarat and their children and grandchildren. The primary language of founding members is Gujarati, but the younger generation speaks English. The primary language in the community is Gujarati, but worship is conducted in Sanskrit. Occasionally they have outside scholars visit who speak English, but this is very rare. Members range in age from very young to old (3 generations). The community does not keep track of membership numbers, but they send out about 7000 newsletters each month (written in Gujarati and English).
There are two buildings on the property: a worship hall and an education building. The worship hall includes a cafeteria, Shree Ambika Bhojanalay, where vegetarian food is served for devotees. There is also a little store, “Dharma-Jyan Bhandar, that sells ‘Pooja-Thali,’ religious books, audio-video cassettes, DVDs, saris, and other religious items. An educational building, Sumant Center, is named after Dr. Sumant Patel. The building has six classrooms, three kitchens, and three halls. The largest hall is also used as a gymnasium for children to play volleyball and basketball on certain weekdays. There is also a playground in front of Sumant Center.
Activities and Schedule
Center Activities include: Temple Arti: Shringar Arti at 9 a.m., Rajbhog Arti at 12 noon, and Sandhya Arti at 7 p.m.; Temple Darshan: Mornings from 8 a.m. to 12 noon; afternoons from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., and evenings from 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Bhajan Sandhya is held every Saturday evening at 5:30 p.m. Classes are held at Sumant Center from 3:30-5:30 p.m. Volleyball and Basketball are held Wednesdays at 6 p.m. and Saturdays at 6 p.m. There are also computer classes and summer youth camps for children. “Visa Camp” is held twice a year, during which the Indian Embassy comes to SSM to address immigration issues (issuing visas, passport renewal, etc.). Medical camp is held twice a year as well, during which about sixty physicians from various fields come to SSM to do physical exams and offer other medical aid to people without medical insurance.
Kyoko Claire Murata, Aimee Parkhurst