Sri Ganesha Temple (Hindu Cultural Center of Tennessee)

This profile was last updated in 2013

Sri Ganesha is the only Hindu temple in Nashville, making it a hub for educational and religious activity for the Hindu community in the metro area. While Sri Ganesha is part of a council of Hindu temples of North America, each temple operates independently without a centralized institution or headquarters. Occasionally, volunteers from the Sri Ganesha Temple will attend panels and speak to school groups and churches about Hinduism. 

History

During the late 1970s, Nashville residents who immigrated from India expressed interest in creating a Hindu cultural center. They held several informal meetings and eventually formed a committee in 1980, choosing the name “Hindu Cultural Center of Tennessee” for their organization. Initially, major religious functions and festivals were celebrated in community members’ homes. As participation increased between 1982 and 1985, worship was performed at the First Unitarian Universalist Church on Woodmont Boulevard. In 1982, the committee purchased thirteen acres of land in Bellevue on Old Hickory Boulevard, and the first phase of construction on the Sri Ganesha Temple began in 1984. The temple officially opened on April 14, 1985, with Sri Muthu Krishna Gurukkal as the first priest. Designed by Sri Muthiah Sthapathi, the Sri Ganesha Temple resembles the temple architecture of the Chola Dynasty in India. 

Activities & Schedule

During the week (Monday-Friday), the temple is open from 8:00am-12:00pm and 5:00pm–8:00pm. On weekends and special holidays, the temple is open for worship all day, from 8:30am–8:00pm. Prayers are offered every day at the temple, regardless of devotees’ attendance. Common everyday prayer is offered for the welfare of creation and maintenance of the sanctity of the temple. 

Although the Sri Ganesha Temple does not offer “services” for attendees, special prayers and rituals areas sponsored by families and conducted by priests.  Often, prayers are sponsored during life’s special events, such as pregnancies, births, the first day of school, obtaining a new car, marriage, and new employment. Funerals and memorials are not observed at temple. Festivals such as Diwali, Vinayaka Chavithi, and Dussera are celebrated at the Temple. The Sunday school program enriches children’s educational opportunities and awareness about the Hindu religion and Indian culture. The educational program at Sri Ganesha Temple offers eighteen different classes, ranging from South Asian language classes (Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, and Bengali) to Hindu Vedic religious courses targeted for specific ages (pre-Kindergarten through high school). Sunday school classes are held in multi-purpose rooms at the Temple. After worship on Sundays, a communal meal, sponsored by individual families, is usually held in the large hall on the ground floor. Attached to a kitchen and equipped with a stage, the room serves both as a cultural center and a dining hall.

Sri Ganesha is visited by thousands of locals and tourists annually, contributing to the social and cultural diversity of Nashville and to the region’s knowledge about Hinduism. Tours are offered by volunteer lay members. Countless school groups, colleges, scripture study groups, and civic organizations visit the temple to learn about Hinduism, and about classical Indian music and dance. Built in the Chola architectural style, the temple features eleven shrines, with three main shrines at the front of the temple dedicated to Ganesha, Venkateshwara, and Shiva. The eight other shrines honor Parvati, Subrahmanya, Durga, Jagannath, Navagraha, Krishna, Rama, and Lakshmi. Located in the Bellevue neighborhood on Old Hickory Boulevard, the temple is surrounded by various residential neighborhoods and commercial venues.

The temple does not employ members of the community to participate in interfaith councils, dialogue meetings, or organizations in which they meet with members of other religious communities. Occasionally, when invited to special events, volunteers from the temple will participate in panels and share knowledge of Hinduism with the community.

Leadership

Five priests from India work full-time at the temple, conducting the sacred rituals and leading the community in spiritual practice. Priests, however, are not involved in administrative matters or governance of the center. Decision-making is reserved for the trustees of the board, who have secured their positions by donating money to the temple and serving as volunteers on committees. Lay volunteers contribute to the Sunday school program as teachers.

Demographics

It is difficult to ascertain the exact number of devotees who frequent Sri Ganesha, as membership is not required for people to worship at the temple. Furthermore, more emphasis is placed upon individual worship rather than the congregation gathering for communal services. The Sri Ganesha Temple community has undoubtedly expanded and evolved since its inception in 1985. The Sunday school program began with 25 students in 1985 and has grown to at least 200 children in 2013. Approximately 500 people visit the temple each Sunday. Most temple attendees are originally from India or second-generation Americans. English is commonly spoken at the temple, but prayer and rituals are offered in Sanskrit. 

Radha Babu Reddy’s Story

Born and raised in India, Radha moved to Nashville in 1982 to meet and marry her husband, a union arranged by her parents. Radha and her husband are members of the Sri Ganesha’s founding board. She established the Sunday school program and served as committee chair from 1985-1993, eight years following the temple’s inception. In addition to serving on the board as executive chair, Radha has conducted tours for almost thirty years. According to Radha, the most rewarding aspect of being a Hindu in Nashville is having the privilege to represent and share her faith with students in the community. Radha is passionate about discussing the universality of Hinduism and the omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence of God. Radha says that she is grateful to partake in the fellowship shared by the close-knit, highly-educated Nashville Hindu community.