Hindu Temple in Long Island Accused of Unsafe Ritual Fires

September 29, 1999

Source: The Long Island Voice

On September 29, 1999, The Long Island Voice published an article on the problems that the Vedic Heritage Shree Hanuman Mandir temple in Hempstead, New York is having with some community residents. In June of 1999, a Hempstead police officer responded to a complaint lodged by a neighbor of the temple who expressed concern over smoke from fires lit within the temple, which are part of a three-hour cleansing and prayer ritual called havan. The police officer came with a building department official and doused the fire, while issuing temple leader Guru Maa a public-nuisance summons for lighting an open fire too close to a residence. On September 15th, 1999, the Hempstead Village Court dismissed the summons after Guru Maa agreed to light the fires at the back of the temple property. Guru Maa also met with Hempstead Mayor James Garner and Police Chief James Russo, who agreed that the offending officer would write her a letter of apology. In the 16 years since the temple was founded, Guru Maa had never received a complaint about the ritual fires, but Paul Klecka, a devotee at Guru Maa's temple, notes that the incident occurred shortly after the temple fenced off a strip of asphalt where neighbors had been accustomed to parking cars.