Hindu Temple Rises from Arizona Desert

May 10, 2008

Author: Lynh Bui

Source: The Arizona Republic


Outside a double-wide trailer in the desert west of Maricopa, Kulandaivel Muthusamy crouches in a makeshift tent of blue plastic tarp strung to thin metal poles. He stands over intricate, decorative molds caked gray with concrete and plaster, his hands dry and ashy from working all day.

In his modest workshop, he practices a craft thousands of years old, passed on through generations.

Muthusamy is a temple builder, or shilpi. For the past 32 years, he has made his living adorning more than 50 Hindu temples, seeing that the structures become not just buildings, but sanctuaries that are fit to house the gods.

Shrines must conform to auspicious ratios, entrances must be built with a "magical" number of steps, and floors have to be covered with a granite found only in India.

His latest project is the Maha Ganapati Temple of Arizona in Pinal County. Since December, he and five other Indian shilpis have been preparing the temple for its grand opening next weekend. Through intricate carving, plastering, molding and painting, they hope to create a place that is as architecturally and spiritually similar to the temples they grew up with in India.