A Year After Katrina, Hindu Temple's Doors Remain Closed in Louisiana

October 27, 2006

Author: Ketaki Gokhale

Source: India West/New American Media


Over a year has passed since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, but an area Hindu temple still struggles to repair its damage. The 40-year-old Hindu Temple of Greater New Orleans, once a vibrant meeting point for the area's nearly 2,000 Indian Americans, lies derelict and empty; its future uncertain.

In better days, the temple boasted a membership of 200 families. It had lost a few members when the Sri Veera Venkata Satyanarayana Temple, a temple catering to the area's South Indian population, opened in 1994 in nearby Kenner, La., but it persevered. Hundreds of devotees, mostly Gujaratis and other North Indians, would turn out in full form for major poojas and important festivals. In 2003, devotees raised over $100,000 to refurbish the temple and to purchase a new altar and religious idols from India.

On Aug. 23, 2005, everything changed. Not much besides the precious altar, and the idols of Ganesha, Rama, Krishna, and Mahavir, were spared the wrath of the storm. The temple, located in hard-hit Metairie, La., was mired in two to three feet of floodwater for over a week. High winds tore off the roof and caused part of the ceiling to collapse into the main hall. The air conditioning and heating systems were completely destroyed, as were light fixtures and electrical circuits. The brick wall that surrounded the compound collapsed.

"It was like a war zone, to put it mildly," temple manager Sid Munshi told India-West.