By Sydney Garrett–
The Hindu Temple of Kentucky is in the north side of Louisville off Westport road. Drive through the residential area found on Accomack Drive and look for a wide driveway. Hidden behind a line of trees and a few brick houses, the large temple is recognizable due to its intricate architecture and chalked images of deities on the sidewalks lining its perimeter. The temple has a large parking lot which was almost full on the Thursday night I visited for a prayer service.
Upon entering the building, the first thing I saw was a mirror. The next thing in view was a counter, behind which a woman stood. I asked her if I was allowed to walk around and observe; she explained that this was fine as long as I left my shoes in the entry area. It is customary for people to abandon their shoes before entering the temple because many believe that they bring impurities into the sacred house of Hindu deities.
Hinduism is a polytheistic religion in which believers have the choice of devoting themselves to one or several gods. Each god is given numerous avatars, or alternate versions with varying personalities, because one of the values of the religion is that all humans are different and therefore need the opportunity to praise gods of their own choosing. During prayer time, Hindus are free to walk around the biggest room of the temple which contains statues of several deities protected by shrines.
In this large room, religious followers walked from shrine to shrine, pausing to stand or kneel facing each statue with their hands together and eyes closed to pray silently. Only priests are permitted to enter the shrines, and I was able to watch one sitting beside a deity singing a song in solitude. In a smaller room a group of people sat on a large carpet covering the floor, singing along with music played by a percussive instrument.
Men, women and children were all present in both rooms; men and children wore jeans and shirts, while most women wore saris. The saris were bright and eye-catching compared to the dark blues and neutrals of casual clothing. As I walked around the larger room, a few people curiously looked at me and asked if I needed help. After I told them I was just observing, they smiled warmly and one man told me college students visited often to see what prayer is like.
There were no speeches, no people commanding others to do things and not really much organization at all besides one person choosing what song to sing next. Although a few people stared at me in confusion, no one made me feel horribly uncomfortable. The Hindus were free to come and go as they pleased. I left the temple thankful for how tolerant they were of curious visitors.