Temple's History

A Short History

Since its founding, the Hindu community in the Washington Metropolitan area has reflected the nature and philosophy of attracting immigrants to the United States from all over the world.

Buoyed by this country’s freedom, liberty, and opportunity, countless people have come here. After making the initial economic adjustment, they look forward to implanting their national cultural values in the American lifestyle. Within the parameters of these values come food, language, music, and religious practices.

The Place of Religion

Religion takes on more prominence for two reasons, worship and introspection, in order to uplift the nature of one’s being. Both of these have traditionally been established in all houses of worship (e.g., synagogues, mosques, temples, and churches) or cultural centers that accommodate gatherings for worship.

The Establishment of Durga Temple

Hindu migration to the United States became more pronounced after the South Asian and other countries gained political freedom from their colonial rulers in the mid-twentieth century. Naturally, the Metropolitan Washington area attracted professionals. Many Hindus took the opportunity to establish businesses, allowed by American law under 8 A, and some of them flourished. These professionals and businesspeople joined hands and established Siva Vishnu, Hindu, Jain, and Rajdhani temples. In 1989, with the help of a pioneer, successful Hindu businesspeople established the Durga Temple.

Trial and Turbulence in the Process of Growth

In any voluntary organization, harmonizing different personalities with a self-sustained “doing good” attitude to establish a prioritized objective is very time consuming. Additionally, if there is lack of unanimity even as regards the organization’s mission statement or overall goal, a long battle ensues. Durga Temple was not exempt from this, and all interested parties had their share in well-drawn, executed, and fervently played battles.

In the process, there were issues of architectural design by Dewberry and Davis, the zonal permit by the Fairfax County, and a neighborhood hearing for the zonal compliance. They took their own course.

The Foundation Ceremony and Construction Work

Finally, the foundation ceremony was launched with a great deal of fanfare and religious rites in October 1994. The construction work started in October 1996, with a $2.5 million loan from the First Virginia Bank. Jai Gupta had to guarantee $250,000 for any short-fall on the project finances.

The Blessings of the Lord

A sage has said: “In all adversities, there is always a treasure of spiritual blessings secretly hidden in its depth.” That blessing happened to be Jai Gupta’s assuming the role of construction manager for the temple. The temple not only saved a lot of money, but the work also proceeded methodically in a professional manner within the framework of the construction trade’s modus operandi.

Timely principal financial support came from Jai Gupta, Chander Narang, B. B. Sahay, and Girish Jindia. Currently, we have 17 contributing trustees who have donated at least $31,000 in the initial stages. They are listed on the temple wall.

The Opening of the Temple

The opening ceremony (inauguration) took place amidst great jubilation on March 21, 1999, with all the religious rites. Thousands of people converged to have get the first glimpse of the worshipfully inaugurated Durga Mata.

The organization “Durga Temple” was formed in early 1991. The first general meeting was held, and the by-laws were adopted, in September 1991. The ground breaking ceremony was held on April 1996, and the Bhoomi Pooja was held on October 1996. The dome construction was completed in March 2006.

Scriptural Injunction

Quite often, Durga Temple Board members discuss the role played by Durga Temple to sustain and advance Hindu culture in American society. Generally, we are gratified that America’s freedom of worship means that the individual is free to worship any God at any time and at any place. But we believe that the ritualistic paraphernalia must be comprehended in terms of the final objective: moving closer and closer to the Divinity in both mind, words, and deed. As our Upanishads say, knowing that the Lord is is “pure knowledge,” and experiencing the “That I am” is vignyanam (super-conscious experiential knowledge). We are born in a family and carry its cultural traits with us. This is natural. But we must strengthen them with the basic inquiry of a person and nature which regulates each person either knowingly or unknowingly. In addition, we must have an awareness of that nature and its governing principles.

The Philosophy of the Temple

At this point, an idea of God is interjected. Our Vedas and Upanishads are full of principles and values of great depth that point toward the reality named “God.” Therefore, building a temple is a preliminary step toward the goal, a material symbol of marching toward that which is subtle and even subtler. For example, we march from the earth to water to fire to air and to ether, knowing fully well that one has all the five elements in one’s own self body. This is only the approach to follow if one wants to move from the material to the subtle, because it is easier to experience the material. It is human nature to travel toward the easy path or go to lower instead of higher. Ascending the mountain is harder than descending.

We believe that our potentiality to grow together with cultural bonds in a framework of institutionalized internal inquiries is better. This is where the temple comes in. As long as there is knowledge that growth can only manifest individually, we have an unlimited opportunity to march on, without any bondage, limit, or constraints of culture and/or religion. This is not as contradictory as it sounds, because the internal march is individual. Accomplishment is judged by personal growth; aggregate measurement, however, which is a social phenomenon, requires another test for social growth.

Our individual contribution to Durga Temple is the personal satisfaction of watching it become a center for individual growth. Beneficiaries will give added value to social existence. Hopefully, it will enrich our value, culture, belief, and understanding that we all live together under the same roof created by the Almighty Lord, Who oversees and maintains us in equanimity with love. As a result, we flourish. Members of all faiths who believe in God are welcome.

Submitted by Founding Member Bishnu Poudel
Secretary to the Board, 2008