Hindu Temple of Metropolitan Washington
The Hindu Temple of Metropolitan Washington was established as a place of worship in 1988. Its purpose has always been both to provide an avenue for prayer in the traditional manner of the Hindu faith and also to be a site for the Hindu community to come together to strengthen Hindu cultural bonds and values. This picture shows the sikhara of the temple, a symbolic holy mountain over the most holy shrine of the temple. This temple was among the first of the Hindu temples in the area, and has grown along with the growing Hindu population. Originally, members met for services in a single-family home, but this majestic temple was built in 2006.
The Hindu religion is among the oldest of all religions, having roots going far back into even the pre-history of India. Over the millennia, it has been influenced by outside forces and in turn has been the inspirational seed for newer religions. In spite of its ancient roots, it has kept itself fresh and current for modern Hindus. Additionally, it is worth noting that Hinduism has not constrained itself over much with regard to beliefs, and the local Hinduism of different localities has been incorporated into the larger religion. This has resulted in a cultural mindset that is both flexible and accepting of other religious beliefs. Also, the multitude of beliefs has contributed the notion that Hinduism is polytheistic religion, but that is a simplistic view, since most Hindus do believe in a single god, but that god can be approached from different view points.
The Hindu diaspora in America has grown dramatically, increasing ten-fold from 1980 to 2013. This has been a blessing for the individual Hindu, but also a challenge for maintaining cultural continuity in the next generation, many of whom seem ready to reject their own culture and identity. The Hindu Temple of Metropolitan Washington has a role to play in making Hindu faith and culture relevant to the next generation.
This shrine to Lord Hanuman is outside next to the Hindu Temple. Hanuman is an important and beloved chiranjivi (immortal) in Hinduism, whose first impression is that of being a monkey. He exemplifies many virtues and is a symbol of nationalism and resistance to persecution. He was a central character in support of Rama, one of the incarnations of Vishnu, in the epic tale Ramayana, the story of struggle against evil.
The sign below him shows a transliteration of a popular aarti prayer to Hanuman, which would be sung while holding a tray with oil lamps. On the wall behind him is a contributer acknowledgement board honoring those who have contributed to the building of the temple, who thus demonstrated virtues of Hanuman.
This closeup of Lord Hanuman allows you to see him in greater detail. The installation of an image such as this requires great learning and care and reverence to ensure the successful infusion of the image with the holy presence of G-d, which is then worshipped by Hindus to help them attain greater spiritual energy in their lives. Worship of course includes prayers, but also sacrifices such as the fruit at the feet of Hanuman. No one imagines that Hanuman actually eats the sacrifices, but the sacrifice itself shows reverence to G-d as represented in the image. The good looking clothes on the image of Lord Hanuman also show respect.