Several members and friends of Elkhorn Hills UMC toured the Hindu Temple on Arbor Street in Omaha. This was the final tour for the summer. Following the tour, lunch and fellowship was enjoyed at Vincenzo’s Restaurant.
Volunteer, Swarna Gopal was our guide. She didn’t have the usual red dot on her forehead. The dot is to remind them of their energy center and to think about the divinity within themselves. The dots can be of any color and can also be made of gems. In greeting they put their hands as in prayer and bow to those they meet showing greeting and respect.
Hinduism is a monotheistic religion believing that God manifests himself/herself in several forms. One is supposed to worship the form that is most appealing to the individual without being disrespectful to other forms of worship. Ganisha is their most powerful god and he is usually remembered before starting any rituals or other duties. Each part of Ganisha is symbolic of the spirit and body of the wise person. Ganisha is the son of the gods governing the life-force and the earth-mother. There are many other forms each representing a characteristic such as wisdom or knowledge.
Hinduism has evolved through thousands of years with a spirit of tolerance toward different ways of spiritual fulfillment. It is the oldest living religion and is the third largest religion after Christianity and Islam.
The goal in life, for the Hindu, is to control their actions and thoughts so after death, the soul will attain Moksha or salvation. Actions, not their religion, bring them closer to salvation. Hindus believe the soul is immortal and divine and is reincarnated. The soul discards the body in death as if it was a worn garment and acquires a new body in a new birth. Life is a continuous circle of life, death, and another birth like the seed of a fruit. Reincarnation gives the soul another chance to allow Moksha.
Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva make up the Hindu Trinity. Brahma is the creator, Vishnu is the sustainer of the world, and Shiva is the destroyer of evil.
Hindu Prayer Service
Puja, their prayer service, is performed, most often individually, to show love and respect, and seek blessings. The Puja consists of 16 steps and is performed while chanting special mantras from Hindu scripture. The Vedas is their Holy Book. There are many different versions; many of them written in English.
There are no set times for worship. The temple is open for three and a half hours in the morning and evening during week days and on weekends about five hours in the morning and evening. Worshipers come any time the temple is open to perform Puja. Every now and again, the priest hosts lectures and multiple people come. There is a firepit in the sanctuary used to perform Yajna, the fireside ritual. Offerings and prayers are made through the sacred fire. Fire is believed to be purifying.
Hindu Temple, Omaha
The Hindu temple of Omaha has been serving members of the Hindu faith from the Omaha, Lincoln, and surrounding areas since 1993. About 200 craftsmen built the Temple. Builders stayed in the Temple dormitory style while working on the Temple. 1500 families are members here in Omaha. Other Hindu Temples are in Lincoln, Des Moines, Kansas City, Denver, and Minneapolis.
The history of Hindu community in Nebraska dates back to the early 1970’s when engineers and their families immigrated from India to the Omaha area. These Hindu immigrants initially conducted the practices of their faith in their own homes. In the mid 1970’s, there was a second wave of immigrants from India to the Lincoln and Omaha area.