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
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.
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
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