- Topics & Settings
Building a Temple in Farmington
In 2012, the Hindu Milan Mandir bought an abandoned church site in Farmington, Minnesota. The building belonged to the Lutheran Church of Farmington for about fifty years, until 2004.
This method of buying a former religious site is a common practice for Satya’s community of Guyanese Hindus. Michele Verma, in her dissertation on Guyanese Hinduism in Queens, says this method of buying pre-existing religious sites is an economical way to build temples for lower to middle class Hindus in America. 1 The founding of this site dates back to 1945, when thirteen families “bought and donated two lots” out of the effort to expand the existing congregation. The parish was financed with “blood money” raised by members who traveled to Rochester to donate blood, and built by volunteers. It was re-built in 1974. Due to another effort for expansion, the Lutheran Church purchased 17.7 acres outside of town in 2003.
Farmington is a town thirty miles south of St. Paul and in a rural location. Its population of 22,000 is surrounded by miles of grain fields. The temple is actually in a suburban part of town; the brick church ten times the size of the garage is across from the town’s middle school and down the road from commercial downtown Farmington. Very few Indians live in Farmington, as compared to Eagan.
The first couple of years of work on the temple required structural and stylistic decisions from Satya Balroop and the temple's devotees. Here are some stories of transition and temple building.
And I realized that it’s not this body. It’s just that being that’s within that’s doing it all and makes it happen…It’s all his doing. He knows why. He sent us here, in this huge massive building.
Expanding the Space
Minnesota Hindu Milan Mandir has always had the goal of expansion. The Bharat Sevashram Sangha’s constitution with MHMM stated that the initial location in Eagan would only be active for five years. Satya Balroop also saw her Eagan location as limited. She called the Eagan location “one little box that we used for our spiritual services…now we are not short of space at all." The move had to be delayed for seven years past the five-year time limit due to financial reasons; Balroop waited to find a space that the MHMM could purchase without taking a mortgage. In June 2012, they settled on the Lutheran church and began working on transitioning it to become a Hindu temple. This effort included structural and stylistic changes.
Michele M. Verma, “Indo-Caribbean Hindu Practice in Queens: Ethnomethods of Constituting Place, Practice and Subjects” (Ph.D., Columbia University, 2008), 126. ↩