- Topics & Settings
Starting the Eagan Mandir
The temple’s first location is in Satya and Bharat Balroop’s converted two-car garage in suburban Eagan Minnesota. Eagan is a town of approximately 65,000 people on the outskirts of St. Paul, the capitol city of Minnesota. The garage fits right in next to the family homes that have dotted the suburbs of the twin cities since the 1960s. For more information on Eagan, visit the town's website.
Inside the Temple
The garage has white walls and a green carpet covered with dark red rugs that lead to the altar at the far wall. The ceiling is lined with brightly painted green and yellow patterned trim, and on the north wall rests a homemade banner with the temple’s name. Light is provided by a central fluorescent lamp. The steady drone of a lone heater adds to the temple’s cozy atmosphere. Also on the north side is a small havan, or fire-altar, which is used for a separate havan worship ceremony that is incorporated into the larger puja. The havan ceremony is an offering in which various sacraments, such as incense and ghee, are offered to the gods through combustion. Smoke is a sign that the deity has received the offering, and thus is a vital part of the ceremony. While the temple has no natural ventilation, a portable chimney that hangs from the ceiling siphons the smoke out. To the other side is a small PA system with two microphones, a woven basket full of bells, shakers, and tambourines, as well as a dholak, or double-sided wood drum. During the service sheets are laid across the floor, and devotees sit upon them during worship.
The altar stands at the east end of the hall so that it faces India. At the back wall of the altar stands a line of impressive white marble murtis, or divine icons, who are clothed in elaborate Indian cloth and bright colorful necklaces. These include the forms of Shiva (picture and lingum), Krishna, Hanuman, Lakshman, Sita, Saraswati, Ganesh, Lakshmi, and Durga. Missing is the form of Rama, but Mrs. Balroop explains this omission is simply due to complications in transporting Rama’s statue. At the feet of the murtis are various brass and copper lamps, offering bowls filled with fruit, incense, and instruments, as well as religious texts such as the Bhagavat Gita. In the center sits a life-sized, all-white figure of Swami Maharaj seated cross-legged and staring straight forward. He is displayed on a raised platform above all other murtis, and is wrapped in a bright orange cloth with a colorful necklace around his neck. Before him sits a variety of religious objects and offerings, including a set of wooden sandals, which are washed with water, milk, and ghee for each satsang, or religious service. To the right of the guru statue is a vacant chair in which sits a portrait of guru Maharaj. This is said to be his seat, and it is reserved for famous religious figures that have visited the mandir. While the presence of nearly all the Hindu murtis allows for a variety of devotees and devotional focus, the form of Swami Maharaj is displayed on a higher plane than any other figure, save Shiva’s image in the back.
Work of Temple Building
Starting a mandir in one's home required a lot of work from the Balroop family. Some of this work was not explicitly religious. The garage had to be heated and furnished for the devotees to come in the harsh Minnesota winters. Satya told said she often had to send out her sons to shovel the long driveway to make room for parking after snowfalls. The garage mandir also was Satya's first experience in creating and sustaining a vision for community service and outreach. In the audio on the left, she describes the work in coordinating the family to take care of the temple and building a vision of a public mandir.
Revelation in Temple Building
Other work to build the temple was more explicitly religious. In these two audio clips, Satya tells the stories of religious revelation that came in the work to sacrilize the space as Hindu.