Other Temple Activities

Classes and Meditation Sessions

In addition to the weekly satsang services, the Minnesota Hindu Milan Mandir (MHMM) also holds weekly meditation and Bhagavat Gita discussion classes. The meditation classes are geared towards advanced students looking to form a more intimate relationship with the guru. They are held every Thursday from 9-10AM, and from 5-6PM. The Bhagavat Gita classes are held every Tuesday from 6:30-8:30PM. The sessions are loosely led by Mrs. Balroop, but the socratic discussion format requires group participation; each member reads and annotates their own copy of the text. The different line notes are compared with each other to reveal differences in interpretation. Each line is read independently, and then communally discussed so that only 5-8 lines are covered in any one session. These sessions have been typically attended by a core group of devotees, which can be very different in makeup from the participants in the weekly satsang. One woman was from a neighboring temple, another man a professor from St. Paul, and still another an Indian student who rarely attends service because of time constraints. These classes are certainly in line with the mandir’s rhetoric of acceptance, and the diversity of interpretations made for a strong reminder of the many levels present in the ancient texts.

Religious Festivals

The MHMM also holds all-day religious festivals marking major holidays on the Hindu calender. These include the Maghi Prunima Festival, Maha Shivratri Festival, Basanti Durga Puja, Holi, Ramnaumi, Hanuman Jayanti, Raksha Bandan, Krishna Janamashtmi, Navratri, and Divali. While each festival has specific activities and prayers, the all day vigil is normally maintained by Mrs. Balroop who continually prays and chants. Around dinner time when the most congregants are present, aarti will be held, followed by prasad and a break from prayer. Mr. Balroop will commonly prepare traditional Guyanese food all day for the temple’s lunch and dinner that is also offered to the guru. After dinner, a short lecture will be given, and then prayer will recommence until the festivals end. At the Maghi Purnima Festival, a maximum of 16 members were in the temple at one time, with the average hovering around 5 members including Mrs. Balroop. The festivals are thus not well attended for their entirety, although a number of less devoted members will stop in at various points to pay their respects to the deities.

Youth Activities

Another striking feature of the Mandir’s style of worship is the high level of youth involvement with ritual practice. Part of the Mandir’s mission, as put forth by Mrs. Balroop, is to preserve Indo-Caribbean culture and to pass down the cultural texts, songs, dances, and ideas central to Mrs. Balroop’s own upbringing. Thus, children are encouraged to play instruments, lead chants, and participate in the many aarti (Hindu religious ritual of worship) tasks, including blowing the shell horn and lighting incense. During the Maghi Purnima Fesitval, which is an all day ceremony dedicated to the glorification of guru Maharaj, a number of older children were allowed to perform a skit which broadly outlines the guru’s basic teachings. Youth involvement in ceremonies is a direct attempt to transmit practical knowledge through ritual repetition and cultural exposure. During the summer months, a two-week Youth Festival is organized by Mrs. Balroop that teaches religious songs, dances, and small pieces of the Hindi language; it also provides a small Hindu community for the children. These festivals are well attended, although similar programs cannot be sustained at other times of the year.