A Hindu temple in Edina and a Sikh temple in Bloomington will accommodate a growing Asian-Indian population.
The new Sikh temple in Bloomington is being housed in a former church. Daljit S. Sikka is the past president of the Sikh Society of Minnesota, while Kehar Singh is the current president and is overseeing construction.
For years, Twin Cities Hindus and Sikhs practiced their faith in cramped basements or private homes because there were few public worship spaces.
But as their numbers have grown, so have their worship options. Plans to open two more temples are signs of the communities' growing population and prosperity.
The Sri Venkateswara Hindu temple opening next spring in Edina is expected to be about half the size of the towering, 43,000-square-foot Minnesota Hindu Temple in Maple Grove, considered the largest Hindu temple in North America.
The Sikh temple is scheduled to open this month in a building that formerly housed a church in Bloomington.
"We are coming to maturity, coming into our own," said Kehar Singh, president of the Sikh Society of Minnesota. "We're going to have a bigger space where we can go to learn about our culture, to pray and also teach our children the language in which our holy book is written. We are very excited about it."
Asian-Indians in the Twin Cities and nationwide are growing in numbers. U.S. Census figures from 2009 show the Asian-Indian population in Minnesota has doubled in the last decade to nearly 30,000. That figure doesn't account for those who may be here on a temporary basis for work or other reasons.
The new and expanded temples are signs of financial prosperity and professional success, and give Hindus and Sikhs an increased presence in the public square alongside other religious institutions, scholars say.
Temples attract more to area
There are nearly 30 Hindu temples or groups in the Twin Cities area and about 40,000 practicing Hindus, according to the Rev. John Mayer, executive director of City Vision, a Minneapolis organization that tracks religious demographics.
The Hindu population is growing by at least 500 to 1,500 per year with immigrants and the children of immigrants and some American converts, he said.
Many Hindus in Minnesota, he notes, are highly educated professionals: doctors, lawyers, teachers, professors, engineers. These groups are able to finance the construction and support of new temples.
These temples, in turn, are drawing more Hindus to the area, Mayer said.
"The trickle becomes a flood," he said. "They don't come here because they like the nice Minnesota winters. There is now a whole Hindu subculture in the Twin Cities area, and this pocket will keep growing bigger and bigger each year."
Two temples are expansions
Sikh and Hindu faiths are different but share some similarities, particularly their Indian origins. At present, the only Sikh temple, or Gurdwara, in the Twin Cities, is located in a former McDonald's restaurant in Fridley.
Its nearly 300 followers, however, have outgrown the space and will move to the 8,000-square-foot former church building in Bloomington off 9000 Bloomington Freeway W. The Sikh Society of Minnesota bought the property for $600,000 and is spending up to $300,000 to renovate it, said Daljit Sikka, a member of the society's renovation committee.
The Sri Venkateswara Hindu temple is now in Golden Valley, but in September its leaders bought a building for $1.6 million in Edina off Metro Boulevard, where they plan to renovate the site that once housed the Spa Bella Casa. It's expected to open by March.
Temple President Madhu Reddy said the nearly 20,000-square-foot space was needed to accommodate approximately 1,000 members. In addition to the worship space, the new temple plans to offer classes in yoga, dancing and meditation, Reddy said.
The Hindu temple will be dedicated to the god Venkateswara. Other temples, like the one in Maple Grove, have shrines to multiple Hindu gods.
Numbers allow diversity
Joanne Waghorne, professor of religion at Syracuse University, who's written extensively about Hindu temples, said early temples in the United States were more inclusive and often dedicated to more than one god. But as the number of U.S. Hindus has steadily grown to about 1.5 million, many temples are more specific.
"There's enough of them [Hindus] now in the U.S. to begin to express the diversity you'd find in India," Waghorne said. "It's a sign of having arrived and making the money and making a serious impact on the landscape of this country."
Raj Singh, 47, and his wife, 43, and son, 17, and daughter, 15, are members of the Sikh temple and moved to the Twin Cities nearly 11 years ago for Singh's job as a professor at the business school at the University of Minnesota. They live in Plymouth.
Singh said he and wife, Simmi, both came from devout Sikh families in India and it's important to them that their children have a place like the temple to practice their faith and to see others who look and dress like them.
"That's where my wife and I found a support group for us and our children," Singh said. "I also think job opportunities bring a lot of people here. But when somebody calls me and asks about moving here, I tell them the city is very tolerant and accepting and is a good place to raise a family."
Rose French • 612-673-4352