Information about this center is no longer updated. This data was last updated on 1 April 2013.Phone: 612-522-1201
The temple that is known today as the Minnesota Hindu Dharmic Sabha Vishnu Mandir has evolved over a relatively long period, in different locations and communities. It is the oldest official Hindu temple of Minnesota and the upper Midwest (with the exception of Illinois). In the early 1970s, a small community of Hindu West Indians settled in the Twin Cities. Many had known each other while in Guyana or Trinidad and kept in close contact upon arrival in the United States. The social gatherings of this group soon took religious form. These new immigrants began to search for a functioning priest and location to conduct the necessary samskaras or rites of passage, including marriages, funerals and births. Pt. Paul Persaud, the only resident priest within Minnesota at the time, assumed the leadership of the community. Weekly religious services, held at a member’s home, shortly followed. Approximately seventy people regularly attended these early programs. The services lasted for six or seven months, until the organization officially disbanded. Pundit Paul Persaud explains that the institution lacked a central mission, common goals, or even a clear structure, “What was created for religious reasons soon served as a center for gossip and socializing.” Then in 1975, efforts were made again towards the creation of a mandir. After a series of yagnas and celebrations, held on occasion by various members of the community and conducted by visiting priests, Hindus began to demand a more stable religious center. Pundit Paul Persaud remained hesitant to again attempt to establish a mandir. His opinion soon changed, however, when he attended a community party in late October. At this event, he witnessed Guyanese youth drinking and dancing without inhibition or care. This inspired him to dedicate himself to maintaining the religion and traditions of Hinduism among youth in the United States, through the creation of a temple. For the subsequent ten years, the organization met in several temporary locations. During this time, temple members collected funds for the eventual purchase of a building. The first services of this renewed organization were held at the home of the Laxman family, a long-established Guyanese family in the Twin Cities. Nearly three hundred people attended the opening events. A formal temple was built in the basement of the home. Services were held weekly and attended on average by eighty people. Within a few years, however, the congregation grew too large and the services moved to a refurbished one-car garage on their property. This garage served for a few months, until the member family moved out of Minnesota. Again, the community was forced to find a new location. A new garage was built on the property of Pundit Paul Persaud with temple funds. Services were conducted here for nine years. In early 1984, the temple leaders found a store-front building on Lyndale Avenue in Minneapolis and decided to renovate it to use for a mandir. A group of eight families pooled their funds together and became the key financial support for the new temple. Before the temple could be officially opened in 1995, it had to register itself with the state as a non-profit religious organization. This led to creation of a governing constitution and the adoption of a name, the Minnesota Hindu Dharmic Sabha Vishnu Mandir. The community has continued to grow over the last two decades. More than 100 families now attend functions regularly at the temple. Today, the Vishnu Mandir serves as a model for more recently-created temples in the Midwest.
The Vishnu Mandir was founded to maintain the traditions and form of Hinduism practiced in Guyana within the United States. Vishnu Mandir focuses its efforts to include the youth in temple proceedings and educate them in their religion and culture. Vishnu Mandir also disavows the caste system and seeks to include both men and women in all rituals.
The community consists of approximately 100 families. The overwhelming majority of these members of Vishnu Mandir are Indo-Guyanese. All are either first or second-generation immigrants. Many migrated first to New York then to Minnesota. Like other Indo-Caribbean temples in Minnesota, many attendees belong to large extended families, all of whom attend service. In addition to the adult members of the congregation, there is a sizable youth population, consisting of about fifty members between the ages of 8 and 18.
The store-front mandir is located in a lower-income business district of Minneapolis. It is approximately eight minutes away from the Hindu Mandir of Minneapolis and ten minutes away from the new Shri Gaayatri Mandir. The mandir is surrounded by a medley of commercial and residential buildings. The main hall of the mandir is approximately 60 ft by 40 ft. The inside of the mandir is painted a baby blue color. White, purple and gold foil paper is various patterns decorate the ceiling. Attendees sit either on the carpeted floor or on chairs near the back. Along the walls of the mandir are images of different forms of God, including Shiva, Durga, and Vishnu. The altar is on the north side of temple. The murtis are encased in a frame of oak wood and sit on a three-foot tiled platform. The white-marble murtis vary in height from 1-2 feet. From left to right, there are ten murtis, including Lakshman, Ram, Sita, Bramha, Saraswati, Shiva, Krishna, Ganesh, Vishnu, Radha, and Krishna. As members of the congregation enter the temple, they proceed straight to the altar, ring the temple bell and perform aarti for the murtis. The mandir is equipped with a full-size kitchen next to the rear entrance. This area is used to prepare the prasad for the worship service.
Activities and Schedule
Weekly Sunday Service The main activity of the temple is the weekly worship held on Sunday mornings from 10 AM to 12 PM. Every week, one of the officiating pundits leads the service. The functions begin with the performance of the hawan. Members of the youth group participate with the priest in the hawan. A repeated chorus of bhajans interrupts the hawan. The hawan is followed by aarti, closing prayers and more kirtan. All of the bhajans sung are translated and explained in English before they are sung. Some incorporate English verses in their text. The bhajans are accompanied with dholak, harmonium and the dhantal. The officiating pundit then concludes the service with a thirty minute discourse. Other Events Shri Vishnu Mandir celebrates all major Hindu festivals, including Shivatri, Holi, Ramnaumi, Hanuman Jayanti, Sita Jayanti Raksha Bandan, Pitri Paksh, Navratri and Diwali. Cultural shows are held to commemorate Holi and Diwali. The temple is also used for any family functions, including weddings and anniversaries.