New Hindu Temple Built in Rural Pennsylvania

May 31, 2002

Source: The Harrisburg Patriot

On May 31, 2002 The Harrisburg Patriot reported that "here in Pennsylvania coal country, a massive new Hindu temple is a pilgrimage destination for South Asian immigrant families throughout North America. Thousands of them gathered at the temple last weekend when a priest from India installed Shri Nathji, who is the god Krishna as a child after bathing his black stone statue with butter, milk, honey, sugar and water from the holy rivers of India... As the only officially sanctioned temple outside India for a major sect, called Vallabha Samprahdaya, the temple here is evidence of the growing size and weight of a Hindu community that began to immigrate to America more than 30 years ago. The 34,000-square-foot building sits on a 240 square site in south-central Schuylkill County, once a resort, that offers accessibility from East Coast cities and a serenity the Hindus say reminds them of Vraj, near New Delhi, where the sect has its headquarters. Jay Shah, a Philadelphia attorney and the son of the temple president, said Hinduism is experienced quite differently by immigrants such as his father and by the native-born Americans who are their children. 'Growing up here, it's an acquired understanding. Growing up in India, you just absorb it,' said Shah... Hinduism has been a fixture on this unlikely midstate site for more than two decades. The $3 million temple sits beside a much smaller one where the sect worshiped for 14 years. As part of Harvard University's Pluralism Project, (Allen) Richardson is studying the temple here and its reception by the Eastern European Christians who dominate the area. He emphasized that American Hindus are not seeking converts. 'These are people who simply want to preserve their religion and teach it to their children, he said."