ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

First Experience in a Hindu Temple

Updated on September 18, 2010

In September 2009, I attended the Lakshmi Puja ritual of Navaratri in downtown Manhattan. The only information I had prior to the experience was some fundamental understanding of Navaratri based on a preliminary internet search: the nine-day festival time is used to celebrate the three Most High Goddesses in the Hindu tradition, and I would be going on one of the three days dedicated to the goddess Lakshmi. Other than that, I knew nothing.

Small Packages

The puja took place in a small, ornately decorated room. Somehow I had been expecting a big palace-like temple, but what the temple lacked in size, it made up for in color and exquisite beauty. We meditated with mantras, gave offerings of rice and other food objects I could not identify, and washed the idol of the goddess I presumed to be Lakshmi.

There was a great deal of ritual surrounding all of these processes, much of which was so specific that I can barely remember it, even just the next day. Clearly a great deal of emphasis was placed on the things and the symbolism they contained in relation to the Other World.

Join HubPages!

You can write a "hub" like this and make money from the advertisements! Just join the HubPages community (it only takes a few seconds), and start writing about whatever moves you. It's that simple!

Power of Doing

I kept thinking about the fact that this entire ritual is all about practice; it does not have the same meaning if the followers of Hinduism merely believe in it. Instead, they must go through the motions of actually washing the idol many times, saying the mantras with their own lips, et cetera.

And yet, many of the definitions of religion in the common understanding barely mention practice at all. Religion is usually treated as internal, contemplative, and individual. This ceremony, though, had almost nothing to do with what people were feeling and was more centered on the action and the community. This seemed to rub up against (if not to conflict with entirely) the definitions I generally hear when people discuss religion.

John Caputo is a theologan whose book On Religion describes the roots of religious thinking and behavior as being in the innately human feeling of love.

What is Religion? Passion vs. Action

For example, I am sure that John Caputo would agree that these people are religious: the puja ritual exists to express love and adoration for Lakshmi (so that, I learned at the temple that night, she would bestow prosperity and health on us), and for Caputo religion is all about the love of a Higher Power.

But at the same time, this is not the type of love Caputo required for religion to be present. He seemed to think that the outward appearance of our love was less important than what was inside, and yet here the complete opposite seemed to be true. The entire point of the ceremony was that Lakshmi saw us performing those acts of devotion.

This conflict between the reflective nature of religion and its alternative, active nature is interesting, to say the least. Caputo seems to think that the former is important and only mentions the latter as an afterthought, but it seems to me that a definition of religion cannot fully exclude the practices of a tradition. Why would the Navaratri festival still exist after millennia if the religion of Hinduism did not need it? Surely the ancient tradition would have shed excess practices by now.

At the same time, Caputo’s requirement of passion in his definition of religion clearly has important implications. Surely most people would agree that going through the puja ritual does not make me Hindu, and that is because I do not necessarily believe that the ritual is doing exactly what it claims to do. On the other hand, merely having strong faith that Hindu beliefs are universal truths would not make me Hindu either. This entire experience reinforced for me the idea that religion is not one thing or another: it is the interplay of belief and practice that creates religious experience.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 

      5 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Nice article. Congrats!

    • profile image

      rehanna reid 

      7 years ago

      the internet is so unfair becuz they don't give u what u ask for mek dem gweh dem too UNFAIR

    • profile image

      Jared in Vegas 

      8 years ago

      You write very incisively. I feel like I learned something complex without ever being confused.

    • helenathegreat profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Manhattan

      Thanks for commenting, hafeezrm! Sometimes it takes attending a religious ceremony totally different from one you are familiar with to give you that sense of wonderment all over again.

    • hafeezrm profile image


      8 years ago from Pakistan

      Nice hub. Attending a religious ceremoney certainly brings peace of mind.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)