Hinduism is one of the world’s largest religions, but in Wisconsin, few practice the world’s oldest faith. On a country road in eastern Dane County, amid cornfields and farmhouses, a former auto body shop has been transformed into the Mandir of Madison. It’s a Hindu temple, founded in 2006 by India natives Jagdish and Mandish Agrawal, who moved to the area a decade ago from Michigan.
“In this area, there is not a single Mandir. And there’s a good Hindu community that can very well accept this mandir. Therefore we went and looked all over Wisconsin and then this was the most ideal spot that our budget and the needs can be fulfilled,” explains Jagdish.
Six days a week, two trained priests lead prayers to different deities, represented by about a dozen statues inside the 5,000 square foot temple. Throughout the temple there are plates of fruit and spices that have been blessed by the priests. On a cold Thursday night this winter, about 30 people removed their shoes and coats before entering to pray to a small statue of Sai Baba, which a priest in a white robe bathed with water and milk.
“Hinduism is a lifestyle. We do it very religiously, very regularly, but Hinduism is a lifestyle. So you do good, you get good, you eat good, you stay good, those kind of things,” says Jagdish. “Like Christ, you go, any church has Christ. You go there, you see him, and you read the books. You get connected. Same way here, you get connected. And the more you are connected the better you feel.”
“And I think what our Hindu culture is that you pray and the god bless you, you don’t have to ask for anything. He knows what you need, he gives you what you need. So it’s not like definitely or certainly you go and say oh God, give me the money, that’s what I’m here for, you don’t do that. You say God bless me. And blessing comes, includes everything,” says Mandish. “My, my perception. Blessing includes everything.”