The Temple Makers


The Temple Makers

Rising from a cornfield on the east side of Indianapolis, the Hindu Temple of Central Indiana is a breathtaking new monument -impressive in both scope and design, as well as a testament to the growing multiculturalism of the region. Explore its construction from design to dedication, and learn how how a building goes from a simple block structure to a holy temple.

AIRED: June 30, 2016 | 0:56:46

[Announcer reads words on

¶ ¶



Today, for one day in a

lifetime, this man will chase

In a new Hindu temple, he will

create the eyes of God.

Those eyes of a soon to be

living God will lock with those

of thousands of worshipers.

Eyes full of hope, ambition,

Will the eyes of the deities and

the temple that holds them

reflect a purity of purpose?

Will this place be perfect?

How many of us ever truly

Are we so bold?

So audacious?

Or is the secret "the truth" of

perfection to be humble?

To believe in and accept the

will of forces bigger than you.

For where else can we find

¶ ¶

>>NARRATOR: The Indian

community in central Indiana-an

estimated 10,000 families

strong-- was not always robust.

In the 1980s and 1990s it was

barely large enough to support

>>NARRATOR: Temple creation is

part art, part ritual--and must

follow sacred instructions for

The build in Indianapolis is led

by temple architect or Sthapati,

Umanandam Mahankali Nagarajan.

Uma learned the process from his

>>NARRATOR: Yes, for 10

generations, members of this

family have been building Hindu


>>NARRATOR: As Uma began the


His art did the talking for

him...erasing all doubts about

>>NARRATOR: Uma was faced with

the challenge of not only a

blank canvas box of a building,

but also 17 places for deities

that were not much more than

cinder block walls.

He would need to turn each into

a shrine worthy of a form of


Even before that the shrines had

to be placed properly according

>>NARRATOR: Each curve, each

symbol needed to flow from

inspiration to drawing to cement

>>NARRATOR: The drawing for the

Monkey had been done days

earlier, so he could now inspect

>>HUSAIN: Now that you see it,

what do you want to change?

>>HUSAIN: What did you change?

>>NARRATOR: The work of the

temple architect was hard to

imagine 15 years prior.

6 Hindu families had pooled

resources to donate land for the


Then, the community gathered for

a prayer to get to rest of

funding to build the first of

what would be three phases of


and the whole community said

"om" together.

I think then I understood why we

needed a temple.

And you know "om" is the

beginning of all things for us,

so that was a very beautiful

moment, because it felt like

there was one giant breath that

the whole group had taken


And it was a moment of great

>>NARRATOR: And one of their

first meetings was perhaps the

most critical to what the temple

became a decade and a half

>>NARRATOR: A core belief in

Hinduism is that there just one

God, but that God is represented

in many ways.

Each of these is a deity.

And different regions of India

pay particular attention to

different deities.

With a modest-sized Indian

community in Indiana, the board

decided to put as many shrines

to as many deities as possible

in the new temple.

The idea was to make everyone

feel at home.

To keep the potentially

splintered Indian community,

>>NARRATOR: Phase 1 opened in

>>VASANTHI: Even at that time I

felt like we had already

outgrown the space.

There were people waiting

outside to get into the, just

>>SHAYANI: I'm not one to take

performances lightly.

But that's just because there's

a certain standard you have to

meet and maintain to uphold the

elegance of the dance.

Not to say that I made it, I

I'm spinning a lot in this one.

Indian classical dance is very

A lot of dances are focused on

telling a story, and that's

what, that's how dance evolved,

especially for Indian classical.

At first it would be in temples,

and areas where you would tell

That's where it began.

The eyeliner is to show

expression, and a lot of the

very accented makeup comes along

with that.

And then the rest of it, where

I've got bangles on, and I've

got the whole Indian gear, that

is just based culturally, I


You'll see these moments of

mythology in the architecture

and I know the way that I do it

is through dance.

That's my way of worship, my way

of connecting those stories to

what I am and what's going on

It was just something my parents

signed me up for and that I went

to and then it became my thing.

I had to go to dance class.

I had to go to Balgokulam Hindi


And yeah there were some

mornings I didn't want to go.

But that's like not wanting to

eat your vegetables.

Your parents will be like, well,

you've got to do it.

And then you realize afterwards

that that was really important.

I think I grew into it a little

bit, but now I love it.

I was born in Indianapolis.

So I've been connected with this

specific community my entire


For the longest time, I thought

coming to the temple was being

Indian, not necessarily being

Hindu, but just being Indian,

because we'd come here and we'd

speak the language and we'd have

the food.

I would dance Indian classical,

and I'd pray in a very Indian


>>NARRATOR: For younger

Indian-Americans being deeply

rooted in Indian culture made

perfect sense to them inside

>>SHAVANI: I don't know if I can

speak for the entire generation

when I say this, but because my

parents when they came here they

had to prove how American they

could be, because they were from


And for us it's a little bit of

the opposite.

We kind of have to prove how

I would come home from school

and I would say certain things,

I would act a certain way, which

wasn't appropriate at home.

It was a growing experience for


And I think I'm still trying to

figure that out here and there,

but especially going into

college and going through high

school when I established how

Indian I am and how American I

>>NARRATOR: The phase one

building had opened in 2006 and

within 6 months it was

completely paid for.

They set out to build phase 2

with a nearly 5 million-dollar

Phase two would be a larger

"box" attached to the back of

the phase 1 building.

This new, larger space would

become the "bones" of new


But fundraising was challenged

as the great recession of 2008

With patience the second phase

was completed in 2012, 6 years

after the first.

>>NARRATOR: After having created

two industrial feeling, boxy,

buildings in phases 1 and 2, the

temple builders turned to the

final step, phase 3 which would

transform the simple structure

into something ornate and

instantly recognizable as a

>>NIKHIL JAIN: I saw the

pictures and designs and what

they wanted to do and thinking

we're in America, in Indiana,

that could never happen.

It only happens in India.

>>NARRATOR: The "Indianization"

of the temple, as they called

it, would require great

>>NARRATOR: The hands on

construction and creation of

Uma's designs is done by nearly

30 artisans.

All are from India and

specialize in the art of


Many come from the same town in

India, speak little to no

English, Yet they have come to

live in

Indianapolis...committing nearly

two years of their lives to

¶ ¶

>>VASANTHI: Each of the,

the carvings that were

made for the temple were done,

not simply with chisel and

hammer, there is a process of

meditation that each of the

artists does to realize


One of the most interesting

conversations I had was with

Umananthem the architect of the


He was telling me how many

things had changed from his

original drawing because the

artists are internalizing, they

are meditating, and then what is

actually carved is the fruit of

¶ ¶

>>NARRATOR: While they created

their work, there

were some new things to get used

to, including American

construction safety standards

insisted on by construction

>>NARRATOR: Sathya is a constant

presence during construction.

He was critical in helping Uma

come up with the proper mix of

concrete that would allow for

deftness in the artistry, yet

also hold up through the cold

weather that differentiates

>>NARRATOR: The future to Sathya

means 12 years worth of

>>NARRATOR: Everyone here is

working to have the temple ready

for a consecration ceremony

called the kumbavisekam in which

Hindu priests from across the

country will come, at great

financial expense, and bring the

temple deities--from a Hindu

Once the God is alive, no

repairs or alterations can be

made for 12 years without a new

>>VASANTHI: The two children,

and they're dressed in modern

clothes, and they're sitting

there with their little book

bags, and they each have a book

open, and I believe the little

girl has it open in Sanskrit,

and the little boy has it open

in English.

And it's the translation of the

Sanskrit verse that says, the

truth is one.

And that's a saying from the


The truth is one, though the

wise may call it by many names.

That's what we want our children

to understand.

We want them to understand as

they grow up here that their

faith doesn't divide them from

the community, but actually

binds them to it.

And not just the Hindu

community, but also the larger


>>NARRATOR: The integration of

Hindus into the larger community

is happening daily.

Sathya's son Hari found

integration through sports at

his local high school.

A state champion, he became one

of the most decorated athletes

in their school history, and a

He credits the classes at the

Hindu temple for helping him

>>HARIHARAN: Yeah, I've been to


Its been great and its built me

as a person helped me

communicate more because when I

was younger I used to be shy.

This has really helped me open

up with the people around me and

¶ [child singing] ¶

>>KAMNA GUPTA: In my younger

years, I always

to be, and putting a label on

who I'm supposed to be.

Am I Indian?

Am I American?

I think that was a really

pivotal moment in my life where

>>ARYAMAN GUPTA: It's tough, I'm

not going to lie, it was a

When you are younger kids are

curious they want to know but

the often say the incorrect

thing and you have to explain,

why do we worship cows or why do

we pray to an elephant god.

It was a lot of not only

explaining to others but that

meant I had to understand it

>>CHAD BAUMAN: I've interviewed

a lot of young Hindus in

Indianapolis, and one of the

things they always seem to

struggle with is how to present

their Hindu faith and practice

to their non-Hindu neighbors.

And it was particularly hard I

think when they didn't have a

worship space.

>>NIKI JAIN: One of my friends,

he came in, and he drove himself

there, and he came in and he was

just, and he just looked around,

because at this point the

outside had pretty much been

built and he was just looking

around and saying "This is


This is crazy.

I didn't know this existed!

And I was like, yeah, this is

where I come every Sunday.

You come here every Sunday."

That's Awesome!

and I'm like I Know!

It was so cool to see his face

light up when he saw all of

these new and interesting

>>NARRATOR: The leaders of the

temple had been planning the

consecration ceremony and

celebration for temple almost

since the beginning of Phase 3

The ceremony takes 5 days.

Its purpose is no less than to

transport the energy of God from

the old temple to the new one,

and in doing so, bring all the

intricately designed deities to


It requires over 20 priests

being flown in and housed from

around the country, food for

tens of thousands of meals over

the 5 days, not to mention food,

flowers and other offerings for

It has long been planned for

June third through the 7th.

All the work of Uma and his team

have been directed with that

deadline in mind.

And, after recovering from some

weather delays, he is ahead of


What he has created are

beautiful shells...housing, for

statues representing deities

that will "come to life" in this

final ceremony.

But those statues--coming by

boat from India--are running


In mid-May, good news came that

the statues had arrived into US

customs in Virginia.

But now, creeping toward late

May, they still have not been

>>NARRATOR: 7 am, May 28.

After weeks of worry and furious

calls to get it released, the

>>HUSAIN: Do you have concerns?

Did you look at the crate and

open those doors and think...

>>NARRATOR: The priests begin

arriving for the beginning of

the 5 day ceremony to consecrate

the new temple.

A kumavikushakem is a

tremendously important ritual in

Hindu religion.

It is considered nothing less

than giving life to a form of

For the past several years,

worship services have been held

in the old phase 1 building at

the front of the temple


Now the energies from the

deities of that smaller altar

will be transferred via ceremony

and prayers to what is

essentially a holding area in a

pavilion outside the buildings.

Here prayers from priests and

the community will invigorate

the energy and help open the

>>NARRATOR: The energy is moved

in a couple of ways.

One is via containers of holy

water and other sacred materials

inside a sort of pot called a


Another is, ceremonially, via

strings which convey energy of

prayer and divine power from the

old deity location to the

holding area and then into the


service to God, that, what we

chant, all the mantras, it will

will be is toward there.

That power will come all over.

Circular, yes, circular.

>>NARRATOR: The temple grounds

are bathed in sounds of chanting

and music.


Oils and other offerings.

The young, the old and the in

between...the devout and the


a community has come to see its

>>NARRATOR: One figure roaming

the grounds has particular


73 year old Mahankali Nagarajan

has come to Indiana.

To see his son, and, his son's


And Uma's work is far from


While the shilpies still have

some final clean up and polish

to do, Uma still has one

incredibly important task before


Because in Hindu beliefs the

deities are living, their

eyes--what they see--worshipers,

offerings, anything--is

dependent upon their creator,

the temple architect.

All the majesty of the


All be fantastic carving of the


All will be diminished if

>>HUSAIN: Are you checking his


>>NARRATOR: First he will mark

the eyes in pencil.

Only a few may see this process.

There is an intensity within the

>>NARRATOR: In Hindu culture,

the temple architect, because he

is the creator, is the only one

who can cut the eyes.

He is seen as the mother of

these deities, and is the first

The cutting of the eyes may not

be seen by cameras.

Once they are cut, they are

covered with a special

Tomorrow, the paste will be

removed by the "father" of the

temple building process--the


>>NARRATOR: Outside,

golden caps have been placed on

each of the 3 towers.

Each tower is an extension of

one of the three main shrines

below in the temple.

These caps marking the upward

limits of the temple, must now

>>NARRATOR: Inside, there is

tremendous excitement running

through a crowd that is lined up

out the door.

The deities will be awakened


>>VASANTHI: There were lots of

people outside, they were all

praying and meditating.

And the energies that are

focused through that prayer are

held as vibration in these, in

these pots of water, certainly

the water held that vibration.

The vibrations of all those

prayers, all those wishes, of

the whole community coming

together, that was being poured

>>NARRATOR: A line of young

girls is set up by the priests.

They will present some of the

first things the deities will

see as the sandalwood paste is

>>NARRATOR: And then, it begins.

The community and the deities

>>NARRATOR: Outside, a

helicopter approaches.

Rose petals.

And then, a hawk appears.

>>NARRATOR: And nearby, the 11th

generation of temple builders is

already growing up before the

>>SHAVANI: The executives

especially have made it a point

to say that this will be yours

in the future.

This will be your place to come

and feel comfortable and express

your religion and express who

you are.

And I found solace in that.

And so I think a lot of people

in my generation will also find

that as they see that they are


They have to connect somehow,

and they need to find a place to

do that.

¶ [singing] ¶

>>CHAD: I think its

significant that this temple was

called the Hindu temple of

central Indiana and not the

temple of Indianapolis.

It really does serve that larger

This temple is a temple that

very intentionally has in its

construction and in the way its

presented itself attempted to be

a temple for all Hindus.

And that is really quite a feat.

You can imagine making a place

where Methodists, Baptists, and

Catholics would all be happy to

worship at the same time.

And maybe it is even more

difficult than that because

regionally speaking, in India

these folks are speaking

different languages, different

regional languages.

So actually a better parallel

maybe getting Methodists from

England, Catholics from Spain,

and Lutherans from Germany to

all worship in one space

¶ ¶

>>NARRATOR: October, 2015.

All clean up and final work has

been completed.

For the Uma and for shilpis it

¶ ¶

>>NARRATOR: The parting

is difficult.


They'll likely see each other

again, sooner or later...the

goodbyes are only temporary.

What they built will last much,

[Announcer reads words on


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