American Hindu Association
Building a dream temple from the ground up on a Fitchburg farm
|Proposed site of American Hindu Association
By Laura Salinger
Since 1998, the American Hindu
Association (AHA) based in Madison, Wis.
has been providing religious, social, and
educational services to Hindu devotees
and community members interested in the
Hindu religion. Their primary mission is to
teach and share the rich spiritual heritage
of Hindu philosophy. For over a decade,
AHA has been catering to devotees and the
community in people’s homes and at a yoga
studio. Now, AHA is realizing their dream of
having a central place of worship and
“It’s a very broad vision of bringing not just the Hindu community together
but everyone, so that we all can find peace and the divine.”
Amit’s inclusive attitude is not very different than the religion or tradition
itself. In fact, titling Hinduism a religion is somewhat of a misnomer, kind of. It
is not nearly as narrowly defined as many other world religions. It is a religion
but it is also a culture, a philosophy, and tradition. Because of the wide
diversity and traditions encompassed within the term Hinduism, it is a difficult
religion or tradition to pinpoint by Western standards, but simultaneously a
very accepting religious tradition.
Demographically the world’s third most-practiced religion or religious
tradition, Hinduism is considered a traditional way of life for its followers.
There is no single founder or unified accepted creed. Instead, the religion
encompasses a wide range of traditions, beliefs and practices. Many Hindu
traditions follow the sacred texts of the Vedas, a large body of texts composed
in Vedic Sanskrit originating from ancient India. Common concepts in
Hinduism include, among many others, the idea of Karma (action and resulting
reactions or, simply put, cause and effect), Dharma (ethics and duties),
Samsara (cycles of birth, life, death, and rebirth), and Yoga. Many Hindus
worship one or more deities, practice meditation, and celebrate holidays such
as Diwali and Holi.
Of course, defining Hinduism in the aforementioned ways still does no
justice to the practice which, in many ways, resides inside the follower.
Meditation and mantras focus devotees on looking within themselves in order
to work closer to the divine. At the heart of Hinduism is the notion of the
responsibility to do good in order to move closer to the divine.
“Whatever you sow, you have to reap here to reach the divine,” Amit says.
“What you have, is now. What leads you back to the divine is the accumulation
Within Hinduism there is no such thing as conversion, baptism, even
“Hinduism is very open,” Amit asserts.
Salinger is a
For now, AHA will continue to meet at the serene farmhouse in Fitchburg
and work towards the goal of a larger, authentic temple and cultural center.
According to their website, they hope the temple will eventually house “
common meeting place for cultural activities, pujas, seminars, and camps on
Hinduism; access to the wider community for cultural activities and Hindu
festivals; a library and computer room; a conference rooms for discussions; a
multipurpose hall for cultural activities; and a dedicated place to the practice
of Yoga and meditation.” But, as Mangar explains, they are currently talking
the planning of the new facility day-by-day.
AHA’s primary mission is to teach Hindu philosophy and to provide
leadership and resources for the Hindu community. AHA conducts regular
weekly puja, bhajans, and Hinduism-focused discussions. They promote yoga
and meditation, provide services to devotees, and sponsor religious
festivals such as Makar Sankranti/Pongal, Mahashivratri, Srikrishna,
Janmasthmi, and Deepawali. For more information visit www.americanhindu.
gathering space. They eventually hope to build an authentic Hindu temple at this very spot.
Traveling from the heart of downtown Madison down Fish Hatchery Rd., you pass from the
hub of the city into the wooded, bike path-lined streets of Fitchburg. Traveling a little further,
the wood line expands and, although mere minutes from the city, it feels like a quaint and
restful small county road. Here in this serene setting at 2138 S. Fish Hatchery Rd., is where
AHA hopes to build an authentic temple and community gathering place dubbed the AHA
Hindu Temple and Cultural Center. While there currently is a Hindu temple in Madison,
this would be (if all goes according to plan) the first authentic temple built from the ground up. For now, AHA members and devotees
have made the farmhouse their temple and larger community gatherings take place on the wooded grounds of what was once a working
AHA Vice President and Interim President Amit Mangar took Asian Wisconzine on a tour of the 7.5 acre grounds, pointing out the area
which they hope will eventually house the Hindu temple and cultural center. He will be the first to admit that they are in the very early
stages of the planning process and have a lot of work ahead of them. While there vision for the temple is very broad, it is also very
inclusive (much like the Hindu tradition itself.)
“It’s a place where people can come together,” Amit explains. “It’s not just a Hindu temple; it’s also a cultural center. To that affect,
everyone is welcome to learn about the Hindu culture.”
Although very general renderings of a Hindu temple are framed on the wall in the worship space inside the farmhouse, Amit emphasizes
that the focus is more about practicing Hinduism, cultivating Hindu philosophies and culture within youth, and bringing the whole