‘Father of the temple-building movement in North America’ dies

The man credited with building the first Hindu temple in America — per direction, in a city beginning with the letter “n” — passed away last month. Alagappa Alagappan was 88.

The New York Times has the obituary:

In 1968, on a trip to his native India, Alagappa Alagappan dreamed that an ancient Hindu god told him to visit a medium. So he did, and on his first visit the medium read palm leaves to tell him that the Lord Ganesha — another deity, this one beloved for his laugh and his elephant head — wanted to settle in a city beginning with the letter N.

On the medium’s instruction, by his account, Mr. Alagappan returned the next day, and he learned that Ganesha had asked for more: He wanted temples to be established throughout North America. On the third day, the medium told Mr. Alagappan that it was his job to arrange that. So he did.


Today there are 700 Hindu temples in the United States, serving a Hindu population that since 1965 has increased thirtyfold, to about 1.5 million.

Mr. Alagappan started the project close to home, in his adopted city whose name began with N.

“With nothing but faith, I began the task of getting a temple built in New York,” Mr. Alagappan told Madras Musings, a newspaper published in Chennai, India, in 1998.

Meeting in his living room, he and others, some of them also United Nations officials, formed a planning group with the aim of making the increasing number of immigrants from India feel at home in their new country. In 1970 they founded the Hindu Temple Society of North America.

It sounds like he lived a varied life: admitted to the British bar, serving with the UN, working as a reporter.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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