Hindu community life centers on temples, which host a variety of daily, weekly, monthly, and annual services, as well as family events. Templegoers traditionally remove their shoes before entering the primary worship space, which contains murtis, or consecrated images of various deities. Devotees pray and make offerings to these deities with the assistance of priests, who lead worship in Sanskrit,
Many Hindu temples have been built in the state, including one in Augusta and several in the Atlanta area. The oldest and best-known temple in Georgia is the Hindu Temple of Atlanta, located in Riverdale just off Interstate 75. Devotees come from all over the Southeast to worship in this temple; its main deity is Lord Venkateswara, who represents Vishnu. Construction began in 1987, and the first services were held in 1990. The temple, with its elaborate towers, is modeled on a famous 5,000-year-old temple in Tirumala-Tirupathi, South India.
Hinduism is an ancient religion, with roots in India that can be traced back 5,000 years. The religion
Hinduism also involves personal and family observances. Households often contain shrines to which family members give prayers and make offerings. Most Hindus are vegetarians; at the very least they avoid beef and pork, because cows are considered sacred and pork is considered unclean. Some devotees have markings on their bodies indicating whether they worship Vishnu or Shiva. Men and women both dress modestly, and many Hindu women in Georgia continue to wear traditional Indian clothing.
In the United States, elements of Hinduism have been incorporated into a distinct, relatively new religious movement, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), more commonly known as the Hare Krishna movement. The movement was founded by Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who organized ISKCON in the United States in 1965. In Georgia, Hare Krishna members are most prevalent in the metropolitan Atlanta area. New Pani Hati, the Hare Krishna Temple in Druid Hills, established in 1973, is the oldest Krishna temple in the Southeast. This temple provides instruction in Krishna beliefs and practices and hosts the Sunday Feast, a basic element of Krishna devotion. Hare Krishna devotees are most frequently identified by the saffron robes of their monks and the tilaka, or forehead mark.
Gary Laderman, ed., Religions of Atlanta: Religious Diversity in the Centennial Olympic City (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1996).
David S. Williams, From Mounds to Megachurches: Georgia’s Religious Heritage (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2008).
Kathryn McClymond, Georgia State University
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