Houston Durga Bari is a temple that is dedicated to Maa Durga, who is the female god of power (DurgaBari org., 2016). In fact, it is the only temple in North America that is set aside to worshipping the goddess. What is clear is that the temple was built by the effort of the community, which was organized and led by the Bengali-Hindu community. The temple is constructed in the heart of Texas, which is a perfect environment for the study as well as Hindu practices (DurgaBari org., 2016). There are many activities that take place in the temple as it was narrated by one of its attendants. Religious activities, weekly pujas, and ceremonies are among the events that are conducted in the temple. Durga Puja is honored in the high spirits by more than three thousand believers. The presence of the goddess signifies the victory of good over the evil. There several educational and other programs that are held to teach the young Hindus.
Although the temple is not a massive structure, it has maintained grounds. It is important to say that the exact date of the construction is not provided, one of the priests told us that it the journey started in the 1990s (DurgaBari org., 2016). Several individuals from all over the world visit the temple for various activities. Mostly, those who visit the place are persons who want to enjoy their leisure because of the serene environment around the temple.

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The aim of the goddess who is worshiped in this temple is to provide platforms for cultural, athletics, and educational programs that focus on the Hindu community (DurgaBari org., 2016). In fact, the temple is a hot spot based on the fact that varied activities take place there. There is a Sunday school whose responsibility is to absorb a sense of pride in the people’s language to the next generations who are expected to be the next transformers. Kala Bhavan has a duty to take care of artist ensconced in the hearts of the young people. The auditorium of the temple offers the stage for distinguished Indians exponents to enthrall the audience with captivating shows. Visitors are encouraged to enjoy the events of the temple.

My observation and experience
Being Durga Bari was one of the best experiences in my life. The serene environment, which was beautifully colored made me feel like staying longer than I had planned. People were welcoming and every time they met with visitors, they greeted them. I could watch them giving Puja offerings and receive the ones that remained. The offerings had divine blessings and sometimes it acted as medicine. There were colored powders that decorate icons were collected, mixed with water, and utilized to mark the front part of the head.

I observed that the temple was a big structure, which was built using bricks that displayed Hindu Aesthetic. The entrance has a beautiful design on the floor. I understood that this type of rangoli was traditional to Bengali households, just as I had learned. The central sanctum has two rooms, which had been constructed for the purpose of priest convenience. It is important to state that the Octagonal structure has the largest space that is devoted to the shrine of Deve Durga and her children and at the right and left were other shrines that are meant for Maa Kali and Radha-Krishna. There is an area that is dedicated to Lord Shiva. There are several things that I learned that we had discussed in class. For example, there are festivals conducted, and Durga Puja is the most significant of all that many Hindus celebrate. The ceremony honors Devi Paksha in the month of Ashwin. I also realized that community involvement and development is the primary goal of attending temple services. Holding many Pujas helps the members to increase awareness of the customs and traditions. Notably, one of the latest celebrations took place on March 7, 2016. It was interesting to learn that the halls of the temple can be rented.

Reflections on the experience in relation to what we learned in class
Notably, my encounter in the temple reminded me what we had discussed in class. I observed the Hindus greet each other by raising palms that joined to shoulder level and repeated the salutations, which we called in class Namaskar (Esposito, Fasching & Lewis, 2011). Sometimes, they bowed, demonstrating the theological aspect in the greetings. The principal gesture of the salutation can be made into many prostrations by either touching the ground with the knees or fully prone. Another experience that I had, which was similar to the ones discussed in class is the observance of the religious concepts, such as using a tilak in the forehead (Esposito et al., 2011). According to one of the priests who talked to us, the utilization of varying dharmas is what has enabled them to accept differences in religious orientation. The priest also explained that puja is constructed on the assumption that humanity and divinity should keep an intimate relationship. According to the priest, all rituals express submissiveness, adoring, and self-negating service to the divine. It is interesting to state that there were beautiful images in the temple, some of which I had seen in the textbook that we were using. Indeed, each represented a deity that Hindus held that played a significant role in their lives (Esposito et al., 2011). The images of Durga riding her vehicle, with the tiger carrying the weapons of the male gods were well displayed in the temple.

    References
  • Esposito, L., J., Fasching, J, D., & Lewis, T., (2011). Religions of Asia Today. Oxford, United
    Kingdom; Oxford University Press.
  • DurgaBari org., (2016). Houston Durgabari Society. Retrieved from http://www.durgabari.org/