Sri Meenakshi Devasthanam is a very large Hindu temple located in Pearland. It was finished in 1982 but has continuously been under construction for the new temples that are being added every few years. It is believed to be the third Hindu temple to be built in the U.S. It is also the only temple outside of India dedicated to worshipping Meenakshi, the wife of Shiva. It has a very similar architecture to the temples in India. The Pearland temple is a replica of the original Sri Meenakshi temple back in India. The temple is very well maintained and is a very peaceful house of God. Although the Hindu population of Houston and specifically the Pearland area is very small the temple can get very crowded during festivals. There are two main temple complexes on the entire campus. The deity of the main temple is Meenakshi as well as Venkateshwara and Sundareswara. According to the agamas, a collection of scriptures made by a collection of Hindu schools, The deities were installed with yantras, a geometrical diagram that serves as a meditation tool. Shiva’s vahana, vehicle, Nandi, is directly across Shiva.
Vishnu’s vahana, Garuda, is directly across Venkateswara. The other temple contains the idol of Ganesha and Navagraha, nine astronomical bodies and mythical deities of Hinduism. The Ganesh temple also has peacocks and peahens. Many of the worship services known as puja are held in this temple. There are a total of three gopurams, entrance towers of a Hindu temple, and four prakara temples which is an outer part of Hindu temple sanctuary. Almost every inch of the open temple has carved decorations with symbolic significance. The temple has a library as well as a kitchen and dining hall where you can buy indian food. Before entering the temple it is necessary to remove shoes out of respect for God to keep his house clean. You can then be directed to a wash area if you need cleansing. The dress code is very simple and only requires members to wear something that covers knees and shoulders. This dress code is applicable to both men and women. The spiritual leader of the temple is the pandit, a Hindu priest, whose duty is to maintain the temple, prepare and distribute offerings, perform rituals and ceremonies, and lead devotions in the worship. Another leader that was found in the temple was the acharyan which is Sanskrit for guru.
Their job is to teach divine personality and to help ordinary members and followers understand the scriptures. Services are conducted by a pujari who is a trained priest. Puja, the worship service, is a religious ceremony where Hindus demonstrate their faithfulness to their specific god or divine being with rituals, prayers, or music. When performing the puja, the priest tries to connect to the deity by using the shrine. The shrine is usually decorated with flowers and different offerings brought by the worshippers. The pandit began the ceremony with a purification process. The priest then chanted a prayer in Sanskrit which is a ancient language of India. He then made gestures with his hands to attract the deity, then made an offering to the god. He then dressed the icon in new clothes and waved a lamp over it and carried it to the bakhta, worshippers, to bless them. After this the pandit passed out prasad’s, offerings, to the worshippers. Although not witnessed, another way to perform prayers is with bhajans, these are songs that are sung in front of the deity. After you complete your prayer you can leave as you please or go to the dining hall to eat. The whole experience can be described as holy and spiritually enlightening.