The first Hindu Vedanta temple in the United States was built in San Francisco in 1906. Paramahansa Yogananda started the Self-Realization Fellowship in 1920, which constructed a string of elegant worship centers, mostly in California. These earlier religious establishments, however, although philosophically related to Hinduism, had their own codes. These were not typically Hindu organizations. The main purpose of these earlier places of worship was to cater to the local populace, the majority of which was non-Hindu. These institutes have continued to render most admirable service in acquainting the devotees with the basic principles of Hindu philosophy for over a century. After the large influx of Hindu immigrants in the latter half of the twentieth century, traditional Hindu temples were built. In the United States and Canada alone, there are more than eight hundred Hindu temples. Most of these have been built in the last two or three decades.
Dr. V. Ganpati Sthapati of Tamil Nadu, India and others from the United States and India have contributed enormously toward erecting magnificent Hindu temples in North America. Many of these temples have been built according to the traditional Vastu Shastra of the Vedic period. There have been modern adaptations also. Although there was initially strong resistance from the local communities at some places, the courts of law often prevailed and gave permission after satisfying themselves with some basic requirements. In few places, however, the leading Christian churches supported the cause of the Hindu temples. These new temples in America have a large community basis. Spacious halls have become part of the temple premises, which are used for weddings and other socio-cultural functions.
NOTE: This chapter is adapted from Kolapen Mahalingum. Hindu Temples in North America. Winter Park, Fla, Titan Graphics and Publications, 2002.