The temple is the heart of Hinduism. In Hindu society, the temple has occupied a pivotal position, not only the spiritual aspect of it, but also because it has been the focal point of social and cultural activities. It has been closely associated with developments of fine arts, such as music, dancing, painting, architecture, sculpturing, and many other crafts. The Hindu temple has had a strong base of many philanthropic and charitable projects.
In recent times, the example of the Tirupati Temple in Andhra Pradesh is perhaps the most impressive beginning of such activities. With a huge income from the donations of the devotees, it supports a number of educational institutes, hospitals, and other worthy causes. The other major religious organizations include Sri Rama Krishna Mission, Swaminarayan Sanstha, Sathya Sai Baba Temple, Hare Krishna Temple (ISKCON), Chinmaya Mission, Sadhu Vaswani Mission, Mata Amritanadamayi “Amma” and Swadhya Parivar and many others.
In the traditional Hindu temple, the worship ceremonies are conducted with an organized set of rituals. Temple rituals are usually performed by one or more its own temple priests, who are, by convention, hereditary in lineage of a particular sect and are trained from early childhood in the intricate liturgy of the temple rites by reciting many mantras and slokas in special manner.
NOTE: This chapter is adapted from Kolapen Mahalingum, Hindu Temples in North America, Winter Park, Fla., Titan Graphics and Publications, 2002