CARBONDALE – The first Hindu temple in Southern Illinois represents more than a house of prayer for hun-dreds of people.
It also establishes a center for a community to better define itself and perhaps grow, said several people cele-brating the temple’s inauguration Sunday.
“I think the temple is probably going to amplify that,” said Prasanna Kumar of Carterville. “I think having the temple here is a very good way to spread awareness to the general public as far as the Indian community and also to bring people together and get familiar with the culture.”
The 4,000 square-foot temple, 1209 E. Walnut St., not only gives hundreds of practicing Hindus a place to pray but also a place to come together, said Pradeep Reddy, president of the Hindu Temple and Cultural Society of Southern Illinois.
Without the temple, families or individuals would drive to St. Louis or Nashville to worship, if willing to make the trip, he said. Or, they would meet in smaller groups in people’s homes.
It is expected families from a 120-mile radius will visit the temple regularly, including about 250 local families and 100 Southern Illinois University Carbondale students.
“We used to have a monthly meeting at somebody’s house, but beyond that there was no cohesive unit. This basically brings everybody together,” Reddy said
Work on the facility began with the creation of the temple board in 2009 and Reddy’s and his wife’s donation of three-acres of land for it. Around that time, fundraising for the $400,000 to $600,000 project started and construction began September last year.
The interior of the temple is complete, but some work on the exterior including landscaping and the parking lot remains.
The Society also plans to begin construction on a cultural center as more funds become available to host activities such as music, dance and discourse.
Both the temple and cultural center will be open to the public. Hours are 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on the weekends.
“It is a great addition to the city of Carbondale,” Mayor Joel Fritzler said. “We are a very diverse community and the temple continues on with that theme and Carbondale’s culture.”