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Hindu Temple of Northeast Wisconsin, Kaukauna

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On September 30, the Hindu Temple of Northeast Wisconsin celebrated Dussehra, a festival commemorating the victory of deity Rama over the demon king Ravana, signifying the triumph of good over evil. The festival included a puja (Hindu worship service) honoring Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge and learning, and concluded with a community meal.

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The women of the temple participate in a dance ceremony called “Bathukamma” where flowers are arranged in circular stacks and offered to the goddess. The women sing and clap as they circle the flowers. At the end of the ceremony, the flowers are immersed in water.

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An effigy of the demon king Ravana was burned as part of the evening’s festivities.

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Dinesh Bhat, who serves on the board of directors and is a former temple priest, says there are about 800 Hindu families living from Fond du Lac to Green Bay. For large festivals like Dussehra, upwards of 400 devotees will visit the temple.

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Devotees participate in “aarti,” a ritual that offers light to the deities. “It’s basically showing light to God,” Bhat says. “Light is a very important part of Hinduism, because it is a metaphor for knowledge.”

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A bell hangs at the front of the ceremony space in the temple. Devotees ring the bell as they enter the space, informing the deity of their presence.

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Yoga means “to unite”  in Sanskrit. There are four paths of yoga: Karma Yoga, the path of action; Bhakti Yoga, the path of devotion; Raja Yoga, the path of self-discipline; and Gyana Yoga, the philosophical path. “These four different paths look independent, but they are all connected. They cannot exist without the other,” Bhat says. “The whole purpose of life is to realize that God is within you. When you realize God, you find all these paths merge into one.”

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Pundit Srinivasan Aravamudan Ji (left) is the temple’s full-time priest.

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Preparing for worship:

“Once you come to the temple, you leave all your worries at the door and get into the mode of worship. Worship is total surrender to God. You take all your mental burdens and leave it at the lotus feet of the Lord, so when you go out of the temple you should be unburdened. One rule in a Hindu temple is you sit on the floor. The reason for that is God is the Lord so you have to show all your humility in front of him.” — Dinesh Bhat, board of directors and former temple priest

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