American idols

Idols at the Reno Hindu Temple

Lord Ganesha got his head from his father, but not in the usual way. Reno Hindu Temple, 385 Gentry Way, 544-9138 or 412-5372. Information, including public services, can be found at <a href=""></a>.

Lord Ganesha got his head from his father, but not in the usual way. Reno Hindu Temple, 385 Gentry Way, 544-9138 or 412-5372. Information, including public services, can be found at

Photo By D. Brian Burghart

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Sunil Joshi and his two sons, Apoorav and Ankush, are very familiar with the new Hindu temple. The boys goof off or listen to their father tell me stories about the relationships of the gods and goddesses to one another. Occasionally, the older one will throw a detail in, or adjust a piece of cloth on one of the idols. And just for the faint of heart, Hindus don’t have any compunction against the use of idols or even calling the representations of their deities “idols.” Or at least, that’s what the senior Joshi called them.

I learned a lot about Hinduism in my hour with Joshi. The small strip-mall temple, which is at 385 Gentry Way, was formerly called the Reno Hindu Temple and Community Center and opened in October. It’s the first step in things to come, as the Hindu community bought some land for a freestanding temple at 1611 Model Way this week.

But I’m here to write about the recent installation of the temple’s 13 idols. There are 10 of the larger ones, including Lord Ganesha, Lord Shiva and Parvati, Lord Krishna and Radha, Hanuman, Lord Lakshman, Lord Rama and Sita, Lord Balaji, and Durga Mata. There are also many paintings and smaller sculptures. The statues were installed on March 7.

“The idols are not just put here,” said Joshi, who’s a systems engineer at IGT. “We have to have a holy day. We call a priest who knows how to put these idols in proper place, and then we call the gods that we want this to be their place.”

The technical term for the installation is “Moortis Pooja” (idol prayer). The temple does not have a priest of its own yet, since a priest is expensive. The temple’s chaplain is Dinesh Sidher. The temple is funded entirely by the approximately 500 Hindu families in Northern Nevada. In fact, all the idols were donated by one anonymous individual. And at $2,000-3,000 apiece, it was a pretty good donation.

The idols themselves are fabulous. Most of them are made of white marble, about 3 feet tall, covered in rich brocaded cloth, and painted with vibrant colors. Most look human—except for Lord Ganesha, who has an elephant head, and Lord Hanuman, who’s a monkey.

“There are many Hindu gods,” said Joshi, “I don’t even know the number.”

People who know the Hindu religion will recognize that a wide variety of gods and goddesses are represented here. For example, Lord Balaji would most likely be represented in southern India temples. But this temple was designed to be for all members of the Northern Nevada Hindu community, and as such, all gods are welcome. I’m probably overstating this, since I don’t know all the gods, and some deities are demons, who people probably wouldn’t want around.

While every god has a story, I always wondered why Ganesha had an elephant head. The story basically goes like this, as told to me by Joshi:

Parvati created Ganesha out of her own body, and she asked him to guard her bath. When Lord Shiva, her husband, came home, he didn’t recognize the boy, and the boy wouldn’t let him pass, so Shiva struck off his head. Parvati was very upset and demanded Shiva fix the problem. So he sent out his army to find a mother and baby that were sleeping in two different directions. All they found was the mother and baby elephant, so they took the baby’s head, and Lord Shiva affixed it to the boy’s body. Shiva also bestowed a boon that people would worship Ganesha first and pray to him before doing most things. That’s why he’s always first in the temple.