Texas Traveler: Sri Meenakshi Temple
Photos by Brittanie Shey
Texas Traveler has a friend who used to lived in a trailer in an empty field near Pearland. On their way to his house once he surprised her by driving her by the Sri Meenakshi Temple. Maybe you already know about this place and maybe you don't, but suffice it to say that seeing a gleaming white Hindu temple rising from the grass in the middle of a Texas cornfield is a thing to behold. The history behind the place is even more striking.
The main temple was finished in 1982, though plans for the complex began in 1977. The site has been in near-constant construction since, with additional temples added every few years. The deity of the main temple is Meenakshi, wife of Shiva, making it the only temple outside of India dedicated to her. The Pearland temple is said to be modeled after the famous (and somewhat more colorful) temple dedicated to Meenakshi in Madurai, India.
Hindu immigration reached a peak in the United States in the 1970s, and the first HIndu temple was built in 1977 in Pittsburgh. The website for the Sri Meenakshi Temple claims it was the third Hindu temple built in the United States. The Hindu population of the United States is 0.5%, though it is unclear to Texas Traveler why so many chose Houston as a landing spot.
Now there are several smaller Hindu temples in the Houston area, and a fairly large temple planned for construction in The Woodlands, but for now the Sri Meenakshi Temple remains a popular place for weddings, pooja and other ceremonies.
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Three different tours of the facility are available but must be made via reservation two weeks in advance. It is possible, however, to visit the temple without a reservation as it's open to the public, but be aware of ceremonies that may be taking place. The temple is open most days from 8:30 a.m. to noon, and on weekends from 5:30-8:30 p.m. as well. Check the calendar for special events including workshops and lectures.
Be sure to visit the library, which has books in English, and the cafeteria, which offers a variety of vegetarian snacks and dishes. This past weekend, the temple inaugurated their new Visitor's Facility, which is a necessary stop for anyone interested in the temple's history, or Hinduism itself.