| By Jessamine Price |
Vibha Chawla of Ashburn, Va., wonders how to explain Hinduism to her teenage son and daughter.
“They have a hundred questions,” she says. Although she grew up in India, she isn’t sure how to answer them. Hinduism doesn’t have creeds or pillars to summarize the faith, in contrast to Christianity or Islam. Understanding Hindu ideas takes study, even for those born and raised with the religion. So Chawla researches her kids’ questions in ways familiar to Americans of all faiths: “I Google. I call my Mom.”
Chawla wears an elegant blue dress in an Indian style as she stakes out a table for her parents in the empty community hall at Rajdhani Mandir, a temple in Chantilly, Va. It’s a cool Saturday evening in mid-April. The prayer hall upstairs is busy with music and blessings for Mata Jagrans, a celebration of the Goddess Durga, just one of the many forms God takes in Hinduism. Priests and worshippers gather around a creamy, polished, life-size icon of Durga, a serene, smiling Goddess with a thousand arms, each grasping a weapon, riding a lion into battle to save the world.
In a few minutes, temple volunteers will serve a spicy vegetarian dinner to hundreds of worshippers. The tables in the community hall fill up quickly. A few families end up sitting cross-legged on the stage used for occasional cultural performances. Chawla, who has lived in the United States for 22 years, knows it will get crowded and is wise to claim a spot early for the sake of her elderly mother’s knees and back.