East Meets West In Hindu Temple Flap

Picture if you will your basic Hindu temple, 4,000 or so square feet in size, replete with high, conical spires and statues of nine deities from the crowded Hindu pantheon, all facing east, of course. Now picture that temple in Parker, just a little west of Southfork Ranch. The people of Parker would rather not.

The Dallas/Fort Worth Hindu Temple Society has purchased the site and submitted architectural plans to the city of Parker for their proposed temple, which would be the first of its kind in the Dallas area.

At a public meeting last November, about 100 Parker residents argued that the temple would be ugly and that it would draw tourists who would clog the city’s roadways. Some claimed that the Hindus simply didn’t belong in Parker.

Pradeep Pandya, vice president of the temple society, says Parker citizens are reacting to “the fear of the unknown. They’re thinking of Hindus as Hare Krishnas or that swami guy in Oregon. Another factor is that, to some extent, the people in Parker sort of have redneck attitudes.”

Frank Tucker, Parker’s mayor, says, “The opposition is primarily from people in the neighborhood who have property abutting the site. The applicants would have large meetings and use a kitchen-type facility that could overload the septic system and possibly overflow onto adjacent property.”

About 200 Hindu families are represented by the temple society. Pandya says the time is ripe for a temple here, adding that Houston, with a smaller Hindu population, already has one. “We have been having small group meetings in homes,” Pandya says, “or we rent auditoriums or halls from school districts. But that’s money down the drain. That’s one reason we want to build.”

The planning and zoning commission of Parker has informed the Hindus of their initial objections, mainly possible sewer and drainage problems, When the site plans are resubmitted by the Hindu society, the commission will give a recommendation to the city council, which will make the final decision.

“The planning and zoning commission,” Tucker says, “has a duty to the community to make sure a structure conforms to code, and to make sure it does not distract from the architecture of the neighborhood. We are attempting to base our architecture on a Western theme, being near Southfork and all.” And, Tucker says, just because city codes are met does not mean the structure will be approved.

“What we’re asking is to build a little church that doesn’t look like a Christian church,” Pandya says. “If they demand that it look like the Baptist church next door, that’s a ridiculous demand. As long as we meet the city building codes, we feel we should be able to build it.”

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