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Hindu Temple Choir – Hindus Innovate In United States with New Form of Praying

A temple choir which is a rarity in Hinduism is being practiced in United States by Hindus. “Om! Ganesha Sharanam!” the choristers sang from the corner of New York Ganesha Temple in Flushing, Queens, on Ganesh Chaturthi and it marked the beginning of Hindu Temple Choir. Religious Choir is a disciplined group of people that sings as part of a religious ceremony and is mostly associated with Christian prayers in Churches. Choirs are not performed in Hindu Temples. Hindus do sing bhajans in group in temples but it is not choir as it is sung without any proper practice and is sung more out of devotion.

Temple Choir is not performed in Hindu religion because Hinduism gives importance to individual worship and an individual can come and visit a temple whenever he/she feels. Hindu Bhajans are mostly solo performances.

The auspicious beginning of Hindu Temple Choir was made by about 50 singers at the New York Ganesha Temple in Flushing, Queens, during the Ganesh Chaturthi in 2009.

New York Times reports on this new experiment in adapting Hinduism in United States

In New York Ganesha Temple in Flushing, Queens, there was a little skepticism at first, said Uma Mysorekar, the president of the temple, one of the largest and oldest Hindu temples in the country. “In the beginning people were a little bit upset with this word ‘choir,’ ” she said. “ ‘Choir — what is this?’ It’s not generally used among Hindus; it’s connected to a Christian choir.”

Ganesha is revered as the remover of obstacles, and his festival is considered an auspicious time to begin new endeavors, not least an experiment in adapting an old religion for a new land. And of the singers, most of whom grew up in India, none had ever heard of a Hindu choir before.

“For us as Indians to learn a whole new thing is wonderful,” said Raji Samant, a member of the choir who runs a bookkeeping business in the city. She said she was drawn by the choir’s novelty.

Choirs are virtually unheard of in temples in India because worshipers tend not to cohere into anything resembling an attentive congregation, said Vasudha Narayanan, a professor of religion and the director of the Center for the Study of Hindu Traditions at the University of Florida

While there are numerous musical traditions that have sprung from Hinduism, they tend to favor solos and improvisation, in keeping with the individualistic and free-flowing nature of Hindu worship, Professor Narayanan said.

She sees the choir as a “gentle process of Americanization” — a kind of adaptation of Hindu traditions to be more “recognizable” to the children of Hindu immigrants and the broader American public.

You can listen to the Hindu Temple Choir and read more about this innovative Hindu praying method here at New York Times.