n Nidan : International Journal for Indian Studies - Secular conflict : challenges in the construction of the Chino Hills BAPS Swaminarayan temple

Volume 3 Number 2
  • ISSN : 1016-5320


In secular nations, the government mediates between religion and other elements of society while navigating the secular principles underlying the nation’s democracy. Through a study of a dispute surrounding the construction of a Hindu mandir, or traditional place of worship, in Chino Hills, California, this paper examines how such secular power operates in the context of local laws and governmental decision-making. In Chino Hills, the proposed mandir of the Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) initially faced intense opposition in the local community. Many residents asserted that core traditional architectural elements of the proposed structure would disrupt the city’s natural beauty. Some even suggested that the very existence of the mandir would prompt unwelcome changes in the city’s religious, cultural, and demographic makeup. This paper examines the role that a mandir, as a public space for worship and community engagement, plays for Hindu immigrants in the United States. Additionally, this paper critically examines the local government’s ensuing decision-making process concerning the mandir and its design, and explores how democratic processes and laws impact the lives and religious expression of a diasporic Hindu community.

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