Hindu Temple of Colorado, Sheep's Eyes and Carrot Salad

Not much in common, those three things in the title of this post. But I was never well-known for being relevant!

After having the Lemont Temple become an integral part of our lives, I was disappointed to learn that the nearest Hindu Temple was over an hour away in Littleton, Colorado. But we made the trip in any case last month. As we approached the temple, my husband asked me to look around for it but there was no temple in sight. At least not anything that looked even remotely like a temple. The Hindu Temple of Colorado looks nothing like the photos on their web site. Those are all pictures of temples in India and I find that rather misleading. The temple is actually a simple unassuming building off South Wadsworth Boulevard in Littleton. The pictures below are what it really looks like.

Hindu Temple of Colorado
It's a charming temple with one large hall in which all the idols and deities are worshipped. The Acharyaji has a very soothing voice and it's a treat to listen to someone who can really sing as opposed to someone who thinks they can sing. I say that because in Chicagoland there were more of the latter than the former!

There is a Bal Vihar every Sunday from 10 am to 11 am in the basement, where Acharyaji teaches religion as well as the Hindi varnamala. He then leads a puja sponsored by a local family in the main hall upstairs. Anyone can sponsor the puja. The sponsor makes a donation of whatever amount they wish and organizes lunch for that day. By 1 pm, everyone comes back down and settles down on white sheets that are spread out in the area where the Bal Vihar is held. You sit knee to knee (and sometimes even very large thigh over your knee) in close proximity with people you've never met before. Very soon bowls of sheera or some special prasad are passed out. You keep passing it on to the person next to you until everyone down the line from you has a bowl in hand. Then come the plates stacked with food. It's kind of tricky passing these down and I was amazed that there weren't any mishaps.

When we went there were at least 200 people because the puja had been sponsored by someone who was rather popular and it also happened to be the day that most people who don't come to the temple decided to put in an appearance. Apparently it isn't this crowded on most Sundays. It was what I would call a total community experience. I think it was very good for my daughter. The food was free, courtesy of the sponsor and it's quite amazing how they manage to feed everyone even though they don't know how many people will show up.

We'll probably go to this temple only once a month as it's a little far for us. I won't do the lunch again even though I think it's a great lesson in community for my daughter. Some of the people were there just for the food and I found the attitudes a little disgusting. I can't understand why "free food" makes people lose all sense of propriety and behave like they have never seen food before.

The temple is about 10 years old and the trustees are looking for an alternate site where they can build a temple that looks like a temple. They are seeking involvement from Hindus in the Denver area in whatever way possible. So if you live in the Denver area and are willing to get involved, the Hindu Temple of Colorado will welcome you with open arms. The Calendar of Events has their address and phone number as well as that of Acharyaji.

Carrot Salad tossed with peanuts

Gajjarachi koshimbir

  • 3-5 medium size carrots, grated
  • 1/3 cup uncooked peanuts
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 1/4 tsp mustard seeds
  • pinch asafoetida or hing
  • 1 dried red chilli, broken in two pieces or 2 hot green chiles
  • 1/2 tsp of urad dal
  • 3-4 kadipatta leaves
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • dash of lime
  • salt to taste
  • A few cilantro leaves, chopped
Carrot Salad tossed with peanuts

  1. Put the grated carrots in a serving bowl
  2. Roast the peanuts using your preferred method. I do it in the microwave in two 1-minute sessions.
  3. Allow the peanuts to cool and then husk them to get rid of the outer skin
  4. Pound the peanuts to a coarse powder using a mortar and pestle. I let large chunks of peanuts remain instead of slaving over it to bring it to a powder of same consistency.
  5. Put the peanuts in the serving bowl on top of the carrots
  6. Heat the oil
  7. Add the mustard seeds and when they start spluttering or crackling, add the hing
  8. Add the red chilli and kadipatta leaves and turn the gas off. The oil tends to splatter all over the stove during this step so it helps to have a lid handy to keep the clean-up down to a minimum.
  9. Add the urad dal and allow it to sit for a while in the oil to get nice and crunchy but watch that the red chilli does not get burnt in the process.
  10. Pour this oil over the peanuts
  11. Add the sugar, salt and dash of lime and mix everything together.
  12. Garnish with chopped cilantro and your gajjarachi koshimbir is ready!

This can be served as soon as it is made or it can be chilled and served cold. I prefer it chilled.

What was that about the Sheep's Eye, you ask? No I didn't forget! My 7 year old dissected a sheep's eye in her school yesterday. She identified the iris, the cornea, the schlera, the vitreous body, the lens and the optic nerve. She doesn't much care for the little boy who sits next to her and she was quite delighted when he got grossed out and refused to go anywhere near the sheep's eye. She chose not to wear gloves, much to the distress of a certain doctor in New Jersey who had waxed galore about the dangers of not wearing gloves during such an experiment.

During dinner, my daughter announced that her piano teacher asked her whether she had washed her hands today. My antennae went up and I remembered the wise doctor's words.
Me: Well? Had you?
Her: Yes! Mrs. Wilson washed all our hands. But there was so much black stuff that it wouldn't wash off and look it's still there under my nails!
Me, leaping into the air: We need to go to the bathroom now!

I washed her little hands in warm water, clipped her nails and kept washng her hands till most of the black stuff was gone. Lord knows what else she ate with those grubby hands. And I hate to think of what the piano teacher thinks of me as a parent!!

Lemont Temple and Un-Stuffed Bhindi

The Dashavatar, Anjaneya and the carved ceiling

The Hindu Temple of Greater Chicago or the Lemont Temple, as we called it, was a destination on Sundays for more than just Sunday School and prayer. The canteen there was simply amazing. On Sundays, Murli the head chef would regale us with delicious masala dosas and soft and spongy idlis. The sambar was the spiciest I have ever had. Every other Sunday, during the school year, my daughter attended language classes where she learned the Hindi varnamala. As soon as she was done, we made a beeline for the canteen. After pét-puja, we would head upstairs to the inner sanctum of the Lemont Temple to bow our heads to a greater force than man.

The Lemont Temple is a landmark in Lemont, a suburb of Chicago. Founded in 1977, you can see the temple perched on a hill from afar. There are two main temples: the Rama Temple and the Ganesh Temple, built by artisans and craftsmen from India. In the recent past, sculptors from India carved an intricate set of the Dashavatar that is displayed in the Rama Temple as well as a new auditorium and community center. The temple has evolved as a rich cultural center and a place of worship.

Having left this behind in Chicagoland, I looked forward to finding out more about the Hindu Temples in Boulder County, Colorado. More about that in my post next week because right now I want to share a recipe that my family loves: Un-Stuffed Bhindi.

Bhindi is the fruit of a drought-resistant vegetable plant, also known as lady's finger in India. (Ladyfingers means something totally different out here in the US! So never forget the difference between ladyfingers and lady's fingers and always call it okra!) It's my favorite vegetable and it's not easily found in the stores. Most Indian grocery stores will carry it but the pods are pre-packed and I am never totally happy with the quality. So I compromise and buy Bird's Eye Baby Okra from the frozen section of the regular grocery stores.

Buying frozen means that stuffed bhindi is not an option. But then stuffed bhindi is time intensive and involves a lot of clean-up. So I take yet another short-cut and make this Un-Stuffed Bhindi or bhindi that has the stuffing on the outside.

Un-Stuffed Bhindi

  • 1 lb frozen baby okra or bhindi
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • pinch hing (asafoetida)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/8 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp salt (approximate as saltiness of salt varies)
  • 1/2 cup besan (gram flour)
  • 1 tsp amchur (dried mango powder)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/4 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder (more to make it spicier)
  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan.
  2. Add the mustard seeds.
  3. When they start crackling and spluttering, add the asafoetida, followed by the cumin seeds and turmeric powder.
  4. Add the frozen baby okra and move it about so that each okra gets a nice coating of the tempered oil.
  5. Add about 1/2 tsp salt to the okra at this point.
  6. While the okra is cooking, put the besan in a large plate or salad bowl and mix the amchur, cumin powder, coriander powder, red chilli powder and remaining salt into it. Break every blob of flour that you see.
  7. Dry roast the besan mixture in the microwave for 2 minutes at 30% power level.
  8. Mix the besan mixture around so that any moisture that is trapped is released.
  9. Dry roast it in the microwave again for another 2 minutes at 30% power level.
  10. The besan should be about ready - you should be able to smell the aroma of the spices mixed into the besan as well as the besan itself.
  11. Roughly divide the besan mixture into 4 parts.
  12. Sprinkle one part over the okra and mix in a folding type of motion, making sure that the okra does not break.
  13. Do the same with the remaining 3 parts of the besan mixture.
  14. Continue cooking for another 5 minutes or so so that the besan becomes crunchy around the okra. Do not overcook as the okra will become mushy.
The crunchy crumbs are an added delight! I usually serve this with yogurt and rotis that are hot-off-the-tava.