The only temple carved by hand
In a remote location on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, there is a hand-carved stone-built Hindu temple, the only one of its kind.
This temple has been found since time immemorial but only now it is attracting people of different faiths and walks of life.
The Iraivan Temple was born from the vision of a guru or spiritual teacher as well as monks practicing Shaivism, a major tradition of Hindus who worship Shiva as the supreme being.
The completely hand-carved granite temple was built without tools or electricity. It is located on the remote Hawaiian island of Kauai and is surrounded by acres of forest.
By some estimates, less than one percent of Hawaii's 1.4 million residents are Hindu, and on Kauai, the number of Hindus may not even exceed 50.
But that hasn't stopped the dozens of monks who live on the Kauai Aadheenam campus from being good neighbors and custodians of their faith tradition.
They welcome pilgrims and visitors from all over the world.
In this all-male temple-monastery complex, monks study and meditate.
“People describe it as a peace or some kind of divine essence. And it seems to have been created not only by the nature here, the land, the location, the quiet, beautiful island, but also by the temples and the community here," said Sanmyasin Tillainathaswami, a monk.
Another monk, Paramacharya Sadasivanatha Palaniswami, has spent decades overseeing the temple's construction and tending its gardens.
He came to the Hawaii community in 1968 with his teacher and center founder, the late Satguru Sivaya.
He says that the Iraivan Temple was inspired by founder Sivaya's mystical vision of God Shiva sitting on a huge stone on these foundations.
Its construction began in 1990 and continued after the founder's death in 2001.
The word "Iraivan" means "one who is worshipped" in Tamil, a language spoken in southern India.
"We had challenges to do this work by hand, because one of the requests of our teacher was that this temple should not be built with modern tools, but with the skills of the old sculptors," said Paramacharya Sadasivanatha Palaniswami, a monk.
Only male monks live on this property.
The monks, who vow celibacy, non-violence and vegetarianism, are guided and inspired by the philosophy of Shaivism. They don't talk about their past lives.
The temple-monastery complex is open to the public.
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