Grinnell College Iowa has assured the concerned Hindus that murti of Hindu deity Lord Ganesha will not be placed in renovated bathroom, in view of significant physical changes and construction projects resulting in moving of dedicated Hindu Prayer Room.
Reverend Deanna L. Shorb, Dean of Religious Life of the College, in an email on March 16 to distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, reaching out on behalf of Grinnell President Dr. Raynard S. Kington, wrote: “…Ganesha’s placement in a renovated bathroom is old news and no longer in the College’s renovation plan. There is good news coming in this area as decisions are made about the new building that will house our Center for Religion, Spirituality, and Social Justice and the new Hindu Prayer and Cultural Room where Ganesha will be placed.”
An article date March nine in “The Scarlet & Black”, Grinnell student newspaper which claims to be “the oldest college newspaper west of the Mississippi”, wrote: “…there were talks about renovating a bathroom for Lord Ganesha.” Another article posted on February 17 noted: “…the new building will feature a significant reduction in size of the Hindu Cultural Suite…”. This made Hindus worry about the fate of existing Hindu Prayer Room with 24-hour access. Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, in a statement in Nevada today, urged Kington and Grinnell Trustees Chair Patricia Finkelman to ensure that spirituality and worship services of the Hindu students were not affected during this transition period.
Rajan Zed pointed out that if murti of Lord Ganesha, reportedly installed by a priest in the existing Hindu Prayer Room, was moved to a new Hindu Prayer Room; administration should provide assistance to the college Hindu students group to reinstall it with proper ancient rituals by a priest. Moreover, they expected the new Hindu Prayer Room be of the same (or bigger) size as the existing one, as it was one of the attractions for Hindu students to come to Grinnell, Zed indicated. Rajan Zed hoped that Grinnell would continue to recognize the intersection of spirituality and education, which was important in Hinduism, and respond to the spiritual needs of Hindu students. Dedicated Hindu prayer/meditation room for rituals, quiet reflection, festivals and spiritual exercise helped in the personal growth of Hindu students. Hindus also hoped that Grinnell would continue to celebrate Diwali, Holi, Dusserah, Navratri, and Saraswati-Puja festivals as had been reportedly done in the past, Zed added. Meanwhile, Debra Lukehart, Grinnell’s Vice President for Communications, in an email response to Zed on February 22, wrote: “…transition plans have not yet been finalized…. The Hindu Prayer Room that is currently housed in the CRSSJ facility will necessarily move this summer…, but we expect a dedicated space will be identified.”
Located in the “Center for Religion, Spirituality and Social Justice”, which is relocating; the existing Hindu Prayer Room is reportedly accessible to students from eight am to 12 midnight every day when the College is in session, but by request, a student can have 24-hour access using their student ID to enter the building.
Grinnell College, founded in 1846 as a Congregationalist college, which claims to offer “world-class education”, consistently ranked among the nation’s best liberal arts colleges. With about 1,600 students, it offers 39 majors and concentrations with over 500 course offerings. It claims “strong commitment to social responsibility” and its library contains about one million books and documents. In Hinduism, Lord Ganesha is worshipped as god of wisdom and remover of obstacles and is invoked before the beginning of any major undertaking. Hinduism, oldest and third largest religion of the world, has about one billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal. There are about three million Hindus in USA.