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Calabasas, California

Malibu Hindu Temple

A glittering South Asian anomaly in a wealthy Los Angeles suburb. 

Its presence could be contrasted with nearby ordinance-beige tract homes, personal estates on light timers, and overly chlorinated, underused backyard pools and is easily missed in the blur of the 45 mph zone to which it’s adjacent. It is only to those car passengers with an errant eye that the temple tower reveals itself–boldly, beautifully, startlingly–a cause for double-takes if there ever was one. The palace of worship itself is indeed anomalous…and fabulous, if one approves of such a kitsch designation for a religious shrine.

Formally, it exists in honor of the Hindu god Venkateswara, though it contains altars within dedicated to other Hindu deities. An expansive subterranean room provides a space for services and recitals of complex Indian traditional music. An incense-laced marble-laden sanctuary dedicated to Shiva features tiered chandeliers and multiple mandirs for other gods. An outdoor deck above features more murtis in individual shrines, and an elevated central temple stands in veneration of the temple’s namesake. There, the casual visitor might be lucky enough to hear one of the Hindu priests (who live on the premises) chanting in Sanskrit. They might also witness the gifting of holy water blessings to any worshipper present who desires one. Then there are the nearly 50 blessings–pujas–offered to the paying public.

Built in 1981, this magnificent complex has not gone untouched by Hollywood–30 minutes south down the 101 Freeway. It was featured in the 1997 Chris Farley film Beverly Hills Ninja and 1998 Tamil film Jeans. In 2006, Britney Spears had her young son blessed in a large ceremony at the temple.

Contributed by
Elise
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