Situated among North Tampa homes and businesses, the Hindu Temple of Florida stands out as an architectural achievement.
The temple, built in 1996, stands about 60 feet tall and has traditional Hindu features, including a pyramid structure, an ornate entrance tower and grand exterior staircase.
Members meet here to worship, study scripture and celebrate life's occasions.
"Hinduism is a nonregimented faith," said Nainan Desai, temple trustee and immediate past president. "It is very tolerant of devotees to worship God in any faith and form, in any spiritual way, any time or any day they wish. There are no mandatory prescribed times or days for prayers, or required donations from the faithful."
The temple offers religious services, or pooja, led by one of four trained priests. The priests speak primarily in Sanskrit, the language of the Agama Shastra, or the Hindu original scriptures. They also perform traditional ceremonies such as wedding and birthdays.
On Sundays, the temple offers classes for all ages ranging from Hindu education to science, art and SAT prep courses. It is also open to the public daily for mediation and prayer.
Once a year, the temple hosts a health fair, where free medical services are provided to the community.
"Whether you are a believer in Hinduism or not, everyone is welcome here," said Vijay Wadehra, temple manager. "A lot of people come because it is very peaceful."
In 2013, the temple opened a new Prasad Sadan facility, where religious cooks prepare foods and members gather to eat.
An expansion adding a new idol and meditation area is under way. The new area will open near the end of 2014.
The temple provides the community with a place to worship, socialize and share knowledge, Desai said.
The Hindu Temple of Florida is at 5509 Lynn Road. For information, call (813) 962-6890 or visit htflt.org.