All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Cathleen A Cummings

Advisory Committee Members

Heather McPherson

Mindy Nancarrow

Catherine Pagani

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name by School

Master of Arts (MA) College of Arts and Sciences


Many Hindu temples have been built in the United States over the last thirty years. While the sociological reasons for this phenomenon have received scholarly attention, there is little published work on their architecture and iconography. My research redresses this by focusing on the architecture and iconography of the recently completed temple at Eads, Tennessee, selected because it was built to resemble traditional temples in south India. Eads was designed by a prolific Hindu temple architect and reflects current trends in American Hindu temple design. Specifically, this study identifies, analyses, and documents transformations from traditional temple design occurring in the temple at Eads. A detailed on-site examination of the architecture of Eads is compared to temples built during the south Indian Chola dynasty (ninth to thirteenth centuries). The iconography was identified in part through discussions with the temple priests, and additional information was obtained from interviews with the founding chairman of the board of trustees, the chief priest, and the architect. The research identifies a uniformity of architectural style and a balanced iconographical content that reflects accommodations reached by different sects within the Hindu community who collaborated successfully to build the temple. It also reveals that the linear spatial arrangement traditional in Chola temples had been modified to facilitate a congregation style of worship. Lastly, it finds that the architectural and iconographical iv style at Eads is conservative, reflecting the community’s desire for temple worship based on commonly held theological precepts. These findings suggest that the uniform architectural style at Eads communicates the solidarity of the disparate Hindu community to the devotees and their subsequent generations. It also presents a unified identity to the outside world, facilitating greater social influence. The building of a congregational space shows that devotees value communal worship, which visibly transmits Hindu values between different sects, across generations, and to dispersed Hindu populations visiting the temple from afar. Finally, the conservative style of the architecture and iconography at Eads underscores their crucial importance as components of Hindu temple worship. Studying them, therefore, provides a valuable extension of our understanding of American Hindu communities.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.