Police say the act appears to be random but aren't ruling out the possibility of a hate crime. The temple might not open on schedule.
MAPLE GROVE, Minn. (AP) - Authorities were trying to determine Friday who caused several thousand dollars in damage to a $9 million Hindu temple under construction in this Minneapolis suburb.
Police said they had no suspects, but that the vandalism didn't appear to be a hate crime, although they didn't rule it out, either.
Umesh Singh of the Hindu Society of Minnesota said he agrees with police that the act appeared to be random.
The vandal or vandals caused extensive damage to some of the temple's religious statues, which were carved by artisans in India.
Singh said some of the deities were decapitated and dismembered and thus cannot be used for worship, according to Hindu tradition.
"We cannot use most of them," he said, referring to Hindu tradition that does not allow damaged deities to be used for worship.
The walls of the auditorium and ceiling of a dining hall were punctured about 125 times, apparently by blows from a baseball bat, and a window was broken in one of the classrooms, according to temple officials and police.
Temple officials said it would take up to 12 weeks and four sculptors to re-carve each of the seven or eight 4-to-6-foot-figures that were damaged.
Five deities were not vandalized.
Police Capt. Tracy Stille said the damage didn't appear to fit with distinct characteristics characteristic of hate crimes.
"This was extensive," he said. "We're certainly looking at any possibility, bias-motivated or not."
There are more than 20,000 Hindus in Minnesota and between 1 million and 1.6 million in the United States. While there are Hindu houses of worship in Brooklyn Park and northeast Minneapolis, the nearest traditional-style temple similar to the one being built in Maple Grove is in Chicago.
Officials of the 42,000-square-foot temple, which is on a 40-acre site, were assessing whether it could open as scheduled in June.
"We have had dreams to have this place for the last 30 years. We worked so hard," society member Kumud Sane said.
Sridhar Ranganatha, a volunteer priest at the temple, disagreed with those who doubt the vandalism was a hate crime. He said it looks like the work of someone who had a grudge against the Hindu community.
"We're a peace-loving community," he said. "Someone has done it out of hatred."
Maple Grove Temple Vandalized
After years of planning, the new Hindu Temple in Maple Grove, Minn. was on track to open in June. But after Wednesday night, the building is a mess and leaders are asking why someone wanted to damage their future place of worship.
Someone broke into the building on Wednesday and started bashing in the walls, smashing windows, and destroying hand-crafted statues from India that had taken two years to receive.
Dr. Shashikant Sane of the Hindu Society of Minnesota wondered who would do such an act.
"We are very sad," Sane said. "The whole community is very, very sorry about it."
The precious statues can't be salvaged ... and so much care and detail went into the religious symbols.
Kumud Sane, Hindu Society of Minnesota trustee, called it a "terrible act."
“We have had dreams to have this place for the past 30 years, we have worked so hard. Why would someone come here and do this type of action," he said.
Inside the building, it looks like someone broke in through a downstairs window, and took a swing every few feet. Temple leaders said it does not look like a hate crime and they have always felt welcomed by the community.
"We don't want to call it a hate crime. If something comes up later, that's a different story," Dr. Shashikant Sane said.
"It hurts a lot and I'm not a very emotional person ... but inside it hurts," said Umesh Singh, another society member.
More than 125 holes have been smashed into the walls in the building, as if someone used a baseball bat. Now the process to clean up begins, but still temple leaders want to open the $9 million building as planned the first week of June.
As of Friday, police have not made any arrests in the case