Exploring this Job

You can obtain a good introduction to Hindu religious vocations by working as a temple volunteer. In this position, you might greet visitors, clean the temple, and assist office staff in their duties. Talk to a purohit about the rewards and challenges of being a priest. Visit https://www.nriol.com/america-visitors/hindu-temples-in-usa.asp for a list of Hindu temples in the United States. Biographies of resident priests are sometimes provided at these sites, which can help you to identify potential purohits to contact regarding an interview. Visit a temple and observe a purohit performing puja. Hinduism Today offers a helpful primer on visiting a temple and the various aspects of the service at https://www.hinduismtoday.com/modules/smartsection/item.php?itemid=5315. The Hindu American Foundation provides a wealth of information about the career of priest and other temple jobs at its Web site, https://www.hinduamerican.org. Finally, check out the following resources to learn more about Hinduism: 

  • Hinduism For Dummies (For Dummies, 2011)
  • The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism (Lorenz Books, 2012)
  • The Little Book of Hindu Deities: From the Goddess of Wealth to the Sacred Cow (Plume, 2006)
  • Hindupedia: http://www.hindupedia.com

The Job

According to the Hindu American Foundation, Hinduism is “not divided by denomination, but by other categories, including deity traditions, sampradaya, parampara, and darsana. Most Hindus belong to one of four major deity traditions—Shaiva, Shakta, Vaishnava, and Smarta.” For more information on Hindu deity traditions, major schools of thought, and holy scriptures visit https://www.hinduamerican.org.

Job responsibilities for purohits vary by deity traditions, size of the congregation, and other criteria, but typical duties include:

  • conducting daily prayers (pujas), rituals, festivals, and special deity ceremonies in the temple and Hindu family residences; in some traditions, purohitas are only allowed to perform these duties in people’s homes (those who do so are known as family priests), while others perform these duties in both homes and temples
  • performing samskaras (rites of passage in a human being’s life described in ancient Sanskrit texts) such as Jathakarma (birth of a child), Namakaranam (new child naming ceremony), Vivaham (wedding), Upaakarma (thread-changing ceremony for student-scholars), Nishchayathartham (wedding engagement), Varalakshmi Vratham (prosperity and happiness for one’s family), Antima Sanskar (funeral), and various homam/havan (purification) rituals (In some traditions, purohitas are not involved in funeral ceremonies.)
  • leading Stotra recitation (a melodically sung hymn)
  • playing musical instruments such as the harmonium and tabla
  • developing and executing spiritual and religious programs for seniors, children, and other diverse audiences
  • ensuring that the temple is maintained with sacredness and cleanliness
  • preparing special food offerings (prasadam) for Hindu worship services
  • helping to raise money for the temple through various fundraising activities