Ganga Rijal, the Utica area’s only Hindu priest

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Ganga Rijal is keeping customs alive while still becoming familiar with American ways of life. As a Hindu priest living in Utica, he leads other Hindus in the Utica, Syracuse and Albany communities in rituals, ceremonies and religious matters from birth to death.

Keeping culture and religious customs alive is what he strives for as he becomes more established in the United States. It is a joy for him to attend and lead ceremonies that bring Hindus together and educate others on Hinduism. Ganga is so revered as a Hindu priest and scholar that newer priests are intimidated to perform religious rituals in front of him. This makes him and his family proud and feel prestigious in their new community.

Ganga is 54 years old and lives with his family in Utica.  He has seven children and was born in Bhutan village of Dagana. He married at age 11 and then studied religion under a harsh teacher who kept him confined until age 17. After his certification in Bhutan he practiced as a Hindu priest. Conditions between the Bhutanese government and citizens of Nepali origin became more tense and time went on and Ganga and his family were put in a Nepali refugee camp where he learned about Hindu astrology, horoscopic evaluation and writing horoscopes.

Most of the Rijal family came to the United States in November 2009. Life in America was drastically different from his upbringing in Bhutan and Nepal. Maintaining a strong Hindu faith is crucial to him and his family’s life and happiness in their new country. Because they are a new Hindu community, there are limited resources in the Mohawk Valley. Religious materials sacred to Hinduism are limited and a space big enough to accommodate large congregations and rituals has not been found. Most celebrations are community based and cannot be held in a small home.

American ways of life also bring positive changes with more choices.  Needs that were scarce in Bhutan and Nepal such as food, education and housing are more plentiful in the United States and he is happy to see his children become educated here. Ganga has a Facebook page that he enjoys using with his daughter and son. This allows him to keep in touch with friends and family in Bhutan, Nepal and other parts of the United States. He focuses on yoga and a system of spiritual healing providing awareness on pharmaceutical medications.

As a Hindu religious priest, he teaches rich religious and spiritual assets to the devotee and performs many kinds of rituals throughout the year. He believes in one self and if every individual person tries with their best effort then we can live a life of peace and prosperity. He promises to provide spiritual awareness and education with higher spiritual value to the community.

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