Preserving Asian Indian culture in Rochester, Minnesota.: Becoming Minnesotan

Prasanna Mishra, c.2001.
  • Name - Prasanna Mishra
  • Age at interview - 50
  • Gender - Male
  • Generation - First Generation American / Immigrant
  • Date of Interview - 01.28.1999
  • Musicians at Saraswati Puja for KDT Dance school, Minneapolis, 2005.
    Saraswati Puja for KDT Dance school, Minneapolis, 2005.

    We Are Here

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    Essential Question

    We Are Here: What does it mean to this immigrant group to be here in America?

    Cultural Preservation: How does a person weave his or her traditional culture into a new American identity?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    India is a large country that includes many different ethnic groups, languages, and religions.  In fact, there are over 150 different languages spoken in India, including Oriya.  Since India is such a large and diverse country with many languages and religious and cultural traditions, many Indian immigrants participate in religious organizations or samaj and social clubs that bring together members of their individual cultural group.

    Hinduism has the largest following of any religion in India, and Indian Hindus in Minnesota are able to worship in traditional ways in the Hindu temples that have been built in Minnesota.  It is likely, though, that Indian immigrants to the U.S. will form friendships with others who came from different parts of India and may have slightly different traditions.  This is especially true in smaller cities and towns where the Asian Indian population may be quite small and isolated.

    To learn more about Asian Indian history and culture, visit our Asian Indian Community page.

    • Chapter 1

    Download Prasanna Mishra 5
    2:25 Minutes | 2.32Mb


    Narrator: Prasanna Mishra (PM)

    Interviewer: Polly Sonifer (PS)

    PS:  Are there any associations here in Rochester?

    PM:  There's an association in the area, an Indian association.  Yeah we usually go, when we have things, festivals and stuff. The Hindus, they get together every month. Somebody sponsors a puja, they get together music. I go there for music and the food, always, if I'm invited. But I'm a little bit mellowing in criticizing the traditional ways.

    PS:  The puja is traditionally a religious ceremony, right?

    PM:  Yes, it is. That's right. But there is always a feast, also, and there's music. Bigger draw for me, the music and the food. [Laughter] But the gods and goddesses - I was born and brought up in Orissa, so the gods and goddesses you see in Orissa are not the same as what you see in a neighboring state or in another place, also. But it will have their sense of identity, in the sense that it doesn't give you the same icon, it doesn't give you the same impression.

    When I go to a puja here, it may be a different religion for me. I don't see the Jagannath.  I don't see the [unclear] goddess, which, you know, are always projected as more powerful, they can wreak havoc in a life, getting smallpox and stuff. These are childhood mythological ingrained things in your brain, which is not true, but those are powerful icons and images. But when you see the local puja pictures, traditional pictures, it could be any other religion for me, really. I go there for food and music. I play Indian drums, and I love Indian music, so I go down there if I'm invited.

    PS:  The songs are called bhajans right?

    PMBhajans, right.

    PS:  And are bhajans similar across the different religious groups?

    PM:  Right. The bhajans in my place, in Orissa, are the protest songs, mostly.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Noun:  A group of persons associated for a common purpose; an organization; society.


    Noun:  Any type of Indian devotional song.

    Listen to this word: 


    Verb:  1.  To review something and point out what is good and bad about it.  2.  To find fault with something.  (critcizes, criticizing, criticized)


    Noun:  An image, symbol, picture, or other representation usually as an object of religious devotion.


    Noun:  The difference or character that marks off an individual from the everyone else; selfhood; a name or persona by which one is known; knowledge of who one is. 


    Noun:  The overall effect of something on a person.


    Adjective:  Present in the essence of a thing, fixed, established.


    Verb:  To relax or soften.  (mellows, mellowing, mellowed)


    Adjective:  Legendary; related to myths and traditonal stories. 


    Verb:  To protect; to keep; to maintain the condition of.  (preserves, preserving, preserved)


    Noun:  A Hindu religious ritual as an act of worship.

    Listen to this word: 


    Noun:  A person or organization that is responsible for another person or organization, especially legally or financially.

    Verb:  To take responsibilty for or vouch for another person.  (sponsors, sponsoring, sponsored)


    Adjective:  Relating to a part of culture that is passed from person to person or generation to generation.

    wreak havoc

    Verb:  To cause damage, disruption, or destruction.  (wreaks, wreaking, wreaked)


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access].
    nid: 583