Durga Temple is raising money to expand the oldest Bengali Hindu temple in Metro Detroit

President Ponkoj Das says the temple is a focal point for the growing Bengali community. He says it needs financial assistance to grow.

Ponkoj Das is the new president of the executive committee of Durga Temple, the oldest Bengali Hindu temple in Metro Detroit. Das stepped in to serve the community during the pandemic. He says it’s a way for him to give back to the people and place of worship he grew up in. Michigan is home to the third largest Bangladeshi community in the U.S., often referred to as Bengali in Metro Detroit. Bengalis are ethnically from India and Bangladesh.

Ponkoj Das is the new president of the executive committee of Durga Temple.

“We started with a handful of families, not a lot of members,” Das says. “So it’s a pretty small temple. Now the community grew exponentially, and we don’t have enough space. The temple needs a lot of work.”

The Durga Temple was established in 2006. Das’s father was one of the founders.

Das grew up in Detroit. After graduating from Wayne State University, he moved to Washington, D.C., to work as a consultant in software engineering for the government. Then he completed his graduate degree and went on to teach at the Northern Virginia Community College and George Mason University in Virginia, where he is an adjunct professor in computer science.

He often came back to Detroit.

“I was visiting home often and I attended all major events here in Detroit, especially in the temple. So I was always connected with this community,” he says.

During the pandemic, Das moved back to Detroit and was elected as the president. He says the temple attracts thousands of people during major pujas, or ceremonial worship rituals. Das says the temple is a focal point for the community to gather for religious and non-religious events. He says one of his major goals is to assist in fundraising and expanding the temple.

“Obviously we do a lot of religious services. But the temple also serves as a center point for the community to come together, discuss any issues that might have a temple tries to help the community you know, in any way that we can.”

The temple also serves as a community gathering place. There are a dozen large pujas held every year, which attract thousands of worshippers.

Das says the temple hosts about a dozen pujas every year, attracting worshippers from around the nation and Canada. There are weekly services on Sundays.

“We call it gita path. So it’s a basically a weekly service that we do for people to come together and pray and also get to know each other.”

Recently Durga Temple held festivities for Boishak, the Bengali New Year and Durga Puja.

Durga Temple held celebrations for Boishak and Durga Puja in April 2022.

During the pandemic, Das says he saw people in the community suffer, and community members of the temple stepped up to donate money, serve food and donate clothes and PPE to the homeless population in Detroit.

“[The] pandemic was hard on everybody. So people did the best they can.”

The temple temporarily shut down for six months in the beginning of the pandemic. Some services were provided online via Facebook and the temple’s website.

“If we were able to get additional funds or support from let’s say, other organizations or even government organizations, we would be able to help the community and people in need better because the temple and the temple members and the temple management is directly involved with people.”

Das says the temple needs more financial assistance to grow. The temple hopes to raise $1 million for expansions. They have a GoFundMe campaign to raise $100,000 of that goal.

Durga Temple is raising money for a $1 million expansion.

Das says while the temple remains the same, the number of worshippers continues to grow and change. He says he wants to give back to a place that gave him so much.

“I’m very emotionally connected with that area and the people of Detroit and Hamtramck so I thought if I could do something, why not?”

He hopes his new role as president will help move things forward for the growing Bengali Hindu community in Metro Detroit.

“I’m very sentimentally connected with the temple. I grew up with the temple. The temple taught me a lot … It made me the person that I am today, quite honestly because that was the only place where we can go and learn again, get guidance from the elders.”

Listen: New Durga Temple president Ponkoj Das wants to give back to the people and place of worship he grew up in.


Trusted, accurate, up-to-date.

WDET strives to make our journalism accessible to everyone. As a public media institution, we maintain our journalistic integrity through independent support from readers like you. If you value WDET as your source of news, music and conversation, please make a gift today.

Donate today »


  • Nargis Rahman
    Nargis Hakim Rahman is the Civic Reporter at 101.9 WDET. Rahman graduated from Wayne State University, where she was a part of the Journalism Institute of Media Diversity.