HomeLatest NewsU.S. & WorldWeather 73°VideoInvestigatorsResponds

Hindu Symbol Prompts Discrimination Lawsuit Against Philadelphia Condo Association

It's meant to welcome visitors. But this sacred symbol is longer welcome in a local condo. A homeowner's association says the symbol has no place in that condo.

(Published Thursday, May 3, 2018)

The beaded Hindu decoration hanging over Akhil Tripathi’s door has been there since 2009. It was a present from his daughter and was blessed by a Hindu priest before the former University of Pennsylvania engineering professor placed it above the entrance to his Center City condo.

That same decoration, called a toran, is now at the center of a federal discrimination lawsuit filed by Tripathi against the Murano Condominium Association, which asked him several times to remove it.

“It’s a symbol of the goddess Lakshmi that says this house is blessed,” Tripathi said, adding that it is bad luck to move it. “This symbol is not intrusive to anybody else.”

A devout Hindu who was born in India, Tripathi decorated his home, which he purchased in 2009, with other religious symbols. Inside his condo, photos of Hindu gods and goddesses adorns the walls and a sacred altar. A copy of the Ramayana, one of the world’s largest and oldest epics, is prominently displayed.

“I’ve had this copy since I was 10 years old,” he told NBC10.

Earlier this year, the Murano condo association threatened to take down his toran if Tripathi did not remove it himself. Court documents show that the association passed a policy in February allowing religious decorations only during holidays. The Jewish Mezuzah was one of several approved exceptions to the policy that could remain in place throughout the year.

According to the association, the toran no longer fits into those guidelines because it is too large.

“Isn’t that what discrimination is all about?” Tripathi asked.

NBC10 reached out to the lawyers representing Murano, but the law firm declined to comment. The lawsuit seeks to bar the association from removing the toran and asks for punitive damages, according to court records.

“I have lived here for almost nine years,” he said. “I intend to live here for a very, very long time … I am not moving.”