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Flushing temple consecrated

Two years ago, Jai Kovvuri of Flushing got the chance of a lifetime when he attended a consecration for the Hindu temple on Bowne Street, a religious ceremony that featured an elephant. Last Sunday, Jai, 4, got that opportunity of a lifetime again.

Jai was one of hundreds of Hindus, many dressed in colorful saris or white dhotis, who visited the Hindu Temple Society of North America, at 45-37 Bowne St., to consecrate the renovation of a major room in the Ganesh Mandir, or temple.

The ceremony, known as the Kumbhabhishekam, was the final part of a ritual in which after a temple is finished the gods are installed and the towers are consecrated, known as the Pratshta. It takes place on the first of the month and lasts for five days. The god Ganesh, who has an elephant’s head, is represented by an elephant, in this case an Indian pachyderm named Beulah that lives in Connecticut.

Decorated with a headdress and colorful sheets, Beulah was led throughout the temple by men using white ropes and bull hooks as worshipers touched the elephant or, in a break from tradition, took camera-phone pictures of their relatives with the elephant.

“It’s a very healthy, big elephant this time,” said Gaddum Reddy, chairman of the temple. The Hindu Temple Society held a similar ceremony in 2009 when the first phase of the temple’s construction project was completed with a smaller elephant named Minnie.

In addition to the elephant, seven shrines to various gods decorated with flowers, fruit and pictures were set up. Men wearing traditional clothing sat cross-legged and chanted as they threw offerings to the gods into pyres in front of the shrines.

Reddy said the mantra chanted is meant to bring power, peace and glory not only to Hindus but to America as a whole and humanity.

“The intent is to increase the power of all the deities,” Reddy said.

He said an important room, the Maha Mantam, was expanded and renovated inside the temple for $5 million to $6 million, which necessitated the ceremony. These ceremonies are usually done every 12 years. Reddy said the temple was visited by a cow, another sacred animal in Hinduism, on June 1.

Padmashree Raghavan, 32, of Flushing, said that while adults enjoy seeing and touching the elephant, the ones who really love the ceremony are the children.

“They don’t get to see the elephant every day like on the roads,” Raghavan said. “They only get to see the elephant in zoos.”

Jai said he was happy to see the elephant and said Beulah’s trunk felt soft.

Tara Mavinakere, 9, of Flushing, said it was exciting.

“We get to touch it and we never touched it before and it’s only once a year,” Tara said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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