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Hindu temple to fete Ganesha

Flushing’s Sri Maha Vallabha Ganapati Devasthanam Temple’s annual, nine-day festival ringing in the birth of Lord Ganesha is upon us once again, and the temple is planning a soiree worthy of the gods.

The Sri Ganesha Charturthi celebration is the largest event of the year at the temple, which is dedicated to Ganesha, the universal god of removing obstacles, first over all other Hindu deities, and its organizers expect 15,000 to 20,000 people to attend during the course of the event.

Beginning the morning of Aug. 27, worshipers will chant behind the temple each day from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and again from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. in devotion to Ganesha — one of the more recognizable Hindu deities, with the head of an elephant — and children will participate in their own daily prayers asking for his blessing as they enter the new school year.

“We want to make an invitation for as many people — Hindus, non-Hindus, it doesn’t matter — to come out and celebrate,” said Dr. Uma Mysorekar, the temple’s president. “It’s a great sense of enjoyment and it brings a sense of joy for the human race. You can come and enjoy everything.”

The offerings, which are open to people of all faiths, creeds and races, will include food, music and other attractions.

The main attraction comes on the last day of the celebration, Sept. 4, when the great procession takes place through the streets of Flushing.

Beginning at 1 p.m. that day at the temple at 45-57 Bowne St., the Ratha Yatra — a 15-foot-tall chariot carrying a statue of Ganesha followed by a vast assemblage of devotees chanting holy Hindu verses — will wind through area streets: along Bowne Street, left onto 45th Avenue, continuing onto Elder Avenue, right onto Main Street, right onto Franklin Avenue, right onto Bowne and loop by Smart Street before making its way back to the temple, where the largest celebration of the year will take place.

This year will be a special year for the temple since it will feature a new chariot.

“It’s a silver chariot. What we used to have was also silver, but a different kind,” Mysorekar said. “It came in parts from India, and it will be assembled by specially trained people who came in from India who are able to put it together.”

Ganesha is so important to people of the Hindu faith that scriptures tell them to first pray to him every time they embark on something new, from buying a new home to awakening to a new day.

The temple, also known as the Ganesha Temple, is one of the most important places of worship for Hindus in North America. Consecrated July 4, 1977, it was an early home for the religion in Queens. At the time of its construction, many Queens residents understood little about the religion, and it was egged by people mistaking it for the headquarters of a cult.

Since then the temple has been a symbol of tolerance as well as the Hindu culture, and the Ganesha Charturthi festivities, the dates of which are determined based on the Hindu lunar calendar, offer a unique opportunity for people of other faiths to learn about one of the world’s most popular religions.

“Though the temple is 33 years old, the Ganesha Charturthi celebration has been held in this grand fashion here for 33 years,” temple spokesman Pad Manabhan said last August while preparing for the 2010 celebration. “It’s a grand, grand festival, and it’s celebrated the same way in India, and we’re glad we can celebrate it here.”

For more information about the temple or its Ganesha Charturthi celebration, visit nyganeshtemple.org or call 718-939-2857.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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