The Bowne Street entrance of the Temple of Ganesh in Flushing.
Across the street from a row of residential houses in Flushing, Queens, there’s a large and seemingly out-of-place building with entrances so intricately carved they look like they belong attached to an Indian temple. This building is the worship center Ganesh Temple, and is home to the Hindu Temple Society of America. As one of the oldest and largest immigrant-founded Hindu temples in the Untied States, it attracts hundreds of worshippers each week. Ganesha is the widely-worshipped elephant-headed Hindu deity who is known as a remover of obstacles, a god of new beginnings, a purveyor of wisdom and intellect. In 2009, when the temple’s stone deity statues were reconsecrated (supposedly infusing divine energy into them), the guest of honor was Minnie, a 37-year old Indian elephant who was colorfully adorned for the occasion. She was fed mangos inside the temple, just as the cow that had joined the group of worshippers on another day of the consecration was fed bananas, keeping with the Hindu belief in respect for and the divinity of all living things.
If deity worship works up an appetite, you can make your way down to the temple’s basement. Tucked away there is the popular Ganesh Temple Canteen, an inexpensive, vegetarian South Indian cafeteria which warranted an Anthony Bourdain visit and, according to The New York Times, serves some of the best dosas in the city. If selling food in a temple basement seems sacrilegious (if only from a Western standpoint), note that proceeds from the restaurant benefit the Hindu Temple Society of America, and keep places like the Temple of Ganesh running and well-maintained.