Śri Mahā-Vallabha Ganapati Devasthānam
|Hindu Temple Society of North America, representing Sri Maha Vallabha Ganapati Devasthanam at 45-57 Bowne Street Flushing , Queens New York 11355 Phone 718-460-8484 was the very first of the traditional Hindu Temples in the USA. -Wikipedia.|
York Ganesh Temple has many other names: Queens Temple, Ganesh Temple... The
official name is Hindu Temple Society of North America, representing Sri
Maha Vallabha Ganapati Devasthanam.
It was a run-down church to begin with. Yes, I was one among the first devotees to worship Ganesa in a church building on the Bowne Street. Yes, I am that old, 80 on February 27, 2017.
The Temple gives
spiritual solace to the yearning soul and the adjoining Canteen gives
physical and life sustenance.
The origin of the Word "Gaṇesa"
Gaṇesa = Gaṇa + Īsa =
Troops + leader, superintendent, chief, master....
Ganesa likes eating a ton of Laddus (sweets) and riding on his vahana the mouse. Kubera invited Ganesa to a feast at which Ganesa ate a ton of sweets. The full moon was hanging in the sky. Fully satiated, he mounted on the mouse to go back home. On the way, the mouse rattled by the appearance of a snake ran to hide under the bush. In the hullabaloo, Ganesa fell off the mouse, bursted open his stomach, spilled the sweets and stuffed them back into his stomach. Seeing all this in the broad moonlight, the full Moon and his 27 asterisms (Naksatras) laughed. Ganesa was seething with anger, laid a curse on the Moon, broke one of his tusks and threw at the Moon. The Moon gradually waned and disappeared. The Moon god appealed to Siva, who brokered a compromise. For his transgression, the Moon was to wane (Krishna Paksa or dark side) for 15 days, one digit (Tithi) at a time and wax (Sukla Paksa or bright side) for 15 dyas, one digit at a time. Here is a depiction of invisible central permanent resident digit of the moon (Maha Tripura Sundari) and the other 15 digits.
Life and story of
Ganesa according to Hindus have metaphorical significance. Indian Gurus
concentrate on the symbolism of the anatomical peculiarities.
Aditi = A + Diti = Not + Bound = Unbound
Aditi (Sanskrit) Aditi [from a not + diti bound from the verbal root da to bind] Unbounded, free; as a noun, infinite and shoreless expanse. In the Vedas, Aditi is devamatri (mother of the gods) as from and in her cosmic matrix all the heavenly bodies were born. As the celestial virgin and mother of every existing form and being, the synthesis of all things, she is highest akasa. Aditi is identified in the Rig-Veda with Vach (mystic speech) and also with the mulaprakriti of the Vedanta. As the womb of space, she is a feminized form of Brahma. The line in the Rig-Veda: “Daksha sprang from Aditi and Aditi from Daksha” has reference to “the eternal cyclic re-birth of the same divine Essence” (SD 2:247n). In one of its most mystic aspects Aditi is divine wisdom.
Aditi has correspondences in many ancient religions: the highest Sephirah in the Zohar; the Gnostic Sophia-Achamoth; Rhea, mother of the Greek Olympians; Bythos or the great Deep; Amba; Surarani; Chaos; Waters of Space; Primordial Light; and the source of the Egyptian seven heavens. Sometimes she is linked with the Greek Gaia, goddess of earth, to denote dual nature or the mother of both the spiritual and physical: Aditi, cosmic expanse or space being the mother of all things; and Gaia, mother of earth and, on the larger scale, of all objective nature (cf SD 2:65, 269).
Coconuts are broken before offerings and at festivals. When a devotee enters the temple, he must leave the ego and all conflicts at the temple flagpole. You cannot take your ego to the sanctum and clash with the EGO of all egos, the deity. He is MAXI and I am mini-me; so are you individually. There is only One "I" in this universe. There is no place in the temple for such things as I-Me-Mine. There is no place for solipsism (egoistic self-absorption). There is only one Aham (= அகம்/அஹம் = Egotism): That is Siva. He is the First One to say "Aham (I am)." After that He looked out and Idam came into existnce. Aham = This; Idam = That (all objects). Ahaṁkāra is the I-Doing, the haughtiness that “I am the Doer.” When two Egos collide, there is conflict. Don't take on the EGO of the Universal Soul. You can't win. It is better to merge into it. You become a part of the Universal Soul. That is big. Breaking coconut is euphemism to breaking your ego before god. Once broken, the two halves should not be put back together. That indicates you are trying to patch up the broken ego. Once broken, it stays broken forever. You tell EGO, "Here Ye Go, Ego."
The Temple canteen feeds 4000 people a week, and more than double during Dīvālī season. It is a cornucopia of guilt-free south Indian lacto-vegetarian fare the South Indians eat regularly. The North Indians go gaga over the fare such as Dosa, Idly...
The Divine Mandate to build a temple.
Alagappa Alagappan (AA) had a dream, wherein a god told him to see a medium. The medium told him that Lord Ganesa wanted a temple for him in the city starting with the letter N. The medium further advised AA to establish Hindu temples all over North America. Thus began the spiritual journey for AA. The surge in the urge to build Hindu temples all over North America started with Flusing Ganesha Temple.
In 1965, US immigration favored admitting immigrants with skills. The Hindus needed a temple in New York.
In 1970 (January 26, 1970, India's Republic Day), AA founded the Hindu Temple Society of North America (HTSNA).
From Church to Temple: Freedom of religion from the beginning.
In 1657, the signers of Flushing Remonstrance protested against persecution of Quakers by the powerful Dutch Colonial authorities.
A farmer by name John Bowne allowed the Quakers to assemble in his house. That street is Bowne Street in Flushing Queens. Mr. John Bowne a Quaker was arrested for Remonstrance and deported to Holland. Freedom of worship by Quakers was allowed later by the Dutch West India Company.
HTSNA bought the Russian Orthodox church building in 1972. I visited the church many times which housed the images of Hindu gods. Consecration took place on fourth of July 1977.
The original temple, consecrated in 1977, had the central deity Ganesa and four deities in the four corners of a rectangle: Vishnu, Sri, Siva-Lińga and Murugan.
The original temple underwent renovation and reconstruction and reconsecration. Ganesha shrine is in the center of the Great Hall of Shrines and at the four corners are the other major shrines dedicated to Sri Venakatesvara (Vishnu), Sri, Siva Lingam, and Murugan with Valli and Devayanai. The corner shrines from 1977 were reassembled in optimal locations as at present. The Siva Linga and Murugan shrines were pushed to the far side making room for smaller shrines on either side of the Central Main Shrine of Lord Ganesha. There are about 20 smaller shrines projecting from the sidewalls of the Great Hall of Shrines on either side, as depicted in the diagram. Ganesha temple is a polytheistic place of worship, with Ganesha being the central deity.
"A large ecumenical icon at the temple's entrance displayed symbols of various worldwide religions." I was sorry to see the icon as depicted and photgraphed by me was not included in the renovated temple.
|Dr. Uma Mysorekar is the current president (2017)|
|This is the new layout of
the Great Hall of Shrines.
|The old front entrance as shown below in the middle of the temple (and to our left) was blocked off in the new Great Hall of Shrines. Credit:DipsDines|