Ganesh Chaturthi is a Hindu festival, celebrated by most Hindus throughout the world in honor of the deity, Shri Ganesh. This celebration is observed on the fourth day of the waxing moon, on the Hindu month of Bhaadrapada, according to the panchaang or almanac. Lasting about 10 days it normally falls during the months of August and September, according to the Gregorian calendar. Hindus flock to temples to worship Ganesh and it is during this period that they ask for protection and for wisdom. Ganesh, the elephant headed god, son of Shiva and Parvati, is the remover of all obstacles and installer of wisdom.
The Hindu Temple Society of North America, located at 45-57 Bowne St. in Flushing, is predominantly a South Indian temple; with members hailing from different states in India. Being one of the most elaborate Hindu temples in Queens, the temple’s exterior displays beautiful sikhara, or towers with carvings of different Hindu deities. The inside of the temple houses statues of deities carved and housed in immense black stone blocks. The smell of fresh fruit and incense greets you as you enter the temple. The sound of chanting by worshippers engulfs one, bringing a sense of inner peace. Priest or Braahamins oversee the temple, performing pooja or ceremonies and attending to the people. Extravagantly decorated, it has been extended with makeshift tents to accommodate the huge masses of people.
The holiday that began on August 29, lasts until the final day, Ananta Chaturdasi, on September 8.
In celebrating this event, worshippers install clay statues of Ganesh in pandals or temporary shrines in the streets. People also install a temporary clay statue in their homes or front yards. These statues are then bathed daily with milk and an offering of herbs and different plants used as medicine is placed at the foot of the statue, along with an assortment of different sweets and fruits. At the end of the festival, the clay statues and herbs are deposited into a body of water, normally a lake, cleaning the body of water from any contamination or impurities. This process is normally done to clean the waterways because in the early days, these lakes were a source of life for villagers.
Ganesh Chaturthi is popular among many South Indians, with states such as Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Goa holding enormous elaborate celebrations in honor of Shri Ganesh. Each state celebrates this holiday differently, making this festival one of the many unique examples of the diverse Hindu culture.