As the largest Hindu religious event of North East America, Ganesh Chathurthi Celebrations attract thousands of devotees everyday to offer prayers to Sri Maha Vallabha Ganapati and to participate in various activities every year at the popular Ganesh Temple in Flushing, New York. The nine day-festivities featuring Annadanam (free food donation) is offered to everyone on all nine days. And, the Ganesh Chathurthi Celebrations end with a grand Ratha Yatra which goes around the major streets of Flushing, Queens in New York.
This year the youth played an important part in helping draw people to the Ganesh Chaturthi festival Sept. 11 to 20. The 9-day annual festival drew close to a thousand people daily and more than 5,000 on just the last day for the Rath Yatra according to organizers.
The nine-day Ganesh festival went off extraordinarily well, she said with around 700-800 devotees coming in on weekday evenings, and around 200 during the daytime on work days. Weekends brought extremely large crowds numbering in the thousands. “And the Rath Yatra which carries Lord Ganesh seated in a 16-foot silver chariot brought 5,000 people at the very least,” organizers said, calculating it by the 10,000 packets of food distributed on that day alone.
According to Dr. Uma Mysorekar, president of the Hindu Temple Society of North America, the participation of devotees at the celebrations this year was the largest compared to previous years. And as more people come, she wants the temple and its services to grow and get better. The Ganesh Temple has become a magnet for every generation of Hindu devotee including the young who may be born and brought up in the United States. Hindus in the Tristate area and beyond use the temple for family and community functions as well as renew their faith in all manner of ways.
“The temple has to grow, everything has to get better. We must be able to improve our two main – religious and outreach – tasks,” she said. This year, the temple mobilized young volunteers to reach out to the community through social networks like Facebook and Twitter, apart from email, she said.
This Sept 25, Dr. Mysorekar, a physician by training, will be one of 10 faith leaders who will meet Pope Francis at the ‘Multi-religious Meeting for Peace’ inside the 9/11 Memorial Museum. “I will be chanting a Hindu prayer in Sanskrit,” she told Desi Talk, which will be read out in English by another devotee.
“Lord Ganesh was taken in procession every evening by young people and they danced with the Lord,” Mysorekar said. Sivacharya also spent time explaining the rituals taking place at the temple. “The Japam (chanting of mantras) was very energizing and people came morning and evening to participate in it,” she added. The goal was to recite the “Chatur Laksha Moola Mantra” 400,000 times over the 9-day festival. “Every year there’s a difference. Every year has more than last year and depends on what new things we do,” she said.
“The festival draws people from the whole Tristate area and if relatives are visiting, they decide to spend their days in New York at the festival,” Mysorekar noted. “If you’ve seen it once, you want to come back.”