APRIL 28th: THE GANESH TEMPLE

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The MWC is going to the HINDU TEMPLE SOCIETY OF NORTH AMERICA (more commonly called the GANESH TEMPLE) in Flushing, Queens on Thursday, April 28th for a guided tour and then lunch at the TEMPLE CANTEEN.

Queens Map 2OK, let’s admit it …. The Manhattan Women’s Club is pretty darn Manhattan-centric.  And while that’s understandable given the extraordinary range and depth of what is always on offer, it also means that it is easy to miss some of the other extraordinary activities and sites in the other boroughs.  Like in Queens, for Jackson Heightsinstance.   The city’s easternmost and largest (in area) borough it is also the most ethnically diverse urban area in the world.  Almost half of its 2.4MM residents are foreign-born. 

Much to the surprise of – everyone! – last year the tourist guide LONELY PLANET named Queens as the #1 Tourist destination in the world.  Yes, you read that right.  Not Paris.  Not Manhattan.  Not Hong Kong or Patagonia.  Last year five hotels opened in Queens and 47 additional ones are in the planning stages.  It’s a place which easily satisfies a world-wide interest in urban exploration.  For those of us who live here and have tended to regard Queens as the New York equivalent of a fly over (or maybe, go under) place, we’re coming to the party a little late!  Time to get out there … so let’s start with something particularly unexpected.

New York City is the most likely destination of Indians coming to this country and the majority of them settle in Queens (the Jackson Heights neighborhood is well-known for its Indian population).  Which is why, nestled Ganesha Symbolsinto a quiet residential Queens neighborhood of primarily single family homes, you will find the HINDU TEMPLE SOCIETY OF NORTH AMERICA, a very popular place of worship for the City’s Indian community.  It is also commonly referred to as the GANESH TEMPLE because it’s dedicated to Ganesha, the many-armed, single-tusked, elephant-headed son of Shiva – who is particularly beloved for his equal parts of playfulness and wisdom.  You will recognize him and at the temple see many versions of him in the building and artwork. The Ganesh Temple was the very first Hindu Temple in North America, replacing a Russian Orthodox Church.

We are fortunate to have as our guide one of the managers of the Temple who will take us through the main prayer hall where there are five holy shrines.  There are also many small wall shrines, magnificently carved teakwood doors, four towers for each compass point and, most important of all, Ganesh statuethe well-known 50-foot tower at the eastern end of the building.  We will also talk and ask questions about Hinduism – and what it’s like to practice it in New York City today.

While the temple is not hard to find it IS deep into Flushing and it will take a subway ride, a bus trip and a bit of walking to get there.  And, even so, we will still be in New York City !  

Tempple canteen bBut it has to be said:  many New Yorkers make their way to the Ganesh Temple for reasons other than religious observance.  They go there for the GANESH TEMPLE CANTEEN – said by many (including Serious Eats) to be the best place for South Indian, vegetarian, fare in New York City.   The main focus of what’s on offer is a dizzying array of dosas – enormous crepes made from a fermented rice and lentil batter and cooked until crisp (with lots of butter) on a grill.  All varieties of dosas are offered with an emblematic coconut chutney and a slightly spiced-up sambar.   The dosas must be great because the atmosphere in the canteen is NOT a strong suit … it’s, uh, sort of like a high school basement cafeteria.

Join us for this very interesting and illuminating experience.  Don’t you wish you took that Comparative Religions course when you were in college?  Well, maybe it’s time for some catch-up.  

Members, go to the Sign-Up! tab on the Members Menu ribbon or the Reservations/ Payments page to get on the list for this great day out. Our tour is at 11am – we will leave from a TBA Manhattan location at approximately 9:30am. 

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