Flushing, New York
The Ganesha Temple in Flushing was the first traditional Hindu temple to be established in the United States. Built to accommodate the growing number of Indian immigrants arriving in New York City in the postwar period, it features classic Indian religious architecture, a first in America. It is dedicated to the Hindu deity Ganesh, although there are shrines to other deities on the site as well. Although it is no longer the largest Hindu Temple in the United States, it is still honored as the most prominent and respected temple because it was the first.
While the first Hindus arrived in the United States in the 19th century, their numbers were so few that they had virtually no discernable impact on American culture for well over a century. Up until the 1960s, most Hindus in America were generally visiting businessmen or students. That changed in 1965, when the INS began allowing larger numbers of Indian immigrants.
By 1970 the Indian population of the New York City area had quickly grown into the thousands, and it was decided that a full-fledged temple should be constructed to serve the Hindu community. While there had been previous Hindu worship sites in America as early as the turn of the century, these were little more than pocket shrines in existing buildings and meeting places.
In 1970 the Hindu Temple Society of North America was formed. The name was chosen because at the time there were as yet no Hindu Temples anywhere on the North American continent. The society purchased a large site in Flushing, which was then home to a non-servicing Russian Orthodox Church. In 1977 it was completed and consecrated on July 4th as America’s first true Hindu Temple.
Since its completion, the Hindu Temple Society of America, better known as the Ganesha Temple of Flushing, has enjoyed a preeminent place among America’s Hindu sites. In 1995, the Milk Miracle, a phenomenon that occurred at Hindu temples around the world, was observed at the Ganesha Temple. This has helped to secure its reputation as the chief Hindu Temple in the United States.
The Ganesha Temple is a large complex consisting of the main temple and extensive additional facilities for education, meetings, cultural programs and so forth. The temple’s beautiful exterior, a simple rectangular granite structure, is punctuated by four magnificent towers on its four sides and an even grander fifty foot tower at the entrance to the main prayer hall. These towers feature pyramids of carved figures from Hindu mythology as is typical of religious architecture in India.
The Temple interior includes the main shrine to the Lord Ganesa, as well as other shrines to Lord Siva, Lord Shanmukha, Lord Balaji, the Goddess Mahalakshmi, Lord Hanuman, Lord Nagendraswamy as well as the nine planets. Adjacent to the temple is a separate building which includes a large school, library and senior center. Also on site is the Temple Canteen, a restaurant locally famous for its excellent vegetarian dishes.
The Ganesha Temple is located in the Flushing area of Queens, approximately ten miles east of Midtown Manhattan. The complex is open daily from 8:30am-9:30pm. There is no cost of admission, but donations are encouraged. Web: https://nyganeshtemple.org (official website).
The Ganesha Temple served as a jumping off point for the establishment of other temples in the greater New York City area. The Jain Center of America, the first Jain Temple in America, is located not too far away.