Reconsecration, With Bells, Saffron And Elephant

July 13, 2009

Author: Anne Barnard

Source: The New York Times

An expectant crowd had gathered, dressed in tropically colored saris and dhotis — mango, teal, violet and saffron — that stood out against the beige and pale green houses of a quiet street in Flushing, Queens.

“Make way!” someone shouted, and the crowd parted to reveal Minnie, a 37-year-old Indian elephant.

Minnie wore a gold-studded shield on her forehead and carried a bare-chested Hindu priest with a silver-tasseled parasol. Untroubled by the din of cheers, chants and bells, she emerged just before 8 a.m. from the driveway on Bowne Street, stepped carefully off the curb and sashayed across the street into a Hindu temple. In keeping with the Hindu belief that there is divinity in every living thing, she was greeted with melons and incense as a manifestation of Ganesha, the elephant-faced deity revered for removing all problems and obstacles.

The elephant’s visit began the fifth day of rituals to reconsecrate the temple’s stone deities, a ceremony important enough to draw thousands of Hindus from the New York region and as far away as the Midwest.

The ritual at the Hindu Temple Society of North America’s Ganesha Temple, one of the nation’s oldest and largest temples founded by Hindu immigrants, was a twist on a consecration ceremony, which the faithful believe infuses divine energy into stone statues of the Hindu gods.