Hindu Temple Society of North America

 

Constructed in the late 1970’s in Flushing, Queens, the Hindu Temple Society of North America was the very first traditional Hindu Temple built in the U.S.  Much of the intricate stonework was done for the temple by Indian artists using imported materials, making it a unique landmark in the city and worth the time you’ll spend admiring its details, from the intricate façade to the 32 stone representations of Ganesh, lining the colonnade leading into the temple to the massive and beautiful shrines within the building.

Inside the temple you are met with both an impressive silence as well as the colorful devotional offerings left before the stone shrines and in the temple’s alcoves, an assemblage of coconuts, flowers and lamps. While there are rules for how to respectfully enjoy the space (for example you cannot wear shoes in the temple) the temple has a clear mission of welcoming and educating and the temple’s attendants are eager to do both.

This site is also significant if you are interested in Queens in general, as the Temple is the heart of a larger network of services for the Hindu community. The Society provides services as diverse as classes in dance and Sanskrit, to Yoga and SAT prep and occasionally puts on concerts. All of this is done in addition to the temple’s own more religious services catering to its far-flung community. While Queens may at first seem like an unlikely spot for such a significant place, this location was chosen in part because Queen acts as a vital node for the immigrant Hindu population entering the United States. To visit the temple is to have the opportunity to touch a piece of a larger story of American immigration that is even now in progress.

The final attraction of the Temple Society is perhaps its most famous and most understated.  Below the level of the temple is a canteen, an understated cafeteria, that has attracted the attention of several of New York’s newspapers for its punchy offerings. The menu, prepared by cooks hired by the temple is entirely vegetarian, quite inexpensive (around $6 for a meal) and completely wonderful. Try the dosas, try the chutneys, try everything. Just remember to put your shoes back on before you head down.

Below are some beautiful photos of the Hindu Temple Society of North America from previous OHNY Weekends:

photo credit Caroline Otto
photo credit Caroline Otto
photo credit Caroline Otto
photo credit Caroline Otto
photo credit Caroline Otto

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In celebration of our 10 year Anniversary openhousenewyork pays homage to those sites and organizations that have supported and contributed to making our annual Weekend what it is today. This series of blog posts cover sites which originally opened their doors at the inaugural Weekend in 2003 and have continually reaffirmed their support and participation year after year.

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