Ganesha Chaturthi ended with a curious police officer photographing the elaborate silver carriage that had carried a Ganesh statue through a grand procession. Ganesha was returned to his place in the temple. The crowd of people who had accompanied the carriage went into a large hall inside and ate free lunches that temple staff were handing out.
The Ratha Yatra had begun a few hours earlier. Hundreds of people gathered in the street outside the temple and watched as a truck pulled the carriage away from the temple, two musicians sitting in the truck bed and playing ceremonial music, and two priests standing on the carriage continually making offerings of food to Ganesha.
I do not know what happened to these offerings, but celebrants brought food to the people following the carriage throughout the Ratha Yatra. They ran out from shops and vans and handed us samosas and sweets. One of the samosas I had was especially good—the crust was crisp, light, and oily, and the potato filling had a robust, warmly spicy flavor. The sweets were light and quite tasty.
I had been told by a Nepali friend that “Indians are really crazy” for this holiday, and it was indeed remarkable how joyful the crowd was. A drummer marched thirty or forty feet ahead of the carriage, and there were usually several people dancing around him—the men moving at each other with sudden changes of direction, almost mimicking confrontation, and the women throwing their hands in the air and twirling.
It was a very long and winding procession, approaching the heart of Flushing’s Chinatown at one point, and drawing the mostly East Asian shop owners out to watch. The samosas were not adequate to fend off hunger, and when we returned to the temple, I lost no time in claiming a free lunch.
Lunch consisted of rice with dal and yogurt rice. The dal was hot and had a certain severity—there was no hint of sweetness to it. But it was excellent. The yogurt rice was a nice cleanser after this.
The best part was the laddu for dessert. This was a ball of dough, probably gram dough, sweetened with sugar. Simple but delicious.
See Part I for information on The Canteen, open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day.