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Mandir in Hollis

Updated: Jan 30, 2021

I've seen wondrous Hindu temples in Queens, but nothing so anomalous as what I saw when I turned onto 192nd Street--an unassuming location, in suburban Hollis, Queens--and spotted something huge, colorful, and festive up on the right…

...At first it seemed apparitional…

…four oversized statues fronting a pink house: Dayaram Mandir, a Hindu temple, wedding reception venue, and cultural center. As I said, I have visited other Hindu temples (mandirs) in Queens—most memorably Om Sai Mandir in East Flushing (see photo at end of this post)--but but none with the dreamlike oddity of Dayaram Mandir and its four Hindu gods.

From a different angle, it got dreamier...

...like the disorientingly exuberant start of Fellini's "La Dolce Vita," (a Jesus statue being transported over Rome by helicopter); the appearance of Gods in modern times. Hinduism, by the way, has 33 million gods; I thank my friends Saleena, Tuhin, Shanti and Rita for helping me identify these four. The lineage and symbolism is more complicated (and a bit controversial) than the following explanations, but this is the best I could do for now. From left to right: Durga, Ganesh, and Shiva.

Durga, the warrior incarnation of Laxmi (or Lakshmi): consort of the god Vishnu, riding a lion, dressed in red and gold, is the goddess of wealth, fortune, love, beauty, joy and prosperity. Like many Hindu gods, she is multi-armed (eight arms here), the better to battle cosmic forces—and each arm and gesture emanates meaning. The front right and left hands are held in gestures of abhaya mudra (gesture of fearlessness) and varada mudra (dispensing of boons). Second pair of arms: left one carries a lotus; right carries either a thunderbolt or bow and arrow. Third pair of arms: right arm carries sword; left arm carries a gada (mace). Top pair of arms: right carries a discus (a weapon); left carries a conch (the musical instrument of war). Aside from the symbols, this goddess, in this place, is magnificent.

...to her left sits Genesh (Lord Shiva angrily decapitated him, then replaced the missing part with an elephant head), revered as the remover of obstacles; the patron of arts and sciences; and the deva (deity) of intellect and wisdom. Ganesh carries sweet meats in his lower left hand, a conch in his upper right hand, and usually a weapon in his upper left. Legend has it that he broke off a tusk to use as a quill in order to write down the epic Mahabharata.

...to his left is Shiva: also called “Shiva the Destroyer,”—turned blue after swallowing poison to save the world–one of the supreme beings who creates, protects and transforms the universe.

His trident’s prongs represent three forces of nature—creation, preservation, destruction. His upper left hand holds a hand drum. Unsure what’s in his lower left hand. All of him is spectacularly awesome...

…Particularly his leopard-head loincloth.

Hanuman (monkey face, large pecs, golden headpiece), the monkey god, said to be the most popular of Hindu gods, the ideal combination of "strength, heroic initiative and assertive excellence.”

This Hanuman—golden headdress, gada (mace) in his right hand and Dronagiri Mountain in his left hand, draped apparel, muscular physique—is stunning, like the entire façade, especially on this quiet street in Queens.

Durga, Ganesh, Shiva, and Hanuman...

Queens is home to scores of Hindu temples, one of the most impressive being Om Sai Mandir, on Smart Street in Flushing, a striking opposite to Dayaram Mandir. On the outside, an unremarkable sign...

…step inside and behold—two larger-than-life statues depicting Shiri Sai Baba and Sathya Sai Baba

Dayaram Mandir: 88-40 192nd St, Queens, NY 11423

Om Sai Mandir: 45-11 Smart Street, Flushing

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