NEW YORK – In a pastel room in downtown Manhattan, Hindu worshippers took turns Friday evening throwing a handful of rose petals onto the statue of a god.

Ganesha, the Hindu god of prosperity, appeared regal sitting on a throne in a baby blue shrine at the center of the temple. His head, shaped like an elephant, was adorned with a gold crown, while a gold arch ran over his body, like a halo. Earlier in the evening, a priest in a white, billowy robe laid apples, bananas and grapes in front of Ganesha’s throne, and a volunteer hung a garland of purple, red and white flowers around the deity’s neck. The smell of thick incense lingered in the air.

Midway through the ceremony, the priest handed a bowl of rose petals out to worshippers, who sat cross-legged on checkered blue-and-white carpets in front of the statue. One by one, worshippers approached the shrine to shower Ganesha with the petals, eventually burying the deity in a pool of deep red. Then they took turns circling the shrine on the checkered floor. 

“Ganesh is one of the gods I most resonated with, just like, by his stories and his principles,” said Laetishea Chatterjee, 18, a freshman at the New School, after attending Friday night’s service.

Chatterjee says she has been attending the downtown Hindu temple, or mandir, about once a month since moving to Manhattan in September for her studies. While she was raised atheist in Bangalore, India, and later in Boston, Massachusetts, Chatterjee explained that attending puja at the Broome Street Ganesha Temple connects her to her family’s Hindu cultural roots.

“When I come here, and it is Ganesha puja, I just feel more connected to what’s happening than when it’s some other god,” she said.

Puja is a ritual in Hinduism that involves giving offerings of fruits, flowers and prayers to a physical manifestation of a deity.

The puja at the Ganesha temple in Soho, located at the corner of Broome Street and Crosby Street above a champagne bar, takes place on Mondays,Tuesdays and Fridays. About a dozen people attended on a recent Friday evening.

“When you do offerings and chant mantra, you’re giving the deity energy and asking for blessings in return, so the deity then blesses you in life,” explained Jaya Jaya Mara, 44, an author and TEDx speaker on spirituality who was volunteering at the temple Friday night.

“Flowers definitely represent beauty and abundance and prosperity,” she said. “Because the deity has been given life, you have to honor and appease all of the senses like you would a living being,” she later added.

Earlier in the ceremony, the priest poured a carton of Trader Joe’s organic milk into a brass pitcher, then he poured the milk over a plate in front of Ganesha as a token of love and affection. The priest also rang a bell and lit fragrant incense in front of the statue, while engaging the worshippers in call-and-response style mantras honoring the god in Sanskrit.

As worshippers walked around the shrine, a volunteer captured the procession for an Instagram livestream audience via an iPhone set up onto a tripod.

Vedant Sharma, 24, a law student at New York University who recently moved from New Delhi, said that Hindu worshippers circle the shrine to worship Ganesha from all different angles.

“It’s about surrendering yourself to the divine,” said Sharma, speaking over the phone.

Sharma had Broadway tickets to see Hamilton on Friday, so he could only catch the beginning portion of the puja ceremony in person. But the livestream, later uploaded onto the temple’s official Instagram page, provided worshippers like Sharma the opportunity to fit the ceremony into their busy New York lifestyles.

“Things settle into your daily schedule,” Sharma said. “It just brings me peace,” he added.