NRI News

Indo-Americans Swept by the "Milk Miracle" Storm

By Shobha Sharma

CHATSWORTH, CA - Indo-Americans in the US were excited and overwhelmed starting Sept. 21, and spent a lot of time calling acquaintances to talk about the happening of statues of Lord Ganesha sipping in teaspoonfuls of milk at various sites, replicating the phenomena reported in India, Great Britain and Canada.

Dinesh Lakhanpal, president of the Chatsworth Hindu Temple and Cultural Center on the morning of Sept. 21 received a call from India saying Ganapati's idol was accepting milk when offered to his trunk. His wife promptly offered some milk to the idol at home and it was accepted. On his way to work, Lakhanpal says he offered milk, as a trial, to the trunk of the 14-inch Ganapati idol, at the temple very carefully as if feeding a little baby with a tilted teaspoon. It drank. By evening there was huge media coverage on this supernatural phenomenon and by the next day there were reportes in the L.A. Times, KFWB news radio, TV stations KCBS, KTLA, KABC, KTTV, CNN and by Sept. 23 even Spanish TV channel, KMEX.

Hundreds of people flocked in throughout the weekend and for almost 2 hours at a stretch for their turn to actually experience the phenomenon. Devotees came in from the counties of LA, Santa Barbara, Santa Clarita, Ventura and affirmed it was worth the travel and worth the wait. Bindu Gupta, a volunteer at the Chatsworth temple said, "People came in a steady stream from Sept. 21 on up to 3 am on Sept. 24 to offer milk and seek blessings."

On Pioneer Blvd., in Artesia, meanwhile, several store owners including those of Lord's Jewelers, and Sari Niketan reported the same occurrence. Sona Chaandi kept its doors open, well past its closing time to entertain the curious and the believers.

The talk in restaurants on the strip was generally focused on the "miracle". Several reported that they had tried the milk on the statues at their homes and had been satisfied that the elephant-headed god was indeed thirsty. In San Diego's Shri Mandir too, crowds flocked to witness and partake in the miracle.

In New York, thousands of U.S. Hindus tried on Sept. 22 to reproduce the milk miracle at home or by lining up at the temple to feed milk to brass statues.

"My friend said, "I'm afraid he is not going to take the milk from me. Does that mean I am not going to be blessed?". I said "No, that is not the way it works," Nargis Sharma said. Sharma was one of hundreds who passed through the Hindu Temple Society of North America in the New York borough of Queens, home to one of the largest Indian populations in the United States, after word spread that religious statues in India had begun drinking milk offerings.

"Did it happen for you?" devotees asked each other. Many decided they were uncertain what it all meant, then marvelled at how little milk was draining off the statue compared to what had been fed.

The temple, which normally closes at 9 pm, stayed open until 4 a.m. on Sept. 22, with lines snaking outside and people waiting up to four hours for their chance to feed the brass elephant statue of Ganesh.

Delicatessens did not know what hit them. "I walked in this morning and said, What! was there a run on milk?" said Anthony Pennisi, owner of a deli that, because of purchases of milk by the crate, was running out of a stock that should have lasted all weekend.

In Manhattan, Prahlad Beeramangala, 36, saw a report on CNN and then tried to feed milk, with limited success, to his statue at home. "When I put a spoon by the trunk, the whole spoon was not sucked out, but I did feel a little sucking process," he said.

On Sept. 22 morning at the temple, the milk seemed not to disappear anymore, but then started again by afternoon, said businessman Sethu Narikot. "At first I didn't believe it. I've heard the stories about a crying Virgin Mary," he said, now convinced. "Many people here are highly educated. They are not illiterate people or stupid people."

Malibu temple president Dr. Mahadevan, said that though the granite idol installed there had not taken in any milk, the number of calls of inquiries had run into the hundreds. The priest at Bochasanwasi Swaminarayan Sanstha temple at Whittier too, said that their idol of Ganesha had not taken in the offerings.

Worshippers and believers have an unshaken belief and claim this occurrence as a "miracle." Realists however point out that the milk is merely oozing down from the belly to the knees, leading to a drain. Milk is white they say, marble idols are white, the base is white and therefore camouflaged. Rationalists theorize it was a process of capillary action or absorption. According to Lawford Anderson, a Professor of Geology at the University of Southern California, milk could be soaked onto a stone if it is porous.

"Sri Ganapati's idol," repudiated Lakhanpal, "is polished marble (sungmurmur) therefore this matter is solid and non-porous and it does not have the property to absorb liquid and there is no capillary action taking place. This is not an isolated incident, it is miraculous and is happening purely by the divine grace of God."

"A small number of units of a whole teaspoonful of milk do spill forming a very thin streak eventually draining itself out, but", adds Lakhanpal, "people are so excited, sometimes they overfill the spoon, causing little spilling of milk because they are a bit overwrought at the prospect of feeding one of the most powerful Hindu gods."

Whatever the scientific reasoning, one thing is clear, for believers this is something that is above and beyond the parameters of logical reasoning, something that appears to be floating in the rivers of love ebbed by faith and trust which is philosophically speaking, "soulful." And of this there can be no doubt, the world has learnt about Lord Ganesha.

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