India in pictures

Ganesh Chaturthi

7:00 AM

This Sunday instead of a picture, let me share a video of India. Ganesh Chaturthi, which celebrate the birth of Lord Ganesh, the beloved elephant god and crusher of obstacles is celebrated with great pomp in Mumbai. This is THE major festival in the city and the celebration last for 10 days, at which point the Ganesha idols are brought to the sea or other water bodies for immersion.

This year, Ganesh Chaturthi fell on Friday 29th, and the society accross the street from mine has a big Ganesh Shrine on for the occasion. The whole festival starts with bringing Ganesh home, and it is usually done in big fanfare and oomph, in the case of the society in question, they brought him home the night before (Thursday Night). The video I am sharing below was however NOT taken on that day. But before I continue with my rambling, here is what I filmed on Saturday night from my bedroom window :


This particular housing society always take Ganesh for a tour of the neighbourhood after the first day Puja has been done. in an even grander, louder and oophier (is that a word?) manner than they brought him home. Tonight, he went on a big float decorated with lights and an escort of drums and trumpets. The rain was no bar, and it kept going. Bear with me about the quality of the video, I was house bound. Ishita was asleep (and didn't wake up despite the loud music), DH's was out and I couldn't just leave the house to get a closer look.

DH and several other people told me that Ganesh Chaturthi in Mumbai is a very specific ritual, and once you started bringing The Lord home, he must be brought back to the same place every year. Which is why a lot of appartment building, and neighbourhood usually put a communal shine up for people to bless Ganesh if they can't bring him in their home instead. DH personally don't celebrate the festival as such, nothing special goes in our home. Ishita learns about it in school, and they have a couple of Ganpati themed activities (including making idols out of modelling clay) and she loves the festival.

This post goes live on Sunday morning, but I am typing it Saturday night, over an hour after Ganesh left for his tour, there is a lashing rain, lightning, thunder, and the drums and trumpets still audible in the distance.

7 comments

  1. I've heard Mumbai has the biggest Ganesh Chaturthi festivities in India.
    Where I'm at in Nepal a lot of drumming, dancing & drinking goes on well into the night but Ganesh doesn't go out for a tour.

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    1. Yes, Ganesh Chaturthi is a big big big deal in Mumbai, this is the Hindu festival that is associated to Mumbai. When I lived in Bangalore there wasn't much going on. Just some occasional drumming, and a procession or two on the 10th day when Ganesh is taken for immersion

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  2. Anonymous1:54 PM

    You guys did not go for darshan of ganapati. I know DH is north indian where ganapati festival is not celebrated. The entire atmosphere of ganapati festival is electrifying just like durga pooja in kolkata. Apart from religion, the ambience and art decorations are out of this world. Since you are interested in art, you might as well try visiting the pandals of Durga Pooja of Bengalis in Mumbai, during navaratas which is the next big festival. The intricate art work is seen to be believed. Might give you some new ideas. Not everybody goes there for religious purposes, some just want to soak in the atmosphere.

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    1. Ganpati is all around us, you can't not be aware in Mumbai because this is the most important festival celebrated in the city. We do avoid the crowd though, with a small child it is not a very wise thing. We usually go spot Ganpati passing in our neighbourhood, this year Ishita was fast asleep and hubby out with friends, which had me watch from the window instead.
      I did go to a Bengali celebration in Bangalore, and I agree, the artistic skills are unparalleled. I haven't seen one in our neighbourhood in Mumbai. Our old appartment complex had a shrine for Navratri, but it was pretty basic. I think to really get the most of Navratri, you need to find a Bengali community around. Navratri in Mumbai usually means going for Dandiya, as the city has a strong Gujarati influence.

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    2. Anonymous4:10 PM

      It is believed by Bengalis that goddess durga along with her family, descends from heaven during the nine days of navarati to be her devotees. On the the tenth day she returns to her heavenly abode. For nine days her divine presence is felt and on the tenth day when the idol has to be immersed, there is sadness all around as if somebody near to us is departing. I am sure Marathis feel the same about Ganapati. It is this very personal often family bond that develops between the god and the humans which is most wonderful. The god is the guest, personal friend, guide. He is served food, taken care of, dressed in finery. I sometimes feel both Ganapati and Maa Durga get amused by the antics of mere mortals and have a hearty laugh themselves.

      I just returned from Gaya which the holiest of holy shrines of Hindus. I went there to perform the last rites of both my parents. It is said that if you perform the last rites or "Pind Daan", it the ultimate act of respect for you parents and ofcourse your countless nameless ancestors before you, whose blessings have always been with you through thick and thin. The priest said something which made me thoughtful. He said " Your parents have made the ultimate sacrifice in bring you up, they have forgone their own pleasures several times so that you can have a good life, this is the least bit you can do for them. Many at times the mother does not eat certain food which will create problem for an infant, she wakes up all night so that the child can sleep". A child can never return what the parent have done for him. So true, but I did not realize it.

      Uptil then I felt that these rituals have no meaning. But then I felt that these rituals do have a profound meaning if we lift the veil of ignorance and understand what the hymens and different procedures actually mean, rather than following them mindlessly, like most people do. Our ancestors created these rituals very carefully while we turned them into mechanical rituals.

      http://www.gayajipinddaan.com/Pinda_daan.html

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    3. I think rituals need to be done meaningfully or not at all, but sadly this is not the case at all today, in all religions. You can see what a giant mess Christmas has become. To me the holiday means the celebration of family, because before it was a Christian holiday, it was the pagan festival celebrating the Winter solstice and coming together in the darkest time of the year to bring back the light. But today it has become that mass consumerism affair of store bought everything, which I really never liked. Yet I am a huge huge fan of Christmas when it is about sharing food, exchanging small meaningful gifts, and just celebrating the season.

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    4. Anonymous11:24 AM

      Rituals have their place in the overall scheme of things in a religion. Since the world is full distractions, a more formal approach was needed to connect with the almighty. Culture also comes with religion. Religion is the key to understanding culture. I understood about my culture through various festivals and rituals. My parents were not religious but they did the needful. I came to know about my identity in specific and general terms through the wonderful tales of krishna, rama, christ, guru nanak etc. Years later I understood that the experience has enriched me as an individual. At a tender age, god is not almighty but a fun enjoyable concept for children like little ganesha or krishna. Funny and cool.

      I met people who say " we are not religious but spiritual" with some sort of righteousness. These people had their grounding in a religion and then moved on to spirituality, which is higher form of learning. But what about their children. How does a child comprehend spirituality. They don't get introduced to religion because their parents are not religious and they are not mature enough to understand spirituality. Since culture comes with religion, they are denied that opportunity of understanding culture as well at a personal level. Fasts, prayers and rituals maintain that continuity with our heritage. In this fast paced life, when there are material distractions all around, I don't find anything which even teaches about culture to children except schools to some extent. Parents are often hard pressed to find time.

      Without religion, not just culture but a lot of values like family, community and other things completely bypass the child. Then it is easy to sink into the quick sand of mobile phones, iPads and malls. I came to the conclusion that instead of having a fuzzy idea of spirituality which is neither here nor there, it is better to be religious if not deeply religious. Our rituals need to be modified the suit the needs of modern life and not abandoned like bursting less cracker in diwali or use of environment friendly colours in holi.

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