Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ganesh Chaturthi - a few thoughts

I had asked my dad to pen a few words on this occasion. Here's what he sent.

Ganesh Chaturthi is a festival celebrating the birthday of Lord Ganesha which is conducted in a unique manner. There is a rare blend of domestic celebration and public festivity.

The idol of Lord Ganesha is brought home every year on the day of Chaturthi, worshiped and taken for immersion on certain auspicious days between the 2nd and 10th day. This is done to the accompaniment of singing, dancing, and other expressions of joy.

Alongside this, there are the Sarvajanik (public) Ganpatis - the giant sized idols that are installed all over the city. The devotees queue up for hours together to have a darshan (beholding of the deity) of the Lord. The immersion of these idols is a grand affair, with thousands of people thronging the streets, dancing and singing.

Why is Ganpati so popular and why is there a joyous celebration every year? It may appear to be a paradox for many people that the idol which is so joyously worshiped is immersed into the sea after a few days.

In my past (1940s), Ganesh Chaturthi was celebrated solely because it is Ganpati's birthday. Idols were made out of clay and worshiped and immersed the following day in a well. The idol wasn't kept for a longer period because of the fear that the idol was likely to break, which is considered inauspicious.

During the course of time the festival took also a social hue, and side by side with the domestic worship, the public celebrations also became popular. The size of the idols grew and the idols also required a large place like the sea for immersion.

The various names by which the God is worshiped are a reflection of his closeness to us and importance. Most significantly he has to be worshiped first at any puja (ceremonial worship) or religious function. We start learning the alphabet by invoking his name first. No wonder this festival has won the heart of the people and this God is sent off with the request to return fast the following year.

- Contributed by K. Sivaramakrishnan

My brother had sent me some pictures he had taken in 2007 when he went to see one of the most famous idols' immersion procession. This was a 25 feet baby Ganesha idol installed at Ganesh Galli, Lalbaug, Bombay India. Here are a few pictures for your enjoyment.

Ganesh Galli Lalbaug above