Also known internationally as the elephant-headed god, the famous lord will appear in thousands of households worldwide in one of India’s largest festivals called Ganesh Chaturthi, which, began last Friday, Aug. 28.
Beginning that day, the Hindu god in the form of an idol, makes his way into millions of households and Hindus physically buy a clay idol of the Lord and worship him. Depending on budgets, people celebrate the deity in their house for one day or ten.
At the end of 10 days in a celebratory mood and amidst great pomp and splendor and a bevy of religious hymns and songs, the deity is taken to the Indian Ocean and gently immersed. This is an annual ritual and the Ganesh season kick starts officially all the other Hindu festivals that take place from thereon.
In Toronto, all the Hindu temples had special plans for the deity and celebrate him with special reverence for ten days.
But to experience this majestic Indian festival one has to be present in India. The term, majestic is truly what this festival is all about. In fact during that time of the year, one cannot forget that the festival is on. For instance the biggest celebration of this festival takes place in Mumbai- the city I was born in.
Huge idols over 50 feet are kept in big open compounds for all to see and worship. And they are worshipped day and night — usually for 10 days- with priests present and an overflowing line of visitors who line the streets to see the deity. The festival mood is on and there’s always music or hymns through loudspeakers that reminds you that the festival ain’t stopping any time soon.
If your residence is close to one of these public venues you have to grin and bear it because the traffic jams just to get thousands of devotees out there — can make life a tad harder for the nearby residents. But it’s all taken in the Indian spirit of welcoming the deity so there’s nothing one can do about it.
The food during that time is also really wonderful. Special modaks or sweet treats filled with coconut and dry fruits are also made and sold in abundance and my family was invited to so many Hindu houses for lunch during that time, that it was just one of the best times of the year for me as a child.
In Mumbai, I lived in an apartment building on the sixth floor. During the festival every year, my verandah would be the place where my friends would come to because they could get a bird’s eye view of the clay deities that would pass by our house on the tenth day- the last day of the festival when devotees sink the deity in water.
So on that day, my friends and even my relatives would come to my house and stand for hours on the verandah while watching hundreds of tall (almost eighty feet in height) deities pass the streets. Along with the procession would be a bevy of dancers gyrating to special numbers on the streets of Mumbai. The dancers and devotees would also splash gullal or red powder (considered auspicious by Hindus) on each other. Most of the time we couldn’t tell the faces of the people as they would be soaked with this vermilion powder.
Finally these processions chant Ganesh’s name and followers sing along and take him to the Indian Ocean, which in my case was not very far from my house.