Sunday, July 13, 2008

Ganesh Festival - to each his own

- By Janaki Krishnan
It is mid-July, and the city is getting ready for the mega-festival of Maharashtra - Ganesh Chaturthi. As the festival draws closer, more and more large idols such as this one will become visible in makeshift sheds all over the city.

The Ganesh festival means different things to different people. At its basest level, it is just another opportunity for fun and frolic, and an excuse to keep away from any kind of productive activity for the two weeks of the festival. On the positive side, it is an opportunity for people in every building and locality to come together. Groups are formed throughout the city, collections are made, and streets are swept clean. Youngsters participate in bringing and decorating the idol, distributing prasad, and finally immersing the idol.
In many Maharashtrian families, this is the time when sons and daughters living afar get together. Although it is a religious occasion, it is also a happy day of family togetherness.

For the ritual-minded, the Ganesh festival offers the opportunity for the purification of the mind through various prescribed methods - aartis, keertans, pujas, namsmaran and other practices, done according to Vedic ritual. At the big common Ganesh mandaps (tents), serpentine queues of people to receive the blessings of Ganesh are a common sight. The biggest of these queues is the Lalbaugcha Raja (pic below). The Wadala Ganpati of the GSB community, the Ganpati at Matunga decorated by the flower sellers, and the one in Tilak Nagar (whose mandap is usually a replica of some famous ancient temple) also draw huge crowds.

Among all the noise and merrymaking of the festival, there are also a blessed few who see the real Ganesha. In meditating on Ganesha, these seekers do not focus on his form, or his fondness for sweets - they focus instead on his Real nature. For them, he is Satchidananda (True Knowledge and Bliss), Parabrahmaswarupa or Omkareswara. Through such meditation comes Self-Realisation, and the seeker becomes one with the Eternal Truth.

If you're in Mumbai during August/September, you can join us in celebrating this festival. For two weeks, you can enjoy the colour and gaiety of the processions and the tents, or attend the evening aarti. On Visarjan day (the last day of immersion in the sea), you can join the entire city as we bid goodbye to Ganesha, and ask him to come again soon next year!

- Posted by Deepa on behalf of Janaki, Published in HT Cafe July 20 2008


Ravi Ramakantan said...

Some great pictures on this blog!

Anonymous said...

Somehow the Ganeshotsav celebrations are very muted compared to the Durga Puja I'm used to in Kolkata. When I first came to Mumbai I expected the same fervour and passion so I could relive Durga Puja here in Mumbai ... but thats sadly missing. Maybe I expected too much.

I'd written a blog on this :

Not sure if you've ever been in Kolkata during Durga Puja ... if so please give your perspective.