Sunday, September 14, 2008

The real Ganesh Chaturthi

As I sit at my desk and type this, I hear the noise of dancing and singing on the street. Big Ganesh processions make their way down the main road, heading towards the beach for immersion. The firecrackers are loud and almost endless. Some of the men are drunk. I am deafened by it all.
I think of this morning's drive with Alex, and our little walk on Chowpatty beach. It was not noisy then...there were no fireworks or cymbals or drums. Instead, there were small families and little groups of people, chanting and singing and clapping their hands as they said goodbye to their own little idols of the Elephant God.
What I saw gladdened me. It was a time for togetherness, for bonding with family and friends through the familiar rituals of prayer. Surely this is what this festival should be?
This family poses, their son clicks a photo so they can remember this year's idol.

Another family just starting to set out the idol in the sand for the last puja before immersion.

The sound of rthymic clapping, and the voices of children singing drew me to this little circle.

This man's voice rose strong and confident as he bid a personal goodbye to Ganesh.

I came away from Chowpatty refreshed by the sights we saw. After the ugly sponsored commercials and hoardings for paan-masala all along the Ganesh mandaps on the road, the sight of the festival's true spirit was very rewarding indeed.


Rada said...

Deepa, C'mon, as you sit at your desk and write your post, how can you assume some of the guys making all that noise , are drunk?

Just being cussed! :-)

Deepa said...

I saw them. Did you see the Sunday Midday newspaper report about the sharp rise in alcohol sales ahead of the immersion?

Ravi Ramakantan said...

Alcohol inebriation (we get a whole bunch of them at KEM Casualty on immersion day) on the immersion day is not half as bad as the "power inebriation" of many on how they got to see the Lalbag ka Raja. You know, when you work at KEM, you end up having a lot of clout in and around this central Mumbai district and the Lalbaug ka Raja is no exception. So, I hear some of my colleagues from the faculty and some staff too boasting on how they has a "Right of way" darshan of the God at Lalbaug in 2 mins flat in and out.
I ask myself - what is true devotion about? - "being Godly" or playing God.

And Deepa, you forgot the politicians in the "pan-masala" crowd! Disgraceful - to say the least!

Priyanka Dalal said...

I was actually shocked when I went to vile parle next to NMIMS college there were so many Shiv Sena hoardings!! I mean they were not even erected properly!! they were often lopsided and really spoiled the whole look of the chowk!!

CanisLupus said...

Hey DK, long time. :)

Had to chirp in since I used to be one of those "drunk" people you write about. It was total awesome fun. Growing up in the 80s, when outlets of "letting go" were non existent, religion provided the umbrella for engaging in *controlled* debauchery.

There are 2 major versions of this festival, the family version which is all about faith, pujas, and of course modaks. This piety, sustainable in a small unit with no agenda other than a desire to worship is indeed beautiful.

The other is the public (hence Saarvajanik) version that's more social than religious. Both are important, and have a place in society.

As Tilak saw it, a gathering of all stratas of society under the umbrella of Ganesh Chaturthi. And as it usually happens under circumstances, the original goals change as time progresses, and we now have what we believe is a clash of values. And since its public its open to debate, but I believe the value judgements should be tempered And if we are inconvenienced for a period of time, should we not accept it, as its one more of God's *annual* trials to see if we are tolerant of the society we live in? :)

Ever wonder why we dont see a large enough Ganpati (lets not argue why we need a large celebration) mandal paid for by conscientious citizens with a goal to uphold moral values of the day? These people (generally) do not shell out enough money to conduct a festival on a large scale. Try getting the "conscientious" citizens to sustain an event like this, and I bet it will de-generate over a period of time.

Ravi Ramakantan said...

You touched a sore spot here Canislupus. Why "celebrate on a large scale" . We cannot NOT argue about that; because this is where the bucks are for the organisers and that is precisely what we are lamenting. Surely, you would not recommend they have cigarette or alcohol ads - where do we draw a line?
I also feel "your anything not big and glamarous could degenrate over a period of time" is a very unfortunate assumption.
At least the educated amongst us need to uphold values. There is always a right and a wrong.

Sorry if this sounded like preaching from a moral high ground! :-)

Try getting the "conscientious" citizens to sustain an event like this, and I bet it will de-generate over a period of time.

CanisLupus said...

RR, You will have to trust me when I say I am not stirring the pot for the sake of it.

I am all for advertising any product regardless of its "value" to society, or the context in which its set. alcohol, paan-masala, cigarettes, bearded men teaching breathing techniques.....

If not this festival, some other event will provide the platform.

I still want GC to be on a large scale, for the festival was meant to be a collection of different strata of society.

Ravi Ramakantan said...

I rest my case Canislupus ;-)

Deepa said...

The Ganesh festival as a public gathering had many aims originally. Tilak meant to bridge the gap between Brahmins and non-Brahmins, encourage community participation through discourses, debates, dance-dramas, poetry, etc. If Tilak were to witness the absolute lack of anything even remotely educational in today's Ganesh festival, he would surely be pained. Today, the Ganesh festival is just an election platform, plain and simple. So are the Govinda celebrations. If the average man on the street wants to get drunk and dance on some politician's money, that's fine, I just wish they wouldn't mix God into it. Another concern I have is that sponsorship by political parties means that this festival is being appropriated by the saffron brigade. I do not like the idea of the loud processions and dancing as projections of some sort of "confident / aggressive Hindutva".

CanisLupus said...

I was wondering when you would chime in on this, DK :), but did you have to bring up the saffron brigade into this ? ;)

Actually, in a way you said a similar thing about a "conscientous" man's (Tilak) goals being hijacked and morphed into something unrecognizable. That in a way is valuable education. cynical, but still educative.

Btw, there are pockets in B'bay-Pune where the original spirit of the festival does survive. One of those pockets is Kesarwada in Pune. The spectre of the stern Tilak still keeps away the riff-raff in that mandal for 11 days.

I was laughing out loud about this "If the average man on the street wants to get drunk and dance..". Once upon a time in a different life, a bunch of us in Mulund did a Ganpati Visarjan, with dholaks, cymbals, and lots of shouting in the month December (without the idol of course). You had to be there, to appreciate and savor the humor :))

Deepa said...

I have been on group visarjans myself, clambering on trucks, walking and dancing. It's quite a high by itself, I assure you it does not need the aid of alcohol.

Bhavika said...

hi I quite like ur blog:) some interesting stuff...keep going!