Friday, September 4, 2009

Ganapati Bappa Morya

Contd from Silence plz…

It was almost as if I was waiting for Anant-chaturdashi to write about the Ganesh festival of Mumbai. I had heard tales of this day from my cousins and many friends. It’s the D-day for the Ganesh festivities here – the 11th day where most Ganesh idols are collectively immersed on the Mumbai coastline. The sight is a one to watch!

The final aarti takes place and the processions start in the early afternoon. These processions are very similar to a typical Hindi film wedding barat only minus the designer dresses and jewellery. People dance, play numerous instruments, the most popular being the dhol, around the idol. And the idol, magnificent and standing tall and towering is taken in pick up trucks moving at snails pace. I dint have to go far to see it. Just sitting in my aunt’s living room window was enough to provide a wide view of numerous such barats.

Expectedly, it’s also a day of the worst traffic jams in the city. My cousin took his bike to work today, skipping the company bus. He said it would be easier for him to navigate through traffic and hopefully that way he’ll be able to make it back home before dawn. And even as he stepped out of the door, he left dire warning ringing in my ear to study in the morning and not to leave much for the evening. I took him very seriously – after Gokulashtami, I would have been a fool not to do so.

And so, I spent the better part of my evening sitting in the window watching people covered in gulaal dancing to the tuneless beat of the drums. I tried very hard to try to decipher one of them and I think it was ‘Mungda’… but I can’t be sure. Well, as long as they don’t play stupid Bollywood songs on the loudspeakers, I knew I would be just fine.

When I was in Pune a couple of years back for my studies, I would run back home during Ganesh celebrations. Every street would be blocked by pujas being performed where cars should be running, loudspeakers blaring all over the place and rangolis decorating the sidewalks leaving no place for pedestrians. And as an art lover I have to say this – it would be heart breaking to walk over somebody else’s beautiful hard work.

In Pune, there is a Ganesh temple at every nook and corner, 2 of them were just outside the hostel where I stayed, separated approximately by 10 metres. And it meant that every month for Sankashti and Ekadashi, nobody slept peacefully in the hostel. There would always be a fierce competition between the two groups to demonstrate who owned the loudest music system. It would reach such unbearable decibels that we would go complain to the rector and she would go scream herself hoarse at them and the music would be lowered to a respected volume. But after half an hour, we would be back to square one. By the end of the day, the rector would be too tired to do anything and we would get an earful if we even uttered a C of complaints.

Au contraire, in Goa, Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated in peace. Every house brings its own Ganesh idol and private celebrations go on all over the state. At my natives, Chaturthi means delicious smells of various delicacies wafting through the house, family members all sitting together for the aarti with taal, decorating the makhaí(the place where the idol is placed), drawing beautiful rangolis, collecting durva(the three leaved green grass specially offered to Ganapti) and many such small and wonderful rituals right from the day when the idol is brought in to the day we sadly bade him goodbye. It’s the time for family members to get together and have fun. After spending the entire day would be spent in preparations, all us cousins would then sit and play card late into the night.

Ah! Good old memories…
I never thought I’d miss this festival until I actually had to miss it. This is the first time I’m spending Chaturthi away from home.

Anyway, I’m not a very religious person and my knowledge of festivals and rituals is extremely limited. But I always thought faith was a very private thing. And festivals were only an excuse to celebrate it, bringing happiness and abundance in life. Really is that what festivals are meant for nowadays?

At my mum’s ancestral house, we have the same idol that we worship year after year. A few years back, I had asked my uncle, why is it that we don’t immerse the idol in the well like everybody else? And he had told me that a great deal of effort is involved in digging wells and such other wells, or streams, ponds and lakes are a source of clean drinking and irrigation water; and so it would be a shameful act to pollute them plaster of Paris statutes or even block them with clay idols.
Such is the kind of respect I learned not only for our festivals but also for the life sustaining nature from an early age. So it kills me to see that people cannot apply the same simple principles everywhere.

The festival spirit in people here is tremendous, but so is the disregard for others convenience. And nobody thinks about the kind of pressure we put on our environment. Sure, the energy and the mood they bring in is incredible but so is the level of noise and air pollution. And what happens to the ecosystem when these ‘Plaster of Paris’ idols are immersed in our seas? And what when broken parts of these idols of faith are washed off to the shore where they are cruelly left to rot along with other garbage and debris?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against festivals; I’m just against the way they are being celebrated.


  1. You are absoluetely right!
    I dont like throwing the idol away too- I dont know why they do it!I absolutely hate that "Ghass" sound when the idol hits hard on water surface (we immerse it in a well)....I remember the times i've dived into the swimming pool at great heights,at wrong angles and hit hard on my back/stomach- the sound is similar- like a hard slap on the face,Often that part of the body would turn red within minutes and I had to keep away from the pool for some days till the pain subsided! Poor Ganapati bappa! :(
    Dont they use clay idols in Mumbai? I thought plaster of Paris was banned!
    Goa has also started copying Mumbai in celebrating every festival!
    Fire crackers should be banned at all cost- I just dont see any good thing in using them?

  2. Exactly.
    For the last few years my family has gone sans firecrackers at my insistance.
    And i really dont think the idols here are made of clay, so many of them that i saw passing from my aunt's house certainly dint look like. but even if they are made of clay, who's to ensure tht the paints are organic?

  3. I was actually thinking about all the idols being immersed in Hussain Sagar in Hyderabad! And to think that this lake has no inflow or outflow. It is really sad that in the name of festivals we disturb the sensitive eco-balance. Well Written.
    And thanks for blogrolling me.. :)

  4. POP idols are a curse! There is substantial awareness in Goa about it and I think almost all people bring home a clay idol. One interesting thing is that every family brings the Ganesh idol from the same artist every year and this is traditionally followed by the coming generations.

  5. @Neelima : no prob, thot ur blog was quite interesting.
    and thank u for the comment

    @Kaustubh : thr r a lot of reasons why festivals in Goa r so much btr than everywhr else. i just hope it stays tht way!

  6. i totally agree with you....i wish Ganapati Bappa gives them Bari Boodhy!!!