Friday, September 9, 2011

Ganesh Chaturthi Celebrations - Transcending Virtual Boundaries, Bringing Bloggers Together

India is a land of festivals and colorful celebrations continue the whole year round. There is never a month in the Hindu calendar that goes by without having a ‘Holy’ day marked on it. Every person has a unique way of celebrating them defined by one’s caste, culture, beliefs and traditions that one has grown up with. Even amidst this cultural diversity, each of these celebrations speak of bringing people together from different walks of life by strengthening bonds and relationships and insist on making life a merry carnival.

In an attempt to showcase this uniqueness and unitedness in the ongoing Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations, this festive season My Yatra Diary opens itself up to 4 bloggers from different traditional backgrounds sharing with us their idea of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival celebrations

Inspite of there existing cultural differences in their celebrations, read on to see how eventually, all 4 of them are bound together - by the same feelings of unity, of togetherness, feelings of faith, devotion and love for the God - in a single thread of commonness…

1. Anu Shankarn from A Wandering Mind

Location : Mumbai, Maharastra

Years and years ago, or so I have heard, my grand uncle used to go out to the garden and choosing a suitable spot, dig out some clay. He would then bring it in and pray to it before moulding it into an idol. The most prominent part of the resulting idol would be a long, curved trunk, which identified the idol as one of Ganesha – the Lord with the elephant face. This idol would be placed on our altar, special prayers would be conducted with flowers plucked from the same garden, and a feast would be prepared in his honour. The next day, the idol would be immersed in a bucket of water. The day after, the water would be poured back into the garden, thus completing a journey where it started from.

Lord Ganesha Clay idol, an Eco friendly Ganpati in A Mumbai household during the Ganesh Chaturthi Celebrations
Traditional Ganesha idols made of clay

Gardually, things have changed and today we feel satisfied only if we have performed the puja (prayers) in the grandest way possible. However, over the last few years, I have been questioning myself about the reason we perform rituals, and have tried conscientiously to blend tradition with reason. One of my efforts in the last few years has been to slowly change the way we celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi by making my own idol. This year, my son joined in, and we succeeded in making a lot of Ganeshas. We used three of these for the puja – the main one was one I made specifically for the puja (the red coloured one), and two made by my son.

Lord Ganesha Clay idols, an Eco friendly Ganpati celebration in Mumbai
The three idols of clay made by us for the Ganesh puja this year

We used only Dhurva grass for the puja, and just a few flowers. The festival at our home lasts for 5 days, at the end of which we immerse our idols at a nearby lake along with many others from our colony. Not wanting to suddenly change the tradition, this year we immersed our main Ganesha with his usual companions. The other two we chose to immerse at home. Once the idols had crumbled and turned to clay, we poured the water into our back yard.

Lord Ganesha Clay idol done using red brick powder of geru or chemman, an Eco friendly Ganpati in A Mumbai household during the Ganesh Chaturthi Celebrations
The main Ganesha idol decorated with red brick powder
known as Geru or chemman

Making our own idol is certainly an eco-friendly action, one which is sorely needed today. However, it is so much more! Making the idol with our own hands brought us so much closer to the Lord than ever before. For the first time, we were really aware of His presence in our house!

2.  Santosh BS from Huchchara Santhe

Location : Bengaluru, Karnataka

Festivities for us start a couple of days before when the house is cleaned and the mandaps (altars) erected for placing the idols. We carry a big bronze / copper plate filled with rice and a small idol of Gouri to get the Ganesha Gouri idols home singing devotional songs and ringing the copper bell. In early days, this was the most exciting part as everyone would jostle to carry the idol home, now Ganesha idol comes home in the comforts of a car/bike/auto!

Ganesha and Gauri idols placed in a decorated mandap as part of Ganesh chaturthi celebrations in the South India
The Ganesh and Gauri mandap in the house

The first day of the puja is for the ladies who perform the Gouri puja welcoming her to our homes and asking Her get Her Son too. The next day, all the male clan in the family are up early and get ready to perform the puja.

Goddess Gauri idol as part of Ganesh chaturthi celebrations in the South India
The deity of Goddess Gauri

Lord Ganesha idol placed in a decorated mandap as part of Ganesh chaturthi celebrations in a home in South India
Lord Ganesha decorated with blades of grass and flowers

On both days, the puja lasts for about 2 hours wherein the lord is decorated with flowers, 'Garike hullu' (grass to please Ganesha), sacred thread and offered sweets, milk and butter. Ganesha is worshipped with 21 knotted cotton garland, 21 kinds of flowers, leaves and 21 kinds of sweets of which the sweet ‘Kadubu is the main. After the puja, its feast time for the inmates of the house in a traditional manner on plantain leaf.

Rather than polluting the few lakes in Bangalore, it’s become a habit for us to immerse the lord in a huge bucket of water in a quiet corner in our home after offering our final prayers asking him to return to our household next year and bless us and clear all the obstacles in our path.

3.  Abhi from Be the Geek

Location : Mumbai, Maharastra

Being a Mumbaikar, I thoroughly enjoy celebrating the festival and have been doing that since childhood. As a kid, it used to give me immense pleasure to visit the various Ganpati pandals across the city, have a look at the colorful idols, their decorations and take part in the festivities. Of course, the prasad and the modaks given generously at every pandal was an added bonus too :)

A Ganpati pandal in Andheri, Mumbai during Ganesh Chaturthi festival
Huge Ganesh idol brightly lit up in a Mumbai suburban Ganpati pandal
A Sarvajanik Ganesh Pandal in Andheri

On a serious note, I feel festivals like these contribute immensely to the Indian culture and play a great role in unifying people. Seldom you see people from different backgrounds coming together and celebrating with such great fervor and enthusiasm.

4. merCury from FZed Chronicles

Location : Mangeshi, Goa

In our house, we worship the Ganesha idol for seven days. On the first day, the idol is unveiled, there are recitals of prayers and devotional hymns and it is respectfully placed in the garlanded throne. On that day, even luncheons are very special, consisting mostly of one of my all time favorite sweet dish - the Modaks. The next day is dedicated to the mount of Ganapati that is, the ‘Mouse’. So the lunch menu consists of another sweet - kheer - said to be its favorite. We have Satyanarayan Puja on one of the days and a puja called as ‘Amuktabharani’ on the fourth day dedicated to Lord Ganesh’s parents, Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.


An idol of Lord Ganesha in a house as part of Ganesh Chaturthi Celebrations in  a village Goa, Maharashtra
Deities of Lord Ganesha alongwith His parents Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati

After the stipulated days, comes the day of Ganesh Visarjan. Amid artis (hymns) and musical chants, the idol is is carried over the head along with its beautiful throne. There is a huge show of fireworks everywhere; Goa is a coastal region, sometimes rain still prevails till the time of Ganapati Visarjan, but it never affects the fervor of the devotees, people light crackers with an umbrella in one hand and sparkler in the other.

Firecrackers lighting up the sky during festival celebrations in India
Dazzling display of fireworks during the Ganpati Visarjan

After the fireworks, the idols are taken to the lake for immersion. I know how I feel then. The atmosphere is sad, when we have to let Him go, the beautiful face, His soft smile remains imprinted on my mind for days to come, sometimes until I see Him again next year.

Ganesha Chaturthi visarjan in a village in Goa, Maharashtra
Ganpati Visajan taking place

Though I feel bad about the commercialization of the festival, I’m glad this urban assault has not reached the simple villages of Goa. People there respect their traditions a lot, more importantly they know the significance and purpose of those traditions, and I think only that awareness, will keep the same eagerness and excitement of the festival in years to come…

How do you celebrate the Ganesh Chaturthi festival? What are the various customs and traditions prevalent in your religion or state?

39 comments:

  1. @Anu What a wonderful example you are setting through your eco friendly celebrations. To be the change we want to see in society certainly has a tremendous power to encourage others to follow same.

    @Santosh Very new to me but your in house celebration images and apt description
    really gave me the feel of being there right through.

    @Abhi Majority of Mumbaikars, including me, celebrate the festival like you do and I could so very well identify with your idea of Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations.

    @Mercury People in the villages of India still do tend to celebrate the festivals in the most traditional and simplest of ways and I fully agree that the real beauty and enjoyment does lie therein.

    Ganesh chaturthi is one festival that is always seen to transcend borders and unite people. Many Thanks to @All for coming here. It was a truly wonderful experience and a great pleasure to have my diary filled with your thoughts :-)

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  2. Love this article that brings out the different ways of celebrations of the popular Ganesha festival across places.
    Many thanks for the opportunity given :)

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  3. Great work, Arti, putting this together! I loved reading all the other contributions..

    @Santosh: lovely description.. my mom does the gauri and ganpati puja every year, and I sorely miss it!

    @Abhi: My son will surely agree with you... he usually hates taking off his floaters when we go out, but during ganpati he takes out his floaters outside every ganpati, big or small, just to go and get the prasad!

    @Mercury, that was really interesting... the idea of praying to Shiva and parvati on the 4th day was a new one! had heard of gauri coming on the 4th day in maharashtra, but this was new!

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  4. Superb pictures- loved Anu's Ganesha with Cheru:) Thanks for the detailed narration Arti.

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  5. That is good work and a great idea bringing these bloggers together Had a taste diff. celebration at one single point.
    Our community do not keep Ganesh idols at home , we have a big celebration in the temple where puffed rice and jaggery, coconut mixture is offered to the deity along with modaks. The prasad is distributed in eco friendly plates made out of layers of banana tree stem... I miss all that now.
    Now a days I make modaks and offer to my Ganesha at home...Do not go to temples on festival days as it gets overcrowded and lot of jostling happens which I do not like.

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  6. Ganapathi bappa Moraya. Indeed this festivals is one that fills you with so much of life and energy. Especially Mumbai Ganapathi- Loved the clay Ganesha. My Jui made one with clay at home and we worshiped the same this year. Will post pics soon.

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  7. Really interesting to read about all these different ways - I had no idea there were so many.

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  8. Those jasmine garlands smell heavenly :-)

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  9. Wow! This post has really come out superbly. It is great to know how this festival is celebrated across the country.

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  10. Ganpathi bappa mourya, pudcha varsha laukar ahiya, i hope i got it right Arti, good collaboration of the festivity, i hope some others too join in with other festivity too.

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  11. Great works, thanks for putting these 4 different ways of celebrating same festival in a single post .

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  12. I sure do like the idol you and your son made, very nice indeed. I also liked to learn the four different ways of celebrating. I like all the different ways your country celebrates. Thank you for coming by.

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  13. I agree with Team G, I really enjoyed reading about the different ways of celebrating the festival! Terrific post and captures as always, Arti! And I love the flowers and colors -- beautiful! Hope you have a lovely evening and a great weekend!

    Sylvia

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  14. What a wonderful post. I felt I reached homes of you all. Thank you so much for sharing.

    @Anu

    I really loved the idea to make the Ganesha Idol at home. And it's made so beautifully.....:). Unbelievable.

    @Santosh - really divine.

    @Abhi - nice to see mumbai Ganesha I was waiting desperately.

    @merCury - I feel really great devotion, while reading the traditions.

    REALLY Great.....I am sharing it.....

    Arti - your idea is really wonderful.

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  15. Arti, this is such a beautiful post, felt like I was a part of festivities. :)

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  16. Delightful post !A Very Special Post!Thanks to Arti ,Anu ,Abhi,Satosh and Mercury for sharing .

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  17. This is very interesting, I did not know about making the idols, then immersing them to where they came from. The cycle of life...

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  18. Thank you for coming by my blog and for the nice comments. One could certainly learn a lot from your posts. Very interesting reading about the festival and the idols. Have a lovely weekend, and come back and visit soon. Mickie :)

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  19. Love this post.It is very much interesting
    to know the views of people of different
    cultural backgrounds on Ganesh Chaturathi
    celebrations.Ganesh is the symbol of "Subh"
    and have many deeper spiritual meanings.

    My heartily thanks to you Arti ji,for
    reminding to publish new post on 'Sita-jnm'.
    I would try my best to publish it one or two days.

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  20. Hi Arti,
    In Japan there is the Bon Festival to respect ancestors in August. And also the way to respect ancestors depends on the sect though feeling to respect is same.
    It's interesting that they immerse it and return earth.
    I enjoyed four different way in your blog.
    Have a lovely weekend!
    Sarah

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  21. great lord Ganesha pics, different artistic, superb.
    nice concept.
    well done.

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  22. Beautiful is the word. Liked the way you combined 4 posts. Especially liked the idea of immersing Ganesha in a bucket at home. Have heard for the first time but definitely a great idea to make the festival eco-friendly. Cheers! :)

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  23. Love all these Ganesha figures - would like to make one myself - or paint him? Happy weekend to you!

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  24. Pretty awesome. I like this post very much. Nice writeup. :)

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  25. First kudos to Arti for this wonderful idea. And then to all four for showing us different faces of this festival.

    Anu, I praised your home made Ganesha at your blog too & I do the same here.
    you are setting a wonderful example through it.

    Very delightful post.

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  26. Great post full of interesting details and colourful photos, thanks for sharing

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  27. Hi Arti, it is so nice of you to share these festivals and customs. Your post is so informative.

    Thanks for your nice comments on my blog.

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  28. Loved reading it - each part is brief and yet full of significance. I specially liked Anu's idea of making the idol with my own hands ..

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  29. What a lovely idea! I enjoyed reading these four different points of view and I felt the unity.

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  30. That was a wonderful compilation Arti. The effort is truly worthwhile. We are a nation united by diversity in everything and celebrating the same festival is one of them.

    @Anu: Loved your Ganesha, but loved the smaller ones made by your son more! :)

    In my mother's family the tradition of making clay idols by hand still continues and practice has made perfect. My brother now continues the tradition. We used to leave the idol in the pot of Tulsi to become one with the soil.

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  31. Great effort, Arti, bringing together the bloggers. All the decorations are great, especially Ganesha decorated with chemman.

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  32. What a lovely concept...more power to you all...lets more collaboration between indies :)

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  33. Hi,

    Came across your space today. V nicely presented.
    Visit me at smart-snacks.blogspot.com

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  34. nice bunch of posts with different photos of Ganapathi

    thanks for sharing

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  35. my 1st comment on my fav post and fav ganpu :) :) loved the wonderful idols (esp. the handmade ones) and the concept of bringing bloggers together :) hapy dussera to you and your loved ones, arti!

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  36. It's late when im found your blog, but let try next year, i will send you the ganesha chaturti celebration in my country INDONESIA..

    Ganpati Bapa Morya...

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