Sunday, September 30, 2012

See you soon, Ganesha: Ganesh Visarjan, Mumbai

Good-byes make you think, they make you realize what you've had, what you've lost, and what you've taken for granted - Unknown

29th September, 2012, Ananth Chaturdashi Day: He has packed His bags and is ready to leave.

The streets are filled with devotees gyrating to songs of celebration and music. The air is suffused in vivacious chants of Ganpati Bappa Morya, Mangal Murti Morya! ...Bappa Bappa Morya... Mangal Murti Morya!

Devoteed dancing while taking Ganpati for Ganesh Visarjan, Mumbai

11 days of festivity has today reached its pinnacle and it’s a big farewell party out there. Today is Anant chaturdashi or Ganpati Visarjan, the final day of Lord Ganesha’s journey on earth. Today, lacs of Ganesha idols will be immersed in lakes, ponds and rivers all over the city. Armed with my little camera, I make my way to the nearby Siddhivinayak temple, through thousands of devotees already out there ensuring that they give their Bappa a grand farewell. Making His way along with me is Ganesha, The Divine traveler, our friend who has today reached the final leg of His journey, better known as the Ganesh Visarjan.

A Huge Ganpati on His way for immersion - Ganesh Visarjan, Mumbai
A Ganesh idol taken on head for Ganesh Visarjan, Mumbai
Lord Ganesha being taken for Immersion

Ganesh Visarjan: A Photo Essay

At the Siddhivinayak Temple:

He assembles in the arena and waits for the final proceedings before the visarjan

Ganesha idols waiting for Ganesh Visarjan in a Ganesh Temple

The diya (lamp) is lit and Ganesh Stuti or Arti (prayer)
is performed with a lot of gusto and enthusiasm for one last time.
His face gets a divine radiance with the flame of the diya glowing clear and bright.

Ganpati Arti being performed before visarjan

Coconuts are broken and He is played Holi with!

Devotees play Gulaal holi with their Lord - Ganesh Chaturthi Festival

His smile, His beauty, His cuteness... His memories are captured

Devotees asking for blessings of Lord Ganpati ahead of Ganesh Visarjan - Mumbai

The atmosphere is charged with devotion.

A devotee in deep prayer ahead of the final ritual of Ganesh Chaturthi festival

Wishes are whispered and His blessings are asked for.

Devotees whispering their wish in the ear of Lord Ganesha ahead of Ganesh Visarjan - Mumbai

All religious paraphernalia are removed, one by one.

All religious paraphernalia are removed before ganesh immersion

The final boarding call - A loud chant of Ganpati Bappa Morya, Mangal Murti Morya...

Ganpati idol being taken for visarjan

... And He is lifted high

Ganpati Visarjan in Mumbai

Some lower their heads while He gleefully passes over them

Ganpati idols being taken for visarjan - Ganesh Chaturthi festival

At the Immersion site: The Artificial Lake at the temple

Devotees look on with eager eyes,

Devotees watching their Ganpati ahead of Ganesh Visarjan - Mumbai

All hearts crying out to their dear friend -- Good Bye... Ganesha

Ganesh Visarjan, Mumbai

Amid chants of Bappa Bappa Morya, Pudchya Varshi Lavkar Ya,
Ganesha takes His flight back home...

Ganesh Visarjan in an artificial lake - Ganesh Chaturthi Festival

These final moments of visarjan are quite heart warming not only for those who have hosted Him in their house for the past few days but also for people like me who have just been a part of the festival from the sidelines.

A small girl watching her Ganpati ahead of Ganesh Visarjan - Mumbai
A little girl in a pensive mood looks on...

But these are also the moments that, I feel, highlight the real essence of the festival. Its in these final few moments that one can see the message He has wished to convey – The Message of love and detachment, of dissolution and creation, of bonding and separation, of patience and of moving on...

As the day gets darker and night falls over, I see the the streets are filled with the same enthusiasm and are still very much alive with all the party and celebrations,

Devotees dancing - Ganesh Chaturthi festival

As I make my way back home amid all these celebrations, A speck of gulaal kisses my cheek...

And I'm suddenly reminded me of a quote by Melina Campos,

Lord ganesh looks on - Ganesh Chaturthi festival

Memories last forever, never do they die.
Friends stay together, never say goodbye.

See you soon, Ganesha!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Meeting Ganesha: Mumbai Ganpati Pandal Hopping

The current scenario here is such that if I walk around for say half an hour on foot from one place to another, I can easily peep into a dozen odd pandals set up for Lord Ganesha in the various adjoining localities.

The place I'm talking about is Mumbai - the place that celebrates the Ganesh Chaturthi festival with the most enthusiastic fervor in all of India, the place that gives you a chance to shed all your inhibitions and meet the Lord one on one, the same place where I have lived all my life. Thus, this is something that I love to do, to visit some pandals in my neighborhood, pay my respects and ask for His blessings, year after year.

Meeting Ganesha: Mumbai Ganpati Pandal Hopping

My mom tells me, The ‘Lord of knowledge and wisdom’, ‘The Remover of obstacles’ can hear our words provided they are wrapped in folds of devotion, distance no bar. So, keep aside all your work for a few moments and and join me as I hop into some of the Mumbai Pandals in my neighborhood! Let's meet our very own friendly neighborhood Ganesha!

Ganesh Pandal decorated with flowers and plants in Mumbai

A large Ganpati idol  in Mumbai Pandal decorated with coconuts, fruits and flowers

Ganesh Pandal decorated with flowers and jewellary in Mumbai

Ganpati pandal decorated during the Ganesh Chaturthi festival

Small idols of Lord Ganesha in Ganpati pandals

Huge Ganesh idol in a Mumbai pandal

Huge Ganesh idol in a Mumbai Sarvajanik Ganpati Pandal

An ashtavinayak thematic pandal during the Ganesh Chaturthi festival

Huge Ganpati Idol in Pandal decorated beautifully

While I see Him all the year around in temples and at home but meeting Him in pandals, is something different - its more personal... something that can be felt once you are there. Definitely cant be said for all, but the atmosphere in some of these pandals is really peaceful.

With the soft melody of the devotional chants lingering in the room, the smell of the incense sticks wafting through the air, the muted lighting making it more individual... its in these quiet and calm moments that help you establish a direct communion with the God, that you can actually sense His presence...

As I stare at His large life like demeanor for a few moments... A conversation between me and my mother plays in my mind...

Ganpati idol  in Mumbai Pandal decorated with coconuts, fruits and flowers

"Ask Him for knowledge and wisdom, Beta."
"But why not give him all my worries, Ma?"
"Because dear, once you will have the gift of knowledge and wisdom...
all your worries will automatically vanish away"

There is certain logic in my mom’s words...
There is a rooted trust, belief and conviction in my heart...
There is a hint of assurance in His gaze...

And together... I can sense them creating Magic...

Ganpati idol decorated with flowers in a pandal of a society

Magic that I hope,
shall make me be a better person tomorrow...

II Ganpati Bappa Morya II

--> From the Year 2012:

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Divine Traveler: Lord Ganesha (Ganesh Sthapana)

Ganesh Chaturthi Festival: 19th September - 29th September 2012

It’s been a one long year waiting... but He has kept His promise. Yes, yes... He’s back again! To be amongst us - His loved ones, to partake in all the festivities, to unify, to bond and to love and be loved all over again. He is none other than our dear friend, philosopher and guide – the tiny eyed and pot bellied – the cute, kind and affable - the birthday Boy Ganesha!

One of my favorite festivals, the annual Ganesh Chaturthi festival marking the birthday of the elephant headed and the one-tusked Lord of knowledge and wisdom - Lord Ganesha, is already on the move and with it has begun the 11 day Journey of the Lord on Earth. Leaving the comforts of His heavenly abode, the Kailash, far behind him, Lord Ganesh has settled in the scores of modest pandals, mandaps and tents set up lovingly for Him by His devotees. Now, in the next few days to follow, with a long to-do-list on His plate, He is going to be a busy man! So while He gets down to checking them out, why not we try and follow Him, in His earthly route, as we have been doing since the past two years?

Let us all come together, let's join hands, let’s be a part of (t)His travel journey... from His hometown (Kailash) to the Earth (Ganesh Sthapana) and back (Ganesh Visarjan)... and revel in all the joys of the festivities, together! :-)

Photo Essay: Ganesh Sthapana (The Welcome)

A week or so before the commencement of the festival:

The Bazaars are decked up with flowers, festoons, lightings and all sorts of decorative materials. The place where the Lord will be seated is to be made.

Artificial flowers and garlands on sale for decorating the deity of Lord Ganesha

People get down to choosing a Ganesha idol for themselves from the scores of options available in the markets. Hand chiseled by skilled artisans over a period of time, these idols are either in clay, plaster of paris or in bio-degradable substances.

A range of Ganesha idols for sale before the festival

Pandals (canopied tents - His temporary place of stay) are erected and singhasans (royal seats) are arranged for, in the lanes, societies and houses hosting the deity. The size of this generally depends on the size of the visiting Ganapati and the weight of monetary funds collected over the weeks. These tents are then brightened with colorful lights and festooned with ornamental stuffs - This will be His place of stay during His journey.

A Ganpati pandal in construction

A painted rangoli at the pandal entrance

Huge hoardings and billboards spring up everywhere you see. He is a celebrity after all! Various Ganpati mandals (associations and organizations), politicians and people from the business and trader community come out with their advertisements in an eager attempt to seize attention and gain some cookie points from all.

A Board displays the name of the organization responsible for collecting the funds and setting up the particular lane's Ganesha

19th September: The Welcome

All preparations done. Day to welcome the Birthday Boy finally arrives. People come out dressed up in their best attires to receive their dear friend. The male elder of the family holds a red colored pata (wooden seat) with a few grains of rice, a paan (betel leaf), a supari (betel nut) and some money kept on it.

A family getting ready to take Him along

With full respect and honor, incense sticks are lit up and the previously chosen Ganesha idol is requested if He would like to be a guest for the next few days and an earnest request is forwarded to come along.

Inviting Lord Ganesha...

The humble God that He is, He replies in the affirmative sending ripples of joy all across the family members. He is brought out, mounted on the pata and covered with a red chunari (cloth).

Like a blushing bride, Ganesha sits pretty... ready to be taken home

Amid the chants of ‘Ganpati Bappa... Morya, Bappa Bappa... Morya’, He is shifted to His earthly residence in rickshaws, cars, tempos or trucks.

Lord Ganesha being taken to His earthly abode

At His house... Shlokas are chanted, sacred mantras recited and arti (prayer) is performed, His red colored veil (chunari) is lifted and He breathes life.

For the next 11 days, this is where he is going to be...

With all of us... As Someone,
Less revered as a deity and more pampered as a loving member of the family.

...Stay tuned...
for His journey has just begun!

--> From the Year 2011:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Technological Marvels: Japanese Automation and Innovation

Lavatory Seat Buttons

Talk of automation, innovation, technological advancement and originality and this is what you will get... IF you are in Japan. I am not saying anything more, trusting the buttons and the graphics to do the rest of the talking for me.

Buttons at the side of a Lavotary seat in Japan
The lavatory seat side handle in Japan

Vending Machines

When you are in Japan, you are never too far from a ‘vending machine’. In every street, every corner of the lane, hotels and temple premises, subway station platforms, you will invariably come across such auto dispensing devices called the vending machines.

A Vending machine in Japan
A Vending machine, Japan
No matter what street you wander down in Japan,
watch out for "The Vending Machine"

A Food Vending machine, Japan
A vending machine selling packages food like noodles, etc
in Hotel Villa Fontaine Roppongi

Basically it is an automatic retailing machine. You need to choose the items from the display which you wish to buy, insert the currency, push a few buttons and out pops your purchase in a small compartment. Simple, time saving and cost effective!

A drinks and beverages Vending machine, Japan
A push button machine selling beverages

A touchscreen Vending machine, Japan
A touchscreen beverage selling Vending machine at a subway railway station

I mostly came across vending machines selling beverages and drinks like iced tea, mineral water, fruit juices and cold drinks. But there are many variations to it - for instance food items and umbrellas - although you will need some luck to hit upon them.

Fast Fact:

The first vending machine in Japan was made of wood and sold postage stamps and post cards. About 80 years ago, there were vending machines that sold sweets made by the "Glico Company". In 1967, the 100-yen coin was distributed for the first time, and vending machine sales skyrocketed overnight selling a variety of items everywhere.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Melbourne Memories... In Monochrome

For a few days now, I've been dreaming of going to Melbourne.  Thanks to IndiBlogger and Tourism Victoria ( who have come up with a contest –'s your time to visit Melbourne NOW!  Having returned from a successful trip of Japan, my first international tour also courtesy IndiBlogger (and Expedia)... I fancied the tagline to be speaking to me and after some deliberations, decided to give it a shot.

"What memories would you like to bring back from Melbourne..."

With this question to answer, I sat down with my pen, pencil, diary and google. The beauty in the things and the pictures that I came across made my jaw drop and ignited a new love, a new desire to visit the city and explore it on my own. Here they go, check them out -

1. Places of Peace: St Patricks and St. Pauls Cathedrals -

St Patricks Cathedral Sketch, Melbourne
St. Patricks Cathedral - A place of prayer

In the busy chaotic hustle bustle of a city as major as Melbourne, these two cathedrals stand as significant landmarks of calm, tranquility and worship. This is definitely the place where I would love to kneel down and light a candle, the place from where I would love to start my trip... with a prayer of peace, love and humanity.

2. Art Culture: Lanes and Alleyways -

Block Arcade Pencil Sketch, Melbourne
Block Arcade

I would love to set out and step in the lanes, alleyways and streets of Melbourne and get lost in them. Very few cities in the world can boast of their streets and alleyways to feature as an entity in their country’s list of top cultural attractions! Yes, Melbourne is one of them. So you can imagine why I would want to do what I said initially. Its here, in these small little lanes and arcades, that the city comes alive with its inspiring creative works of art and graffiti culture. With so much written about it, there’s no way I can miss this one and then, who knows I might get to try a bit of my hand as well!

3. Mode of transport: Tram Rides -

Melbourne Tram Pencil Sketch
Tram - An integrated mode of transport

Melbourne has the largest integrated tram network in the world and the city does an excellent job of managing it by providing free rides to tourists as well as locals at regular intervals. Both iconic and useful, I would surely love to hop onto one of these and get my dose of some free tour around the city. To see the city through the tram windows should be some fun!

4. Shopping: Queen Victoria’s Market –

Queens Market Pencil Sketch, Melbourne
Queens Victoria Market - Some souvenir shopping!

One of my much loved things to do when travelling to any land is to visit a local market.  In view of this, the Queen Victoria’s Market fits the bill perfectly. The largest open air market in the southern hemisphere, this historic market offers everything that you can think of when shopping in Melbourne – most importantly at reasonable prices and good bargains! Thus, it's no wonder that I would want to go there, take a good stroll, examine, explore and come back all bags full!

5. Eureka Sky Deck 88 -

Eureka skydeck 88 sketch, Melbourne
Eureka Skydeck 88 - Awe inspiring views of Melbourne

A 'must see' attraction, Melbourne's Eureka Tower offers breathtaking panoramas from a level as high as 88 floors from the base. The thing that I will be watching out for however is that glass cube sliding out from the building - with me inside! They say that it’s not for the faint-hearted. I say, bring it on!

6. Captain Cooks Cottage -

Cooks Cottage Sketch, Melbourne
Captain Cook's Cottage - Stepping back in time

Being a history buff and a lover of all things history, this is something that I look forward to – to discover Melbourne’s rich history and step back in time. Set in the 18th century, it will be fascinating to meander in the life of Captain Cook and his family and to learn more about them in an entertaining way!

7. Flinders Street Station –

Flinders Station Sketch, Melbourne
Flinders Street Station - A popular meeting place

Dint I tell you I love everything old and ancient. And it only makes it better when it’s filled with people. This is why Flinders street station catches my interest! I would love to stand under its very famous domed clock tower, a popular meeting place for Melburnians, and explore the sights and sounds of Australia’s oldest railway station and also the most crowded on any given day!

8. Shrine of Remembrance -

Shrine of Remeberance Sketch, Melbourne
Shrine of Remembrance - A place for contemplative reflection

It’s a place of memorial dedicated in the honor of all those who laid down their lives to make the country of Australia what it is today. The place doles out a simple message in the form of an inscription engraved on its remembrance stone - ‘Greater Love hath no man’ - a message of peace, love, unity and belonging. Being a great lover of all things peace and all things past, this one has to make it to my list. There is one more wish that I associate with this place however. I want to be present here at 11 am on the 11th of November. Why? So that I can see the word ‘Love’ from the inscription illuminated, naturally by the sun rays.

9. Yarra River -

Yarra River Pencil Sketch, Melbourne
Yarra River - The iconic river defining Melbourne

This is how I would want to end my day – besides the iconic river, in the glow of the shimmering city lights, amid the lightening flash of the fireworks on display, enveloped by the hush of the night... Pure bliss!

10. A Cup of Coffee -

A cup of coffee sketch
 A Cup of Coffee - The rich aroma and its distinct flavor

Not a huge coffee person but if I am in a coffee capital tomorrow then I have to have a cup of it! I want to sit in some old world charm café, on a wooden chair and smell the rich creamy aroma. And then try and figure out the divinity around it. After all, no city gets a tag just like that!

11. Melbourne Cricket Ground or The MCG -

The MCG is the largest, oldest and the most prominent sporting arena - a place that Australians proudly associate with some of the greatest moments in their sporting history. The open-air stadium is also one of the world's most famous cricketing venues, with the most eagerly awaited Boxing Day Test match commencing on Boxing Day (26 December) each year. Hailing from a cricket crazy nation like India and a huge fan of the sport myself, there is no way I would want to miss this mecca of all cricketing spots and if possible be lucky and catch some live action as well!

12. Culture: Moomba Festival -

I have heard that the Moomba festival brings the entire city of Melbourne together with novel eye-catching events on its city streets and riverside areas along the Yarra river. I would love to be a part of this colorful carnival.

13. People: Friendliness and Helpfulness -

I would like to be an idiot in Melbourne. What this simply means is that I wont care asking the silliest of questions. For me, these serve as nice ice breakers and give me a wonderful chance of mingling with the locals whenever I want to. My favorite way of getting to know them better!

14. Federation Square -

Simply because Federation square is a big box – It’s got everything: shopping, culture, food, sightseeing, people, and events. Sounds like a great space to loiter around and spend an evening.

15. Cuisine -

Finding pure vegetarian food in a foreign land can be quite an adventure but I just heard Australia promising me against it. With its wide array of Indian restaurants and local eateries to choose from, I look forward to see if it does keep its word.

This is definitely not all. There are a whole lot of other things that I found during my research that I absolutely wanted to do – beaches, gardens, balloons, forests, some more shopping, a little more of this and a lot more of that - the listings were endless. But then, that is what adds up to the real joy of travel - to add and delete things from your wish list and come back far richer from a wonderful experience... And that is exactly what I want to do...

I want to fall in love with Melbourne and come back with a heart and mind still beating for it. I want to come back inspired and inspire you as well by saying – ...It’s your time to visit Melbourne NOW!

Yes... I want to see all my monochrome sketches live,

A girl dreaming of Melbourne

...and paint them here...
in their real colors someday.


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