Monday, August 24, 2009

Ganesh Chaturthi

This is why we are in India - to experience the people and their culture! Ganesh Chaturthi is the ten day celebration of the birth of Lord Ganesh, the elephant-headed son of Shiva and Parvati. For a couple weeks now, we noticed stalls popping up filled with colorful statues of Ganesh, from palm-sized ones to almost life-size (elephant) ones, that had to be driven in the back of a pickup truck.
Saturday, the day before the start of the celebration was particularly festive. People were out to purchase their Ganesh statue, as we would a Christmas tree, checking them out from all angles, checking for color and looking for the perfect one to take home to the family.
We had gone out for lunch and had done a bunch of errands, driving here and there, watching everyone out on the streets. Finally I couldn't stand it, I asked the driver to pull over and made everyone get out so we could walk and mingle with the Indian people. Right away kids came up to us and people smiled and said hello. It was a busy street, lined with hundreds of statues, ladies selling flower garlands and handmade glittery decorations, and others selling giant banana leaves.
The next day was the start of the celebration and we decided to walk to a village just down the road from our house. We saw a temple with a giant Shiva statue sitting ontop, but before we got to it we came upon a small, temporary temple set up on the side of the road, made of blue tarps and banana leaves. It was like a tent and inside was a statue of Ganesh and offerings of food and flowers. It was decorated with garlands and Christmas lights.
A small group of people were there, both adults and children, and they waved us in. Michael and I took off our shoes and stood in one of two lines as they handed out handfuls of flower petals. We followed their lead and threw them on the statue. Next, a small flame, red powder and coconut water were brought around. Everyone waved the flame towards themselves, and painted a red dot on their own forehead. We drank (pretended) a bit of the coconut water and then threw the rest over our heads signifying God's blessing. Lastly, someone brought around some food which looked like puffed wheat which we politely declined.
Alanna and Craig looked a little uncomfortable and did not partake in the ritual, but they did allow the people to put the red dot on their forehead.
Across the street was the big temple and again Michael and I went in to see the people and their rituals. When we came out a lot of kids had gathered and they asked us to follow them to their Ganesh. So off we went down a dirt road and we came upon their little tent made of tarps and banana leaves. Inside was a small ganesh, the fire, food and all the decorations.
They were thrilled to have us there and they all wanted their picture taken. Then they would run up to see themselves on the digital screen. It was delightful and Alanna and Craig both went in the temple with the kids. Some of the parents came and laughed when they saw us and offered us some food, which we again declined. After we had taken all the pictures and had shaken everyones hands and said goodbye, we carried on with our walk. It was such a nice experience, it is what we will remember.


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  2. What a delightful read your blog! Keep your mind open for all the experiences India throws you :)

    Just a tip for future temple visits - it is frowned upon to refuse any food offerings made in temples or during festival times. It is supposed to be a holy "prasadam" offered by hosts/priests to bring you good luck and prosperity. Always accept the "prasadam" in your right hand. Pretend nibble in front of the host and trash it when you turn the corner but refuse you never :)

    Good luck!

  3. Thanks for the tip, I'll keep that in mind for the future. We got very sick in India 18 years ago when we were backpacking, hence the caution with food.I'll remember your advice for next time though...


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