Sunday, September 19, 2010

Ganesh Festival - The Life Cycle of a Ganesh Statue

The Ganesh Festival is one of my favorites and this year I have seen it from beginning to end. Here's the low down on the life cycle of a Ganesh statue:

It all starts with mud.

In Pottery Town potters start making Ganesh statues six months in advance. They churn out fingers and toes, bellies and trunks and heads.

Eventually all the parts are put together: big and small, painted and unpainted, simple and ornate. Some are funny, some are happy, some are scary.

Ganesh is one of the most popular Hindu Gods: the God of wisdom and good fortune; the destroyer of sorrows and the remover of obstacles.

Every family carefully chooses a Ganesh statue to take home. Villages build "pandals," small tentlike structures, to house a larger Ganesh - where everyone can go and worship Ganesh together. It is very much a festival-like atmosphere. Impromptu dancing and music are very much part of the celebration.

The festival carries on for eleven days. During that time everyone chooses a day (certain days are more auspicious than others of course) to gather together - whether it be a small family or the entire village - and take the revered statue to a lake, ocean, river and immerse the statue in water. Sometimes it becomes a procession with drums and singing and Ganesh's pulled along the city streets on tractors. Sometimes it is a small Ganesh carried in a plastic bag.

At the lake puja usually occurs: some chanting, clapping of hands, ringing of bells and lighting of a flame. A coconut is cracked open and an offering of food and flowers is given.

Finally the statue, be it big or small, painted or unpainted, simple or ornate, is dunked into the water three times and then completely immersed and let go under the water...

where it eventually disolves...

...and becomes mud...

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