Sunday, August 16, 2009

Leading up to Ganesh Chaturti

In preparation for Ganesh Chaturti

Ganesh Chaturti is a celebration of the elephant-headed god of good fortune, Lord Ganesha's birthday. It is a 10-day festival that doesn't start till the 23rd of August (the date is based on the lunar calendar, and changes each year), but I was able to get some work-in-progress shots of the murtis (idols), so I thought I'd write up a post.

In preparation for Ganesh Chaturti
Waiting to be painted.

Each year, several hundred Ganeshas are made leading up to the festival. All the ones I saw were Plaster of Paris (lime or cement plaster) idols that are painted over.

In preparation for Ganesh Chaturti In preparation for Ganesh Chaturti
Depending on the kind of paint used, it can be a pretty toxic environment.

In preparation for Ganesh Chaturti

Some of the idols can be very large and have to be commissioned ahead of time,

In preparation for Ganesh Chaturti

but you can also shop around for a smaller one last minute.

In preparation for Ganesh Chaturti

During the festival, a puja is performed each day, sweets are prepared (modak is a favourite - a rice or wheat dumpling stuffed with dried coconut, jaggery, nuts and then steamed or fried), and it is generally a very festive time.

In preparation for Ganesh Chaturti
Which one is the brightest?

The festival ends with visarjan (immersion of the idol in water) in a lake, river, or the sea. Commercialisation of the festival over the years, the increasing number of idols, and the move away from using clay Ganeshas, has severe environmental consequences. People are being encouraged to "reuse" idols made of stone, and perform a symbolic visarjan in a bucket or bath tub. Considering the hundreds of Plaster of Paris Ganeshas I saw being made, I don't think it is a very popular option. Yet.

In preparation for Ganesh Chaturti

It used to be a lot of fun as a little kid, to watch the large, bright Ganeshas being paraded through town; when Plaster of Paris idols, and loud speakers with blaring music didn't use to bother us so much. This year, I'm going to channel the kid within and enjoy the festival with my husband, who gets to experience Ganesh Chaturti for the first time.

1 comment:

  1. Great photos (as always!). I love how you explain these pieces of Indian culture, and your perspective.

    Sometimes it's good to just try to enjoy something even when it's hard to forget what you know. Lately, I've been feeling this way at Christmas time--just tired of the excess, but not wanting to spoil the fun either.