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5 September 2008

Mumbai welcomes the elephant headed Lord Ganesha

On a blazing hot wednesday, normally called Chaturthi, while most who are not locals enjoyed the public holiday sleeping in late, the local residents of the city welcomed its favorite elephant headed God, son of Shiva and Parvati.

At home, and in community pandals and mandals, the festival would be celebrated for the next ten days.

With terror threats looming and traffic and police restrictions all over the city, the average joe, jill and little ones paid no heed to any fears. It was life as normal for the city and day one was especially cool as there was next to none of the usual traffic jams.

While large pandals are decorated in bollywood style and medium size ones display creativity in various themes ranging from cricket, global warming, mythology and anything topical - I saw one with posters celebrating the Olympic medal winners - the festival really belongs to the locals of the city, irrespective of religion or status, who are the custodians of this culture.

While most of them were employed in the past by the now shut textile mills, the next generation who did not move out of the city and continue to work in some small jobs, and other traditional maharashtrian residents still hold on to the festival with great devotion and passion. Even the richer and well educated ones who may have migrated, celebrate it in foreign lands too as a link to their heritage.

In the suburbs, almost all the roads were lined with the local kistch art of posters of sponsors products (in this case a well known masala supari/tobbacco brand) and welcome messages that read 'Sarva Ganesh bhaktana hardik swagat'. Welcome to all Ganesh devotees.

The welcome 'committee' playing large size dhol or drum.

A bus stop decorated with a Ganesha in relief. A very hazy picture but that is the best I could manage from a moving vehicle and a phone camera.

Every inch of space on a round fenced garden supports posters of political parties vying for attention and of local sarvajanik (community) Ganesh pandals.

In the 21st century in the commercial capital of India a beast of burden, the bullock cart lugs a large Ganesh idol. But in some weird way it all seems very natural and fits into the wonderful contradictions of the city and nation. The organisers are all dressed in yellow kurtas.

While the drummers are in same coloured tees. But have traditional 'topis' (caps) as they play the traditional drum.

Maybe the disasters in the city, the police restrictions on loud music and timings, more awareness of global issues, rising costs or just a cycle of cultural cycle/renewal, I see a distinct shift in the festival celebrations (design, music, themes) from loud and garish to traditional and simple(r).

Tempos like these were seen transporting large and small moortis that would later be installed in pandals and homes. Sharing costs.

I love my Ganesha. A boy hugs the Ganesha he is transporting to its destination, to support and protect it from damage and mishap on the potholed roads. A charming and literal slant to the phrase, Mumbai's beloved deity.

Hand carts, taxis, tempos, personally carrying them, in private cars and SUVs, Ganesha was transported to many homes and pandals across the city where he would reign for anything from a 1.5 day stay (the minimum) to all the 10 days (maximum).

It did not occur to me to take pictures earlier of vignettes I saw. One a figurine in all white with really large prominent ears, pretty as a picture. The other cameo of a community near Prabhadevi, bringing home its ganeshas in a hand- cart. The basic wooden hand pushed kind used by vegatable vendors. As it neared its destination from where the 2-3 moortis would be taken to the respective homes after the ladies did the pooja, the simple humble folk, all dressed in their best clothes and gold in the mid-morning heat. An infant fast asleep on his fathers shoulder blissfully immune to the blazing sun and loud blaring music while yet another, danced on up and down on his fathers shoulders.

This was the welcome. Celebrations and Immersion is another story.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love Lord Ganesha :)

I listen Hindi Devotional Songs a lot!

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