Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
A tryst with Ganesha
Yesterday, I was stuck in the worst traffic jam ever. It took me half an hour to move two inches.Given that it was 4 pm on a weekday — hardly peak hour in Mumbai, I wondered what had caused this aberration.
Enlightenment came from unexpected quarters. “Ganpati aa rahe hai aaj (Lord Ganesha is arriving today) my taxi driver informs me. Aah, wisdom dawns.
The festival of Ganesha is here again, the freshly painted idols (some of them 15 feet in height) are escorted to their thrones where they will be worshipped and revered for the next 11 days, starting on Wednesday.
Living in Mumbai, you can’t escape the elephant-headed god and his 11-day birthday celebrations. The crowded markets, harried housewives bargaining at crowded sweet shops, the sudden profusion of flower sellers and Ganesha idols being sold at every corner.
As a festival, it’s more public than any other. There are community Ganeshas at almost every street corner, some bigger than the other. They hold emotional appeal for residents and thousands crowd to catch a glimpse of their favourite deity.
Ganesh Chaturthi is a very traditional festival — families get together, traditional sweets are offered.
Like everything else in India, that too is changing. Technology and growing incomes have meant this festival has taken on a very modern avatar.
So there are live darshans of your favourite Ganesha on DTH, luxury Ganesha-shaped bags, gourmet twists to the regular mithais and even Ganesha-themed programming on radio and television.
For a festival that is so close to people’s hearts, there is surely a lot of money to be made from cashing in on it. As I glance at glossy posters announcing yet another Ganesha contest and peer into a box full of designer karanjis (a traditional sweet) though, my heart does ache for simpler times.