A tryst with Ganesha

September 2, 2008

ganesha.jpgYesterday, 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.



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Whom are you writing this for Ms Shilpa Jamkhandikar? Your write up is so childish and has same words that half journalists have been writing in India for the last 50 years. Grow up and write some thing that may make some sense and also show writers maturity level. Or you just want to write as if you were writing for high school drop outs in the great western media.

Posted by Nick Jaggi | Report as abusive

what is the point being made here?

Posted by PC | Report as abusive

Don’t know what the point of this article is, but as a Bombay-ite currently living in the west, I miss the Ganesh festival so much. It’s a wonderful celebration of community and human spirit once a year, where everything else is forgotten and everyone comes together to decorate, feed the poor and enjoy the celebration of life.
I am proud of being part of countless Ganpati organising meetings and I welcome this tryst with Ganesha, doesn’t matter what the traffic problems are.

Posted by sohail | Report as abusive

The festival of Ganesha in India seems to reflect the festival of Christmas in America. For years Christmas has become more and more “commercial” and people buy idols of Santa Claus and his elves to display prominently much as people in India buy their idols to display, many becoming extremely elite and expensive. As Christmas is a birthday celebration of Christ, so Ganesha is an 11 day birthday celebration. Christmas also is a man made “tradition”, not a biblical mandate to the followers of Christ. Believers are to celebrate the death and resurrection of God’s Son; nowhere in Scripture are they called to celebrate His birth, which has become a paganized, commercial holiday modeled after the “new birth” each year of the sun god Sol, also reflective of the “resurrection” of Tammuz, son of the “queen of heaven”, Semarimis (who was married to her son Nimrod). This was the beginning of the Babylonian religion which has continued throughout history from the beginning until this day and is currently manifested in ALL the “religions” of this world. When the Bible says “Come out of her My people”, the “her” is representative of any and every worship of false gods, gods which have no power except the power to kill, to steal, and to destroy the one, true God’s creatures (you and me). The Bible says: “For God so loved the world (you and me)that He sent His only begotten Son(the Lord Jesus Christ), that whosover believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world (you and me)through Him might be saved.”
God the Father loves you so much that He sent His Son to die as redemption for your sins, and He raised Him from the dead that you would know that you also have the promise of eternal life with your loving Father (God)in heaven. Do not be deceived by false gods who cannot answer your prayers and your needs, but seek the true God of creation – the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for you that you might have salvation and eternal life in Him.

Posted by Bo Havlik | Report as abusive

Shilpa, thank you very much for this entertaining article. Contary to some of the comments made, I liked the language used and thought it was appropriate for the light-hearted nature of the piece.

For people who are not Indian and don’t live in India, articles like this really give insight into the daily life of an Indian.

Religious festivals, funerals, weddings tell you so much about a culture and how people live.

Thanks once again for widening my horizon.

Posted by Toastie | Report as abusive

A complete cut copy paste from the net… CH CH CH..

Posted by chandra | Report as abusive

I am seeing this piece after so many days. Shilpa’s piece lends itself to the following interpretation: (mine of course”: (1) Shilpa lives in a locality where she doesn’t get to know anything about Ganesh festival. She has to know it accidentally when she is caught in a traffic jam. (2) the way she calls ganesha “elephant-headed god reminds me of Karl Marx when he was writing about Asiatic Mode of Production…talks of monkey god, referring to Hanuman. I can forgive marx for his language…but I cannot forgive my compatriot referring to Ganesha in that language…what kind of parents brought her up? I am a christian…I have a daughetr to whom I read stories about Hanuman and Ganesh…She loves them…and living in a country that I do…I want her to.
(3) lastly, the cynical way the author talks about the technology…darshans…she seems to me worse than the most cynical secular writers…(4)shilpa you must tell us why all this ganesha buisiness is a joke for you and its newsworthiness begins with a traffic jam… (finally…let me also say that it is this kind of attitude (i am really wondering where it comes from) that unleashes the Bajrang Dal kind of maniacs who think they are justified when they go an burn nuns….

Posted by davala | Report as abusive

(5)today I see a large section of young people…well meaning…ambitious…but see their own society from some other spectacles…(I hope shilps …you get my point.) You are otherwise …a good writer…
(best wishes)

Posted by davala | Report as abusive