Experiencing the Hindu Elephant Immersion Festival
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One of the many colourful festivals of India, Ganesh Chaturthi is an ode to the God of wisdom, prosperity and luck- Lord Ganesh. Elephant God, as I like to call him, is said to come down on earth to bless one and all and to give mankind a reason to rejoice together. Son of Lord Shiva, one of the three main influencers in Hinduism, Lord Ganesha’s birth is a fairytale in itself but that story is for another day. Though some believe Ganesh Chaturthi to be his birthday, others talk about this festival as being a binding force between Hindus, Muslims and all other religions of the ancient era. Eid (a popular festival among the muslims) and Ganesh Chaturthi often coincide in the same week (as they did this year), and people from both religions have an added incentive to forget their differences and share their joy with one and all.
In modern day, huge idols of Lord Ganesh are installed in temples, homes and pandaals (temporary shrines) and people offer their prayers in various forms. It is believed that he removes obstacles and bestows blessings in the form of intelligence, intellect and prosperity. Though this festival is celebrated by Indians all around the world, it is only fitting that Mumbai, the financial capital of India is where this festival is celebrated with maximum enthusiasm, belief, faith, colours and of course “modaks” (For those of you who aren’t aware, Lord Ganesh’s appetite was non-satiable when it came to this Indian sweet ). 10 days of festivities make the city vibrant, positive and yes, LOUD 😀
The most meaningful ceremony though is bidding adieu to God and immersing him in water only for him to return next year. With thousands of people gathering on various corners of the Arabian Sea which spans the city, and processions of gaudy, multi-coloured idols, and energetic folk bands; the immersion pulsates liveliness and optimism with a streak of sorrow as you bid farewell to this immortal source of hope and love. With hundreds of men carrying the gigantic structures to the middle of the water body and the city chanting prayers in these final moments, the idols are allowed to sink in the water bed to nurture the earth from its very base.
Narrating a twisted tale of the cycle of death and rebirth, the immersion ceremony is an annual reminder of the fact that life no matter how grand eventually gets absorbed into nothingness. The pessimists term it “death”, and the optimists “rebirth”. Ganpatti Bappa Morya! (Literal Translation: Lord Ganesh come back soon )
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