Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Ganapati Bappa Morya

















undoubtedly,ganesha is mumbai's favourite god.boy or girl,man or woman,maharashtrian or non-maharashtrian,there is no second guessing regarding the mumbai manoos's god preferences.even non hindus-muslims,parsis,buddhists and jains join the bandwagon.the fondness for ganpati bapa,the potbellied hot favourite,reaches its crescendo on the tenth day of the ganesh chaturthi festival.eunuchs too don't want to be left out of all this happening.they have their own way of saying "we love you too" to ganesha.conceived originally by freedom fighter bal gangadhar tilak to bring together the locals to address them on the freedom movement during the british rule,the ploy has stuck on.the glue is so strong that nothing can remove the bond that has developed between man and their cosmic companion.

who after all is this superduper god? venerated so fondly.the lord of the hosts.gananam pati:,ganesha,ganesh,ganapati,pillaiyar(tamil),vinayagar(tamil),vinayakudu(telugu)are his different names.ga symbolises intellect and na wisdom.so,he is the personification of intellect and wisdom.and hence vedavyasa chose him to write the mahabharatha which he did after breaking off his tusk and using it to pen the epic.when asked to go allover the universe to ascertain the ultimate ruler by their parents siva and parvati,his younger brother karthikeyan(murugan)embarked on a long journey of the three worlds, while the clever ganesha circambulated his parents,parvati and siva and in a second answered their question.siva reperesents matter and parvati energy resulting in sound and light,ganesha and skanda repectively. asked to guard her privacy and not to allow anyone to enter while she was bathing,he incurred the fury of his own father siva.siva cut off his head angry over his son's refusal to allow him to enter his own room.at the pleading of parvati to save her son's life, siva rushed out and chopped the head of the first mammal that he saw and transplanted it over his son's head. he rides on a mouse and is often represented sitting on the ground with one leg raised in the air and bent over the other.bigbellied,yellow or redgold with four arms and head of a one-tusked elephant.merchants and businessmen worship him along with lakshmi for removal of obstacles(vigna+hartara= obstacle remover) and wealth.nothing is begun without invoking him.that is his spell and bind on the hindu psyche.his devotees are referred to as ganapatya.

elephant head,single tusk,wide ears,curved trunk,pot belly,four arms,each has its individual importance and significance.ganesha is believed to have been born from the dirt over his mother's body without the intervention of her husband siva.ganesha was so besotted by his mother's beauty that he agreed to marry only if his bride would as beautiful as his mother.he remained a bachelor.this is the story in the south.while in the north, people believe that he was married to the two daughters of brahma,the creator.some of his other names are omkara,balachandra,chintamani,gajanana,ekadanta and sumukha.

this year ganesh chaturthi was on august 27 and ananthachaturthi on 6th september.the first day is the start of the festival and the last day is the final immersion or visarjan.some also immerse after one and half days,three days,five days and so on.the maximum number of immersions are kept on the last day.it is a spectacular event when the idol is taken in procession from the pandal to the waterbody.he is loaded on a truck filled with bhaktas and preceded and followed by his devotees who dance and sing and shower gulab rejoicing all the way.

'dance ganesh' is a phenomenon that started seven years ago with a few devotees.this now sees a turnout of thousands with djs participating in the psychedelic journey. the convoy has a mobile generator,two 40 feet trailers decked with a sound system,lights,lasers,two dance floors and a dj cabin.attached to this is a mobile stage for live acts leading to a 100 meter long dance floor on the road followed by the final truck which carries the ganesha idol.the speakers are suspended to create 45,000 watts of 'flying sound' enough to cover the entire dance floor.

over the years, the traditional use of natural clay has been replaced by plaster of paris due to its lightness,cost and manoueverability.coated with chemical paints and decorated with thermocole they are a disaster as they impact the ecosystem and pollute the water in lakes,rivers and sea.some action groups have been actively campaigning for green ganeshotsavs.ecosensitive ganesha idols made out of shaada matti are painted with natural materials such as red earth and turmeric.they are ornamented with wooden beads and cloth.the idol is kept on a tray made out of arca palm leaf.after the completion of the rituals,the idols are immeresed in a bucket of water which is safely drained into one's garden.the revival of clay idols has begun. hopefully next year there will be more of them and less pollution. a school student has found an innovative way of making ecofriendly ganpatis.with the help of riverbed clay he made idols and put them out to dry.due to the rains that didn't work and so he dried them in the microwave instead.the student immeresd the clay idols on visarjan day in a bucket at home.the lump was then used to make ravana for dassera.that is ecosensitive recycling!

some feel that the festival has become a farce.the vulgarity and nefarious activities including extortion has left a blot on the city. they would rather like the festival to be celebrated in a simple and respectful manner.

also this year because of 7/11,mandals took no risks and there was heavy bandobust in almost all the big pandals.everything from pedas to coconuts were screened! wives of 72 cops whose husbands were on bandobust duty celebrated ganesh chaturthi sans their husbands and put up an all-women show in police colony,chembur.and in wadala,the dadar parsi colony residents also helped in the poojas and other rituals.shenaaz nadirshah,a senior executive in balaji telefilms has been bringing home a ganesha for the last five years. bejan daruwala(the famous astrolger,ganesha says)'s daughter sanobar,visited seven ganapatis a day during this year's ganeshotsav.she believes that it brings her luck.says bejan daruwala,"the reason he is loved is because he is a personal god whom you can bring home and tell him your thoughts because he is very comforting".shenaz bought a metal idol and the same night dreamt of the idol being decked with flowers and lighted with diya. since then she made an altar at home to keep the idol.shanaaz also visits the agiary reularly.she considers herself to be more of a spiritual person than a religious person.you are born into a faith,she says,but the faith you follow is your choice.

then there is a ganesh mandal which is a blessing in disguise for those who have some vices. smoking,drinking or chewing gutka.people who worship here have to sign an oath to rid themselves of a vice.the person has to take water in his palm,chant 'om gan ganapathaye namaha' eleven times and then take an oath to quit his vice and then he prays to lord ganesha to give him strength to get rid of the bad habit.this year people poured in to sign up. for the last 26 years,a mandal in vashi,navi mumbai,claims to host the tallest ganesha in the city.At 12 feet,sitting atop a huge jasmine flower,ganesha weighs 600 kgs. you have crorepati ganpatis too.lalbaugcha raja mandal had its ganapati draped in 5 kgs of gold and 10 kg of silver worth about 50 lakhs.a devotee donated a maruti car! the gsb wadala ganapati has his crown,palm,legs and ears of gold.the ornaments are worth 4 to 5 crores.the 17 ft statue was decorated with 60 kgs of gold and 175 kgs of silver. a ganesha was tagged with bill no 786,a holy number for muslims.coincidentally, the president of the mandal is a muslim.he was delighted at the coincidence and said that the ganesh festival transcends faiths.and a purohit donated rs 786 to temples and dargahs and fed as many people on 07/08/06.the arabic letters of the opening phrase of the holy quaran are "bismillah al-rahman al- rahim".according to one arabic system of numerology the total of these letters is 786. reverend david heart,a theology professor at winchester university,celebrated ganesh puja in kerala wearing a dhoti. he has changed his middle name to anand krishna das from allen.he says that he is as much a hindu as a christian.he bought a ganesha idol,performed pooja for 10 days and immeresed his idol in the kerala sea.he referred to hinduism as a broad-based catholic and secular faith that allows one to interact with god without mediating forces."here everybody can have his own concept of god.nobody is pushed around".

there is a temple belonging to the third sex(eunuchs) at navi mumbai. for the last 24 years the eunuchs have been celebrating ganeshotsav.they pray for completeness of a man or a woman.and they plead with god not to make them an eunuch in their next birth.not to clash with other immersions, the eunuchs in kalyan did their visarjan on the thirteenth day.

among many other things that we export,there has been a huge demand for ganesha idols,from london,bangkok and new york.demand for small ganesha idols has become international.made out of naturally occuring clay the rush of foreign clients is unprecedented.ganesha has indeed gone global.indonesia which is an islamic country,has in its national currency(the rupiah) lord ganesha sharing space with former indonesian president ki hadjar dewantara. worshipped as sho-ten(holy god) and kangi-ten(god of joy and harmony)in japan,kuan-shi t'ien or ho tei(large bellied god of happiness) in china,he is also reverred in thailand,malaysia and cambodia.he is known as viakosha in central america and mexico where he has been discovered during excavations.

finally ganapati bappa went back.the most charming and democratic reflection of mumbai's culture was given a fond farewell by lakhs of devotees.he met the silence of the seas.'putcha varsha lavkar ya'. come soon next year.playing trumpets,cymbals,bass drums and flutes and dancing to tunes of popular bollywood numbers,youngsters and old alike continued their immersions till the early hours of the morning.they bid adieu to their favourite elephant god with tears in their eyes with a fervent prayer for an early return next year.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I remember so well the big Ganapatis they used to take down Linking Road towards Juhi Beach. We were children and we would invariably find our way to someone's terrace and watch the spectacle from there - we didn't dare go on the roads on an immersion evening because of the crowds, the inebriated dancers and the scary drum beats - it was a whole lot of fun watching it at a distance however!

Very interesting piece, thank you. I hadn't realized the new lengths to which this celebration has gone. Since thousands upon thousands of Ganapathi idols are immersed every year, ecosensitive recycling is absolutely necessary, so necessary it should be made mandatory. Thanks also for a little history on how the Ganapathi procession had its genesis - that was fascinating!

gs said...

hello lotus reads
many thanks for your comments.you must have become nostalgic when you read the piece.it is like the durga immersion for us who were brought up in kolkata.those scenes are still vivid in my mind.it was a longish posting;but then,i just couldn't contain myself.it is fascinating to watch the mumbaikars during ganapati festival days.they look so happy and contended.you see them in that state only during this period.

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