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Eleven Days of Ganesh

It can’t be easy being Him

For some reason, what is¬†known as the Ganapati¬†Festival in Mumbai is called¬†just ‚ÄėGanesh‚Äô in Goa. In fact,¬†people actually wish each other Happy¬†Ganesh. It‚Äôs like saying Happy Jesus to¬†friends and family around 25th December.¬†Since the Hindu calendar closely
follows the seasons, the Ganesh Festival is celebrated around the end of the monsoons. Or at least when the rains are on the wane. Local fruits are a-ripening. Which means, when all family members are gathered together for a chat and a gossip, along with the tea one has
bananas, more bananas, a couple of sweet melons or squashes followed by bananas. Crisp snacks, the kind one makes at Diwali, go soggy, so it’s bananas all the way… ah, memories. Cousins, aunts, great aunts, grand aunts and their male equivalents in various continents do their best to co-ordinate timings, for a family that skypes together, stays together, right?

Rare creatures like we who don’t have a Ganesh celebration at home are expected to visit homes where His statue is installed. We eat the same goodies in every house. The thermocole decorations and plastic festoons seem to get more garish with every passing year. Quite often the statue is made of Plaster of Paris and discarded bandages. Cheaper than the traditional clay models, I’m told.

For some reason, small Ganesh statues¬†are rare. Some families have statues of¬†Him several feet high and in Mumbai¬†several storeys high (these statues have¬†to be hauled by cranes onto trucks and¬†transported at night when the traffic¬†isn‚Äôt affected). Goa is still not infested by¬†the Sarvajanik (or co-operative) Ganesh¬†culture. This system, started by Mr Tilak during the Freedom Movement to get¬†people together, is prevalent in Mumbai,¬†the seat of the Ganesh Festival tamasha.¬†Several buildings in a locality jointly host¬†a Ganapati (same chap, different name)¬†celebration. ‚ÄėDonations‚Äô are bullied out¬†of residents of the neighbourhood. They¬†are used for the decorations, eats and¬†to organize competitions for children¬†(simple races, poetry recitation, fancy¬†dress) and to swell the wallets of the¬†organizers. Helps if a rich builder or¬†industrialist lives in the area. Specially if¬†he‚Äôs a law non-abiding sort who is willing to shell out many rupees to keep mouths¬†shut. Dear innocent Ganesh doesn‚Äôt have¬†a clue what‚Äôs happening right below his¬†trunk.

The trunk. That elephant head ¬†proves that India knew all about organ¬†transplants, even animal to human¬†surgeries wayyyy back thousands of¬†centuries ago. The new government¬†hasn‚Äôt yet included that ‚Äėfact‚Äô in¬†textbooks. It should, so we can take pride¬†in what our ancestors did. Never mind¬†that now we have little to gloat about.¬†But I wander‚Ķ

The immersions are done on day two, five, seven and eleven, depending on how long the family is hosting Him. It’s an exciting ritual and yet a sad one because the deity has to be bid farewell to until next time, a year away. It’s a photo-worthy, traffic-stopping occasion. Everyone’s dressed in shiny clothes. The idols are carried to the sea/jetty/river and young men are hired/bullied to carry them.

ganesh immersion

Commonly, though, I’ve seen people stop their cars on the Mandovi bridge and toss their favourite god over the railing into the flowing Mandovi below. Never understood how an object that was treated with tender reverence can in minutes be no different from a bag of
garbage. And the people rush to¬†the fish market to make up for¬†the vegetarian meals that they¬†had to ‚Äėsuffer‚Äô whilst He was¬†visiting. Human nature is¬†always interesting.

All the frolic and commotion is suddenly over and routine rules once more. The three days of holida take another three days to recover from.
Ganesh watches benignly, ensuring that there aren’t any obstacles to that! As the Lord of Learning and the dispeller of difficulties, His task isn’t easy in today’s India. He has to make students pass, give young people jobs, help the ill recover from disease, bless new homes, and cars, too. He has to attend weddings,and accept thanks at a million shrines and temples all over the country. Actually,
all over the world now. He also has to¬†attend to internet prayers; it must be¬†difficult for a busy God to keep pace with¬†technology. But He does all that, year¬†‚Äėround, sparing a few days to visit the¬†west coast of India, and Goa.