Today is a big, big holiday in the South and West of India–it’s Ganesh Chaturthi, the festival (and birthday) of Lord Ganesha, son of Shiva and Parvati, who is instantly recognisable as the Hindu deity with the elephant’s head.
For the last week or so street vendors have been setting up roadside camps selling Ganesh idols, and temporary outdoor stages, kitchens and shrines have been constructed in random places (often completely obstructing the road) in preparation for this big festival which actually starts on 19th September but runs for 10 days.
As I walked home from work last night the traffic was even more crazy than usual, electric lights were strung up everywhere, and people were buying flowers, sweets and huge bunches of banana leaves. One of the little backstreets I usually walk down had been completely transformed with pulsating rope-lights, more Vegas than Koramangala. The streets were buzzing with anticipation.
The reason for selling so many idols is that they get paraded through the streets, either carried or on the back of a truck, and then finally they are ritually immersed in a lake or the sea. Around 265,000 are immersed in just 4 lakes in Bangalore each year.
Traditionally they are made out of plaster of paris, but this being the 21st century there’s much talk in the media about “eco-idols” which are made out of clay and so won’t result in the lakes being clogged up and polluted due to the large numbers being left there.
Some of the idols are real works of art, and the large ones are very expensive, with 6-foot ones reportedly selling for around Rs 15,000 (£170) this year.
Some of them are also rather… interesting.
So, we seem to be well and truly into the “festive season” again now, as I wrote around this time last year, although since most of the religious holidays are based on lunar calendars they all move around from one year to the next. There are several national holidays in October and I’m planning to join some of them up using a few days’ leave and make a trip up North… watch this space.
Meanwhile, here’s to new beginnings and the removal of obstacles!