It’s that time of the year again, where India pays homage to the Hindu elephant god – Ganesh or Ganapati, a festival that is especially celebrated in Maharashtra. One of the most favorite of all Hindu gods, because of his charm and playfulness, Ganesh is given special importance on Ganesh Chaturthi, a religious festival in Hinduism.
I know I have already elaborated, in past posts, about the festival and how it is celebrated in the city of Mumbai. While the intention of the festival is meant to be religious and fervent, it has turned out to be a glamor show, with most people making a Bollywood-like spectacle of the elephant god. Right now, as I am typing, there is music blaring from 1000 KW speakers that are house in multiple trucks around the city, blasting till kingdom come, with people drinking and dancing on the streets, all headed to the Arabian sea, where it is expected that 2 lakh (2,00,000) idols will be immersed. Poor sea….she is going to be choked with a gazillion idols, most of them made from plaster of Paris, all in the name of god!
That aside, on Sunday, I decided to go a local tour of some of the Ganesh statues that are renowned in the city. The entire city is dotted with “pandals” or man made shrines, that are temporarily erected for 11 days and house the Ganesh statues. Some of these pandals and statues are so elaborate and impressive, they are sponsored by some major businesses in the city, that get free advertising in return.
I thought I would share some of the pictures of them, so you may have a sense of what a big deal this festival is to Mumbaikers.
Every year, the prestigious Indian newspaper, The Times of India, awards the most creative and beautiful Ganesh, in all of Mumbai. The above idol has been given this honor, on several occasions, which is why people generally go to great lengths to have elaborate and magnificent statues. This plaque was displayed near the statue:
Moving on, I saw some very innovative Ganesh statues. This one is half Shiva (the cream colored part) and half Krishna (the blue color part). It is certainly beautifully done, when you see it up close and in person:
One statue was actually made of food, such as nuts and spices. Again, another ingenious idea, though my super-ego cant help but think of the amount of money and resources that are spent on all these statues:
Mind you, all these idols are made from Plaster of Paris, a material that is not eco-friendly and very hazardous to the environment. So, when I came across the idol below, it was a sight for sore eyes. This particular idol was made from clay, and easily dissolves into the sea:
Many of the statues also had social and environmental, as well as political messages, echoing through and through. The one below is clearly an environmental message and well portrayed, if I can say so myself. The irony and disappointment is that the idol was made of Plaster of Paris!!
I could have walked on for hours and hours, visiting the thousands of pandals in Mumbai. But after two hours of looking around, I decided to make my way home.
Tomorrow morning, when the city is just waking up to another day, the sea, having been engulfed by over two hundred thousand idols, will be scoffing up the remains, only to be haunted by the thought that this mayhem and religious fanfare (more commercial than anything) will be repeated next year.