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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Ganesh Chaturthi

Ganesh Chaturthi
Monita Soni

By Monita Soni, MD

On September 11 as we offer prayers to “The Ganesh idol on a swing” in my daughter’s apartment, music of “Jay Mangal Murti” on Youtube transports us to the glorious “Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations” in Bombay. Instantaneously we feel at home. 

An adorable pink clay “Baby Ganapati” smiles benevolently at us. Two lit silver lamps, a garland of hibiscus flowers, jasmine incense and sweet chick-pea ladoos, complete the picture. We bow our heads down in prayer, giving thanks for those brave first responders who sacrificed their lives on 9/11.
Twelve million “merry mumbaikars” celebrate the birthday of their beloved Ganesh. Enthusiasm electrifies slums, high-rise buildings, film studios, temples and malls alike. “Ganapati Bappa” as He is affectionately “appelled” in Mumbai is ready to “come home”. The home is scrubbed clean, in preparation. Traditional clay idols from a few inches to several feet tall (depending on one’s means) are brought home with great devotion and love. “Bappa Moria” (My Father) is installed in the home shrine with flowers and lights.” Neighbors visit each other to admire the decorations and feast on home-made sweets.
People are on their best behavior, there is “Special Guest” at home, the streets of Bombay are alive with revelry. Gigantic Ganesh idols (over 30 feet tall) hold court in big tents. Musical concerts, dramas, dances and festivities continue for eleven days. There is entertainment for all tastes, from classical genre or Bollywood bonanza. Educational seminars and civic projects also flourish simultaneously. At the end of the eleven day celebration, thousands of idols are trucked out to Bombay's beaches. Crowds line the streets to bid Ganesh adieu. (I remember hanging from the balcony as a teenager with binoculars to catch a glimpse of the ‘RK Studio Ganapathi’. Famous actor/ director, Raj Kapoor’s studio was across the street from my home in Chembur. It was thrilling to just catch a glimpse of glamorous film stars accompanying the float. ) There is a palpable sadness as the idols are ceremonially immersed in the symbolic ocean of eternal consciousness. Pudchya varshi lowker ya….. refrain echoes in the hearts of devotees. (Please come back soon). 
Ganesh is one of the most popular deities in the Hindu pantheon. Hindus worship "The elephant-headed God” before any undertaking. He is the remover of all obstacles, the guarantor of a safe passage. According to legend, Ganesh was created by the goddess Parvati, (wife of Shiva), to guard the door as she bathed. When Shiva came home, Ganesh prevented him from gaining access. Shiva chopped off his head in anger. Later Shiva relented and sent his attendants out in search for a replacement head, which they took from an elephant. Ganesh's life was renewed. This God inspires fondness easily. Everybody loves the baby elephant.
Serendipitously an elephant is the mascot of the Alabama Football team. Ganesh is a manifestation of the “Truth and Knowledge” principle.
By Monita Soni
Recent post - Caught in the Mumbai Monsoon
Monita Soni, MD -- A pathologist in Huntsville, Alabama, diagnosing cancer in her day job. Reading and writing poetry is a passion that splashes her literally with a sparkling abundance. She is inspired by great twentieth century poets (Robert Frost, Keats, Browning and Tagore) and ancient Sufi poet like Hafiz, Rumi and Faiz. Her writing style weaves eastern and western cultures. You can hear her commentaries on WLRH Sundial Writer's corner.

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