The frenzied and energetic celebrations of Lord Ganesha’s birthday have reached fever pitch and if you happen to be in Goa, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh you are definitely in for quite a treat.
Ganesha, Ganpati, Vinayaga – the endearing elephant-god known by many names is believed to bring good fortune and remove obstacles. He is, therefore, the primary god to propitiate before setting out on any task.
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Witness humble clay idols of Ganesh transform into the cheerful pink and gold combination for worship. There was a time when these clay idols were made and decorated at homes. In modern times, however, grand clay idols painted in brilliant hues with gold pigments are sold by professional craftsmen. Some children continue the tradition and make their own Ganeshas of clay or turmeric.
In preparation, households, colonies or smaller communities install a statue and worship it on all ten days. This invokes a feeling of community and goodwill, where people take time to visit friends and family. On the last day (Anant Chaturdasi), huge processions carry these idols to the sea or any other water body and auspiciously submerge them. Mumbai’s Chowpatty is a good place to be on this day when millions come to the shore to submerge the largest Ganesh statues: it’s joyful mayhem. Though the celebration is intoxicating the flip side is the rise in pollution levels caused by the toxic colours and materials used to adorn the idol.
Top Tip: The best way to enjoy Ganesh Chaturthi in Mumbai is by walking into a pandal. The famous ones are The Lalbaugcha Raja and Akhil Anjirwadi Sarvajanik Utsav Mandal in Mazgaon. If you are brave enough, try to visit the city’s Siddhivinayak Temple but be prepared to line up for hours to get in.
South of India observes Vinayaga Chathurthi as a more homespun affair. Temples host special prayers but the birth of Ganesha is celebrated at homes. Clay idols of Ganesha are decorated with cotton garlands and flowers with tiny paper craft umbrellas to shield the idol. The idols are usually immersed at ponds, wells, lakes or the sea closest to each home.
Rice flour dumplings are steamed and offered to the deity as prasadam on Ganesh Chathurthi. Fillings for sweet modak (or modagam or kozhakattai in Tamil) are made with coconut and jaggery while a salty one is filled with dal and grated coconut.