Celia in India- Happy Birthday Ganesh!

September 20, 2012

“Yesterday was Ganesh’s birthday and the Ganesh festival will be celebrated for the next 9 days. Ganesh is one of the Hindu Trinity gods, he’s the elephant one with all the arms, and he’s my favourite because he is the remover of obstacles, pray to him before you go off on a trip!

The Ganesh festival is celebrated with Poojas (which is sort of like a seder), and the Ganesh idol (statue) is the most important part. We’ve been seeing these carted all around town for weeks now. From small ones sitting on the lab of the guy on the back of the motorcycle, to huge ones in the backs of trucks! And… Hyderabad boasts the record for the largest Ganesh! It’s several stories high and we will go and see it next week! (They go crazy with this holiday in Mumbai too but I think we still have them beat.)

So what should Ganesh look like? Well he has big ears to show that you should listen, and small eyes to show that you should concentrate. And in his left hand he holds a ball of ghee, his favourite food. A small mouse is always at his feet to eat the crumbs that he drops. And his right hand is raised in greeting. This is the basic Ganesh but then of course there are tons of derivations. I learned this from a woman running at Ganesh making workshop for school kids here in Hyderabad. A bunch of us CIEE kids went, pretending to be actual kids, and got in on the workshop with the guise that we were helping the kids, we still got to make some too though ;) . It was on the floor of the office of the organization, which is sort of an after school care for school kids. They had a huge pile of clay from a nearby lake spread out and showed us how to make them. The workshop was marketed as being eco-friendly, because we were using clay.

So what do you do with your Ganesh idol? Well drape flowers on it and pray to it. And then on the last day of the festival, submerge it in the lake! Why? Well traditionally they were all made out of clay. But nowadays they are mostly plaster and plastic and spray paint and glitter. But when they were clay, you would take the clay from the lake and then when you submerged it in the lake it would return to the lake, showing that Ganesh would come again every year. But now even though they are no longer made of clay many are still submerged in the many lakes around and it’s a huge pollution problem.

We went out yesterday into “Greater Hyderabad” (ie into the actual city and not way out here on the outskirts where the U is), and there were Ganesh’s EVERYWHERE!! Neighborhoods would have ones(huge ones, like 30 feet or more) just tucked away in alcoves out on the street and everyone was coming to leave offerings, and to take pictures, just like us! And we stumbled into a lot selling the statues too and even saw a guy adding the final touches to the paint job on one! Everyone was in a festive mood. Happy Ganesh Birthday!!!

Happy Birthday Ganesh!!”

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