Travelling for festivals can be an amazing experience and India offers an incredible range of festivities throughout the year that draw travelers to their spectacle.
This post has been contributed by our friends at Ticking the Bucket List, Sonia and Ankur, on a Hindu festival that is huge in their home city of Mumbai.
Most people know about Diwali - the festival of light, which is now celebrated around the world and has just ended, and the colours of Holi feature on the covers of many a guidebook, but our feature today is probably less well known in the West, but no less spectacular - Ganesh Puja.
Ganesh Puja is a ten day festival culminating in major events on the final day, which is known as Ganesh Visarjan.
Nowhere other than Mumbai and Pune is Ganesh Puja celebrated on such an enormous scale - so if you are interested in this spectacular event book your ticket to Mumbai for September 2015!
Their article has inspired us to cover some of the less well known Indian festivals in more detail in future...stay tuned.
Our thanks to Sonia and Ankur for the words and photos.
Ganesha is an interesting looking God, with the body of a man and the head of an elephant. He is dear to most Hindus. In Hinduism it is believed that no task can be accomplished successfully unless Ganesha is first worshipped. He is also the first to be worshipped before any religious rites commence. Ganesha is also my favourite as he has a sweet tooth!
The Mythological Background
Lord Ganesha is the son Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. One day, while Shiva was away, Parvati made a little boy out of sandalwood paste and gave him life. This was Ganesha. She asked him to stay guard while she took a bath. When Shiva got back, he wanted to see his wife. When Ganesha continued to guard his mother, Shiva was so furious that he cut Ganesha's head off. When Parvati saw this, she was enraged.
Shiva promised to get her son back and ordered his followers to find a suitable head! They came back with the head of an elephant. Shiva gave Ganesha's body the head of the elephant and breathed life back into him. However, Parvati and Ganesha were upset at his 'different' looks, believing he would not be respected.
To ensure that Ganesha is respected and worshipped, Shiva granted that Ganesha's blessing is a must for commencing any and every task. No task would be successful unless Ganesha's blessings are sought at the beginning!
When does the festival occur?
The festival typically occurs in the second half of August or first half of September. The date is decided as per the Hindu lunar calendar. The festivities last for over 10 days, with the last day being the Ganesh Visarjan - when the main events, including the processions throughout the city occur.
In 2015 Ganesh Chatuthi ((also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi, Vinayaka Chavithi or sometimes Vinayagar Chaturthi) will occur on 17 September.
What really happens during the festival?
During the Ganesh Puja, Ganesha's idol is set up in houses and in community pandals. It is worshipped for the entire duration of the festival. It is said that during this time, Lord Ganesha is on Earth to grant the wishes of His devotees. There is celebration all around - loads of good food, flowers, music and festivities. There are idols as big as 50 feet that are set up by communities to enjoy the festival as a communal event.
After 10 days, the idol is taken to sea and immersed in water asking the Lord to revisit us year and hoping that the year goes by soon, blessed with prosperity. The immersion procession water is a very big event and the whole city comes out on the roads for processions.
Tips and Pointers:
- The best place to witness the festival is Mumbai or Pune. The festival is typically celebrated in the Western part of the country
- Traffic is chaotic on the 10 days. Leave your car at home and use public transport.
- Dress modestly. Loose fitting clothes that cover your shoulders and knees are ideal.
Cara and Alok like planning travel itineraries. We like it a lot.