The Pros & Cons of Ganesh Chaturthi
Ganesh Chaturthi, the festival where the Elephant-headed God is paraded through the streets and immersed in to the sea. It is the only festival in the whole of India that can bring a fast-paced city like Mumbai to a standstill.
Who is Lord Ganesha?
Ganesha, the elephant-deity riding a mouse, the son of Shiva and Parvati, Ganesha has an elephantine countenance with a curved trunk and big ears, and a huge pot-bellied body of a human being.He is the Lord of success and destroyer of evils and obstacles. He is also worshiped as the god of wealth, education, knowledge and wisdom.
How Lord Ganesha got his Elephant Head?
There are many stories as to how Ganesha got his Elephant head. As depicted in the Shiva Purana, “Once goddess Parvati, while bathing, created a boy out of the dirt of her body and assigned him the task of guarding the entrance to her bathroom. When Shiva, her husband returned, he was surprised to find a stranger denying him access, and struck off the boy’s head in rage.”
“Parvati broke down in utter grief and to soothe her, Shiva sent out his troops to fetch the head of any sleeping being who was facing the north. The company found a sleeping elephant and brought back its severed head, which was then attached to the body of the boy. Shiva restored its life and made him the leader of his troops. Hence his name ‘Ganapati’ (Lord of the People).”
Ganesh Chaturthi in Mumbai
It is the biggest and one of the longest festivals in India. A festival that people from different religious backgrounds participate and celebrate in varied ways to keep it safe and enjoyable.
However, it is definitely not enjoyed by a certain section of people due to the chaos, traffic congestion, environmental hazards and pollution it causes.
Ganesh Chaturthi lasts for 11 to 13 days and the last day is the most auspicious, where the biggest Ganpati Idols are immersed into the sea. In between there are some more auspicious days like the 6th or 7th day dedicated to Gowri Visarjan (Gowri/Gauri is Ganpati’s mother Parvati, immersion), depending on the hindu calendar.
Here are some of the snaps taken on the day of Gowri Visarjan, followed by pictures of the final day of the festival. In the picture taken below you can see a cart carrying a loud speaker and a band playing the drums, a very common scene during Ganesh Chaturthi.Here is an uncommon scene, a couple quietly proceeding to immerse Ganpati into the sea, without any fancy parade or chaos, something people in the city should probably learn from.On my way to work close to Deepak Talkies, people living under the flyover have a Ganesha for themselves.Community Ganpati immersion were started by a freedom fighter called Lokmanya Tilak. He initiated this mass celebration to increase national awareness about the Freedom movement, although now I really doubt many really know the purpose and origin of community immersions.
Nowadays political parties, set up free refreshment stalls on the big days of the festival, as well as sponsor pandals. This is a massive vote bank that they cash on during such festivals, and it’s also an easy way to please the masses.
On the final day of Ganesh Chaturthi, the streets are packed with people. Music is in the air with people dancing, beating drums, drinking, eating, blowing horns, lighting crackers, the whole place is vibrating with energy!
Most of the bigger Ganesha’s are carried in a truck, sometimes you require more than a truck to carry them and a crane to help with the immersion into the sea.
In the image below you can see everybody in saffron. The color of Shiv Sena, a pro-hindutva political party. Trucks sporting various political flags is a usual sight.
Don’t forget to take into account the perverts, there are loads of them on these festival days, when a parade with women dancing passed by, there seem to be a sudden crowd all around me, all guys behaving in a lecherous desire. Though the women didn’t care too much and continued to dance!
Children love the festival and you find many of them actively participating in the festivities, by distributing prasad with smiling faces.I shot these two videos around where I reside.
Every year the Psychedelic Community organizes a Trance Ganesha. Here is a video I found on YouTube on the 2007 Trance Ganesha.
Some people may also find 30 lakhs being spent on security, which is a complete waste of money for Lalbaugcha Raja. Lalbaugcha Raja is the lord of all Ganesha Idols in Mumbai. Lalbaughca Raja also has his own tailor. Is this a ludicrous waste of money in the name of God?
Balapur Laddu auctioned for Rs. 4.15 lakhs. Some random pictures that I took on the final day are below.
The truck below was also visible in one of the videos above, it brought with it a mini sun, I was dripping with sweat as it went by.
Can you imagine yourself stuck in a procession during Ganesha’s immersion day? I choose not to go too far on these days, especially since I stay close to the sea. Last year I had a very tough time getting home from work, this year I decided to bunk work. You should be glad, you get to read all this and see the pictures because of that!
Ganesh Chaturthi, an Environmental Hazard:
The most serious impact of the Ganesh festival on the natural environment is due to the immersion of idols made of Plaster of Paris into lakes, rivers and sea. Traditionally, the Ganesh idol was sculpted out of earth taken from one’s home. After worshiping the divinity in this earth idol, it was returned back to the Earth by immersing it in a nearby water body. This cycle represented the cycle of creation and dissolution in Nature.However, as the production of Ganesh idols on a commercial basis grew, the earth or natural clay was replaced by Plaster of Paris. Plaster is a man made material, easier to mould, lighter and less expensive than clay. However, plaster takes much longer to dissolve and in the process of dissolution releases toxic elements into the water body. The chemical paints used to adorn these plaster idols, themselves contain heavy metals like mercury and cadmium.A huge amount of Coconut Trees are chopped off and the palm leaves are used to decorate trucks used to carry the Idol during immersion.Banana Leaves are also used to decorate the trucks. Apart from the roads that are filled with trash the next day, beaches, rivers and lakes are most affected as you can see in the images below.The Mumbai police has banned the publication of damaged idols, these pictures have been taken from Juhu Beach the Day after Ganesh Chaturthi. I guess the police does not want people to be made aware and woken up to the harsh realities of the destruction of mother nature in the name of God. Here are some articles regarding Ganesh Chaturthi and the environment.
Bangalore residents save the god from causing pollution