Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the largest, loudest and most colourful festivals India has to offer. Lord Ganesh comes to town in the form of beautiful lovingly crafted clay idols and placed in homes and temporary temples (pandals) on almost every street corner. The passionate cries of “Ganpati Bappa, Morya” (Lord Ganesh, Bless Us) echo through the city. It’s a time to come together and celebrate.
The night before the festival, the whole of Nagpur comes out to collect their Lord Ganesh. Simply think of the last minute rush on Christmas eve, then times it by ten. My sister was completely amazed by the atmosphere, “everyone is just so… happy”. In traffic, if you look inside another car, you’ll see Lord Ganesh perched on someone’s lap, on his way home. Processions with drums and dancers lead the way as huge Lord Ganesh idols move across the city. Open trucks overflowing with young men tear past in a poof of pink powder.
The children must have a fantastic time. Playing in the pandals, dancing in front of the loudspeakers, handing out prasad (sweets blessed by Lord Ganesh), eating modak (Lord Ganesh’s favourite sweet!) and screaming “Ganpati Bappa, Morya” as loud as they possibly can. Our baby is too small for that, he cannot even try a modak yet, but he is learning and absorbing everything around him. Colours, shapes, sounds and smells. This festival had them all!
Baby’s First Ganesh Chaturthi
The night before the Ganesh Chaturthi, we all went to see the idols being picked up from Chitaroli (the artisan district of Nagpur). There must have been thousands of clay Ganpati Bappas, and even more people making their way through the crowds. Rohan was wide eyed the entire time, it was a lot busier than I expected. He didn’t complain, just looked in amazement at everything.
We picked up our clay Lord Ganesh on the way home, he had selected him a couple of days before. It’s tradition not to bring Ganpati Bappa into your home until the night before the festival begins (hence, the rush), and even then he should be covered in up until the next day. Ours came from an ‘eco friendly’ wallah, but next year I would love to try to make our own!
Over the following days, we drove around the city, spotting the different manifestations of Lord Ganesh. The creativity and originality of many of the idols blew my mind. Sometimes he had green skin, sometimes red, sat on a fish, on a throne, riding a mouse and we even saw one Lord Ganesh with a six-pack (it was a bit odd to see him without his pot belly!).
Any festival dedicated to a deity isn’t complete without story telling! Rohan’s aunty Sammy read him his Lord Ganesh book several times whilst she was here (US/UK/India). I bought this book whilst in the U.K., the high contrast illustrations are perfect for little babies like Rohan, and in a couple of years he will start to appreciate the story as well. The story is all about how much Lord Ganesh loves sweets, and the consequences, so it’s perfect for Ganesh Chaturthi.
After the ten day festival, it was time for Lord Ganesh to go back to his heavenly abode and be immersed. The symbolism of the festival is interesting. Clay is brought up from the bottom of a body of water, made into something beautiful and then returned, dissolved, ready to be brought up again and be made into something different. It’s a reflection of Hindu philosophy, the cycle of creation, preservation and destruction.
Recently, the roots of the festival are being lost with the demand or cheaper and more elaborate idols. Instead of using clay and natural colours, the use of Plaster of Paris and chemical paints has increased. When the idol is then immersed in a lake or the Ocean, it dissolves and causes pollution. I am certain that is the last thing Lord Ganesh would want.
How could you celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi with your kids?
This could be an opportunity to teach your children about the impact of pollution on the environment. I have thought about how Rohan can get the most out of this festival in the future, and maybe you want to celebrate it with your children next year. Here are some of the ways you could celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi with your kids:
- Create an eco-friendly Lord Ganesh idol for your home.
- Make handmade decorations out of recycled items.
- Make sweets together, especially Lord Ganesh’s favourites, ladoo and modak.