We arrived at Adasa as dusk was starting to settle and the sun was setting behind the clouds. I wanted to show my sister the huge orange Lord Ganesh, up high, on the side of a mountain, above the sweeping blanket of rural Maharashtra. I had … Continue reading
Last week my mother-in-law and I went for an impromptu “picnic”. This wasn’t a British picnic, we didn’t bring sandwiches, find a patch of grass, sit down on a blanket and drink lemonade. This was a Nagpurian picnic, which I have come to realise is a little trip out of the city. I am always ready for a chance to get out of the city so we travelled about 40 km to a temple dedicated to Lord Ganesh (Ganpati Bappa), Adasa.
Asada was absolutely beautiful with its peaceful incense infused atmosphere. As the sun started to dip below the horizon, standing outside the mountainside temple we could see for miles, a huge blanket of rural Maharashtra under an orange and pink sky.
To our surprise, our impromptu picnic to a Lord Ganesh temple coincided with a festival celebrating the God himself, so the temple was full of worshippers. Don’t you just love coincidences like that? Most of the women were dressed in a style associated with North India, their pallu (loose end of the saree) pulled over their heads and heavy jewellery balancing on their brow. I absolutely love this style and it’s so different from the way Maharashtrian women dress so we guessed this festival must originate from the North.
A girl caught my eye, she looked about the same age as my youngest sister, Sophie. She had large, dark almond shaped eyes and round cheeks, I smiled at how adorable she was, my smile faded I realised something was different. She was wearing a navy blue embellished saree, the pleats were neat and the pallu perfectly placed over her head, but she was shuffling uncomfortably towards the temple. It was so strange to see a young girl, who looked to me between twelve and fourteen years old, wearing a saree.
The idol inside this temple was the biggest I’ve ever seen, the priest had to climb the twelve foot tall statue of the elephant headed God to place the garlands across his neck. This idol of Lord Ganesh had been created from a huge piece of carved rock painted bright orange, it was a spectacular sight.
As we left the temple and made our way back to the car, the girl with the almond eyes caught my eye again. I noticed she was trailing behind an elderly couple and a tall man with deep acne scars, her almond eyes to the ground, trying not to trip over the neat pleats she had been dressed in. Then I noticed the small mangalsutra around her neck and the faded mehendi on her hands. My heart dropped to the pit of my stomach and my mother-in-law looked at me, also noticing the mangalsutra, as shocked as I was.
That night I could not get that innocent face out of my mind, I still can’t. Yes, she may have looked much younger than she is but I cannot forget the way she was struggling to walk in her saree and those child like almond eyes, bringing tears to my own eyes.
As the sun started to set, it was time for our clay Lord Ganesh idol to be immersed and I really did not want him to go. After ten days of adoration and worship, we now had to drop him into the lake. I have to admit, I didn’t feel good about it. My husband and everyone else didn’t see a problem with it but, not accustomed to throwing beautiful things in lakes, I was upset when my husband picked him up to go.
Once we left the house, I could hear the rhythm of celebration across the city, processions taking Lord Ganesh idols, big and small, to the lakes of Nagpur. We got into the car and drove to the lake, with Lord Ganesh sitting on my lap, seeing literally thousands of other idols sitting on laps in cars and the backs of trucks, even pulled along with tractors. As we got closer to the lake, the roads were so busy the traffic kept coming to a stand still, everyone with a Lord Ganesh on board, heading towards the same place. The atmosphere was electric with fireworks, dancing, drums and excitement.
Just before we arrived at the lake, volunteers collected the plastic bags containing the flowers which had adorned Ganesh idols, to avoid the plastic polluting the lake. The volunteers were also checking that the Ganesh idols were made on clay and not any material which could cause damage to the lake. I was really impressed that such care had been taken! In recent years the use of plaster of Paris has increased, this material causes a lot of pollution and should be immersed into a water tank and safely disposed of instead of into lakes or oceans.
After almost an hour of driving at a snail crawl, through the crowds and heavy traffic, we finally found a parking space and took Lord Ganesh to the water’s edge. A short and sad farewell followed by a large plop, he was gone.
Oh my gosh, what an unbelievable atmosphere at the lake, it was beautiful. People were performing a final aarti (offering a song and flame to God) and exchanging prasad (blessed food). A wonderful feeling of community and celebration, I really believe that Lord Ganesh was present, not only present, he was smiling.