Doesn’t look like I’ll be able to catch the launching of Ganesh lookalikes onto the local sagar or lake tonight. Unless I want to risk being trampled by 30,000 devout worshippers in the process. The celebrations have been kicking into high gear with more noise on the streets as we’ve now entered the 10th and final day of Ganesh festivities. Too bad as I was hoping to catch some of the action on this last day…mind you, I’ll be happy to see the end of the drumming and chanting on the streets that have kept us all awake late into the night.
Ganesh is the chubby pot-bellied elephant-headed Hindi god, the first son of Shiva and Parvati. Ganesh is the god that is invoked before any important undertaking in the family – except funerals – to bring good luck and success. Also regarded by many as the god of learning, success, prosperity and peace, no wonder Ganesh deserves 10 days of celebrations in the Hindi calendar! And most importantly, Ganesh is the symbol for good luck.
Like most Indians, I too have my own Ganesh: mine a lovely 5″ tall statue carved out of beautiful local stone sitting on his lotus cushion on my desk right beside me. This one I bought off a roadside vendor in Hampi, Karnataka back in May. It is beautifully carved with delicately done ornamentation – I’d say a much more sophisticated looking version compared with the more common, somewhat gaudy paper mache replicas I’ve seen around with strings of blinking multicoloured lights strung around their necks. But hey, who cares what Ganesh really looks like because this god is by no means an emaciated (why is that so western?) image of suffering but a god who stands for joy and happiness. The big smile is genuine on his face (even if it is an elephant head). Personally, I relate to this chubby smiling half man half elephant much better than to any images of God I grew up with in the Christian tradition.
Ganesh festivities will lead us into the start of the winter season in India. I might as well watch the launching of the multiple Ganeshes into the Indian waters on TV tonight. Not the same as seeing it in the flesh. Next year I’ll need to travel to a village by a river or lake outside of a city to witness the real thing.