By the time I got around to writing this post, he’s actually come and gone (figuratively speaking), at least from our home, but elsewhere he stays and his presence continues to hallow the atmosphere 🙂
For those who may not be aware, once a year, Hindus celebrate the birthday of Ganesha, the Elephant God (and my absolute favorite as far as God’s go!), with much pomp and devotion. Here in Goa, we call it ‘Chavath’ in Konkani (the local lingo) or ‘Ganesh Chaturthi’ in Marathi. What I love about this time and this festival, is that it is not a somber time of introspection and contemplation (although there’s nothing wrong with either), but a happy time…a time of celebration and joy, of music and crackers and of sweets in obscene amounts!! It’s also a time for family…for gatherings, catching up, setting aside petty quarrels and much enjoyment 🙂
The festival is a veritable feast for the senses – the many faces of the God, each revered and beautiful (here in Goa, every family has a traditional Idol design that has come down through the generations and they stick with it); the musky fragrance of burning incense mingles with the sweet fragrance of flowers; garlands in every color, bright red hibiscus (Ganesha’s favorite), deep orange and bright yellow marigolds, and blue orchids, adorn regal Idols glittering with ornaments, often of real gold and silver; the sound of music and voices raised in prayer blends with the cacophony of children playing, people laughing and bursting crackers; the place of worship is richly decorated with colorful streamers, flowers, lights, ‘rangoli’ art, and over the Idol from the ceiling hangs the ‘matoli’, a wooden frame from which hang fruits and vegetables, an offering to the Lord; from the kitchens…comes the smokiness of wood fires burning, fragrant odors and the sizzle of foods cooking, the voices of women bantering and the soft swish of their silk sarees, the metal clang of copper vessels, as the food within is vigorously stirred and made worthy for divine consumption. Each home is alive with excitement, busy with preparations and hallowed with devotion. It is an auspicious time, a happy time, a time for quiet reverence but also for noisy celebration…a time to welcome at last, ‘The Bringer of Joy, Destroyer of Woe & Remover of Obstacles’, The Elephant God, Ganesha into our hearts and homes!
I have wonderful memories from childhood, of our family moving to our ancestral home for the duration and us children playing incessantly, gorging on sweets and lighting crackers! We enjoyed as only children can enjoy, free from all care and worry. Must confess however, am not much of a cracker person now (hate the ones that make deafening bangs that are for some reason attractive to the rest of the world), except for sparklers! This year was no different! It was special, cause this is Ishaan’s first festival and ours too in a long time in Goa. We had three homes to visit, hubby’s, Dad’s and Grandma’s. In Goa, most families (although not all), celebrate the occasion by bringing home an Idol of the God and worshiping it, usually for 1 and a 1/2 day, but some for 5 and others for 10 days. This year, all our family was celebrating for 1 and a 1/2 days which meant we had a hectic schedule trying to visit every house while seeing to our own! But that’s part of the fun of festivals, at least while they last; the aches, pains and festival-fatigue set in later 😉
We had a wonderful time with Ishaan. He discovered a love for firecrackers! He’s fascinated by their colors and excited by their motion 🙂 He’s not into loud bangs yet thank goodness, although how long that will last is difficult to say. It’s a male thing 😛 He’s not into sweets either (like me) but he is definitely into Ganesha (again like me!) 🙂 He had a field day pointing out pictures of him to us in the newspapers, on hoardings and on TV 🙂 Although for the most part, he ignored the Idols he visited, he dutifully joined his tiny hands in prayer when asked and he enjoyed showering the God with puffed rice once the immersion process began! As for the actual immersion – he thought the God was off for a bath! We traveled everywhere with his cricket bat and ball, indeed it would be impossible not to. His obsession increases with every passing day!
This time as an added treat, the family gathered at a private estate afterward, and had a wonderful ‘Day After’ party! It was relaxing, fun and essential 🙂 For many (me included!), it was a relief to finally be able to eat chicken and fish again after a break of…only 2 days 😉 (We are all vegetarian for the duration of the festival, out of necessity I might add, not choice!) The way we fell on the Chicken Cafreal (excellent!), you’d think it was two lifetimes not days! But this is Goa, and 2 days without fish are as two lifetimes to every self-respecting Goan 😛 Indeed, my uncles (much to the dismay of my bone-tired aunts), always came home with a fresh catch, from the river where they immersed the Idol! The fish was then prepared and dinner eaten with much satisfaction usually after midnight. Nothing’s changed! I was reminded of Bali and how the locals offer fried chicken to the God! Perhaps Goans should think of offering fish, the way we all go on about having to turn veg for a day and a half 😛
All too soon, the festivities are done, for us at least, and life goes back to routine. But memories remain, of pleasant, happy times that linger, long after family has dispersed and the feasting ends. My only regret is that I couldn’t quite take all the pictures I wanted to, but it’s hard to take pictures when you are busy enjoying yourself and looking after an exuberant two-year old 🙂
And so…looking forward to next year, another festival, more happy memories…
8 thoughts on “The Elephant God Cometh!”
This artical is wonderful and very informative. I really enjoyed reading this artical.
What a lovely holiday, and what a lovely post. You’re such a gifted writer, Harsha. This was a real treat to read. Educational, too. 🙂
Thank you Maura! I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂
Your mode of describing the whole thing in this post is in fact fastidious, every one be able to without difficulty understand it,
Thanks a lot.