Today is the beginning of the festival celebrating Ganesh’s birthday.

Ganesh, the elephant headed god, is the remover of obstacles. He is the gaurdian of entries and doorways, destroyer of vanity and pride, and a symbol of abundance.

The story of Ganesh:

The god Shiva was away. His wife, the Goddess Pavarti, wanted to bathe, but there was no one to guard the door. She created a son out of the dirt of her body to guard the door. She told him that we was to allow no one to enter until she said so. While Pavarti was bathing, Shiva returned. He was outraged that this stranger he had never met was denying him entry to his wife’s chambers. In his rage, Shiva drew his sword and sliced off Ganesh’s head. When Pavarti saw what had happened, she was devastated to loose the son she had just gained. Shiva did not have the power to bring Ganesh back to life, but he did have the power to replace the head. He sent men into the woods with the order to bring back the head of the first animal they found. His men returned with the head of an elephant which Shiva used to replace Ganesh’s head – creating the elephant headed god.

The Ganesh festivities last for 10 days. They start with bringing home a statue of Ganesh – ranging from relatively small to many meters tall. Often larger statues are bought by a neighborhood or community (our apartment complex errected a whole little pavilion with carved pillars and all to house the large Ganesh and associated activities.) Generally this involves a parade of people with drums walking down the street. The Ganesh’s head is covered. There is an elaborate ceremony during which Ganesh is uncovered and bedecked in flowers (which are decorating the whole area) and I’m not sure what all. There tends to be dancing and singing and all sorts of festivities. It is also a holiday that is about visiting with families. Often this happens on a smaller scale in people’s houses. This continues to some extent (though I think today is the only day people get off from work ) for 10 days. At the end of 10 days, the statues are again parades with drums through the streets to a body of water (river, ocean, etc) where they are immersed.

               

Last night we started to see processions of Ganesh as we went out in the city. This morning, the drums called people down to the celebrations at our complex. I have no idea what was being said (it being in Hindi and all), but it was still fascinating to watch. We got to see the unveiling and the bedecking and even got given a tikka (the red dot with rice). We left before the singing, but I’m sure I will continue to see festivities throughout the week.

          

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