Sunday, September 19, 2010

Ganesh Immersion

The end of Ganesh Chaturthi is the immersion of Ganesh into the ocean. This can happen at 1 and a half days, five days, seven days, and 11 days after Ganesh has been brought to his altar. On Wednesday, day five, I went to an ASB staff's, Sanjana, family home to be apart of their immersion. When I arrived, they were already beginning the mantras and offerings to Ganesh. A hold man was present, who helped the family with the rituals. There were three other ASB staff their along with me. We first watched with grandparents from the couch, while the family chanted together. Then we were invited to each circle a metal tray containing burning incense in front of Ganesh. We clapped and sang some with the family as well. Towards the end, we offered marigolds to the statue and then each brought the incense smoke over our heads in a manner of purification. Then, each family member sat in front of the holy man, who tied a long piece of string around their wrists for good luck. Since this was only for those who are vegetarian and don't consume alcohol, none of the four of us were able to do this. Instead, we offered small rupee bills and were given a piece of fruit for good luck.

Ganesh was then brought down to the floor from his alter. The kids were invited to dance and sing around Ganesh and the adults all joined in. Before he was escorted downstairs and into a car, all of us whispered a wish into his ear for the coming year.

The children were a big part of the ceremony, learning, and having fun. Sanjana's nephew was a character. During the chanting, he came out of his room with a hat too small for him and some dark sunglasses, and pranced around. He is three years old. He enjoyed dancing and whispering into Ganesh's ear as well.

After the ceremony, Ganesh was loaded in the back of a car and we caravaned to Juhu beach, about a 20 minute drive. We passed other processions that were quite elaborate. Some had Ganesh on one decorated cart, with speakers in a truck, and then generator in another truck, while many people danced and chanted along. There was also a lot of drumming and many carts had a drum set on top with a boy playing away. When we arrived at the beach, we followed the statue down to the sand, the family found a spot, and we settled in for more mantras. Once Ganesha was honored, the men picked up the statue, and waded into the ocean. Us women, waited and watched as the Ganesh disappeared into the darkness. We were standing up to mid-calf in the ocean and various bits kept washing past. I tried not to think about what could be in the water. Eric, one of the ASB teachers, helping with carrying Ganesh out. He reported after at chest high, he started stepping on other immersed Ganesh statues and fell coming back in to shore. He was pretty psyched about being a part of this.

Once the men brought Ganesh's stand back, some of the sand was placed on the stand to keep for the year and we walked back to the cars, drove back to Sanjana's, where they graciously fed us some delicious Indian fare. What an amazing night!

I was bummed Greg decided not to join, so I convinced him we needed to go to Juhu beach on Friday, the seventh night, to watch other immersions. We went with three other friends after eating at Elco, one of our favorite restaurants. We grabbed two rickshaws and had a backup plan in case the traffic was too bad. Surprisingly, it was much less crowded and we reached the beach in no time. We started at the spot I had been on Wednesday and walked up the beach to the various clumps of people surrounding their Ganesh statues. Many families gave us sweets as they finished their ceremonies, to the point that I started to walk away as they finished because I could not put another sweet in my mouth. People were very excited about our cameras, especially children. They kept asking to have their picture taken and then enjoyed looking at themselves. At the main Juhu beach entrance, looking at the parking lot, truck after truck kept rolling in and people kept filing down, singing and dancing to the beach. At one point, there was a Ganesh carnage from Wednesday's immersion. Ganesh bits washed up on the beach, some almost whole. It was a bit eerie. A huge clean up happens after the final immersion next week since it's all so toxic. Check out for more pictures and a couple of videos.

"Ganpati Bapa! Moriya!"

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