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Hindu Festivities


A cart carrying a Ganesh idol to be submersed in the lake.

For the past week and a half, India in general and our state (Andhra Pradesh) specifically have been celebrating the festival of Ganesh—the elephant-head god who is supposedly the bringer of bountiful harvest, amongst other things. Roadside shelters have been set up to house the clay idols that abound in every corner of the city at this time of year. Some are small images, many are as tall as a man, and the largest in our city is forty feet tall.

The five foot Ganesh idol that was brightly decorated on the ground floor of our apartment building

Our apartment building had their own idol set up by the elevator in one of the parking spots on the ground floor. During this festival, the idols are offered fruit, flowers, and prayers; also, poojas (devotional rituals made to the gods) are commonly held. A week after the festival begins is when people begin to carry these brightly painted clay images to the various lakes around the city to submerge them, according to custom. These lively groups who wildly dance, drum, chant, and sing before the cart carrying their idol are often painted with bright pink powder.

Ganesh revelers

The processions continue until the final day of the festival (which happened to be yesterday, Wednesday) when the largest clay idol of forty feet is taken to the large, man –made lake in the city and is placed in the water by way of a large crane. The clay will decompose, but the bright paint contaminates the blue water. A few days ago while I was out walking with Aria, three idol processions went by. Not only did I feel sad, but the dancing, drumming, and singing made me feel sick.

A Ganesh procession going by our balcony late at night.

I’ve never lived in a culture where the “gods” that are worshipped are so physically blatant. It brought my mind to God’s grief and fury in the Old Testament over idol worship. If it wasn’t for that, it might just seem like a harmless cultural tradition. It really is so much more than what meets the eye and I am so thankful that the festival is finally over.
Often, the monsoon rains come with a fury and last only five minutes, drenching the earth with wonderful coolness and then moving along as quickly as they came. Today, I expected the same and hurried out to the balcony to relish the fleeting downpour. But today is different. The rain continues to fall as the swollen clouds pour out bucketfuls of water. The streets are now shallow rivers and the ditch across the road is gushing with murky water. Somehow I feel that the rain is symbolic on this day—the day after the Ganesh festival finally ended. God used a flood thousands of years ago to cleanse the earth of the evilness of man. Today I feel like he is using the torrents of rain to cleanse the earth from the false worship and idols that have contaminated her. I see the rain as being symbolic of cleansing.

One Response to “Hindu Festivities”

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    January 2nd, 2015 08:28

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