It was such a great coincidence that we arrived in India at the beginning of one of the biggest festivals in Bombay; the Ganesh festival, known in India as Ganesh Chaturthi.  It’s 11 days of dancing in the streets, handfuls of colored powders being thrown in the air and an endless processional of loud drums. It’s an annual celebration of the birthday of Lord Ganesh. Each neighborhood builds their own enormous Ganesh statue, housed in a fantastic temporary shrine for all the locals to come and pay homage.  The 11 days of celebration culminates in the dismantling of each shrine and a countless number of parades begin carrying the larger than life statues of Lord Ganesh to the nearest ocean, where they are immersed.  For Bombay, this means millions of devotees and tourists gather at Juhu beach and Chowpatty beach in celebration.  Joining the crowd at theses large gatherings is a great way to experience the festival, but Hubby and I decided to enjoy the festivities right outside our front door, rather than going through hours of traffic.

Ganesh FestivalA man hangs off the side of a procession truck, which carries a Ganesh statue.

 
    
   

A procession truck slowly making its way through throngs of devotees

A procession truck slowly makes its way through throngs of devotees.

    
   
 

There was plenty for us to see here at home.  The streets were over crowded with onlookers and celebrants.  We tried to keep a good amount of distance as the people enjoyed throwing handfuls of colorful pink powder into the air or onto anyone standing within arms length.  I wasn’t sure of the significance of the color pink, so I asked my family’s maid about it, as she celebrates her own Ganesh Chaturthi. She said the color pink doesn’t have any significant meaning, it’s just the color of Ganesh Chaturthi.  When it comes to celebrations in India, I think colors are always involved.  There are plenty of festivals that involve lots of colored powder such as Holi and Diwali, however pink was the only color used during this festival.

   
 

Devotees smeared in color; lots of it.

If you are going to join in the procession, make sure you are prepared to be smeared in color; lots of it. 
 
    
    
    
   

Processional truck.

Inside yet another processional truck.
 
   
 

During the 11 days of the festival, Hubby and I went down to the locally constructed Ganesh temple to pay tribute.  We bought a bushel of bananas as an offering beforehand.  Inside the temple was a maze of blue and red-lit altars filled with oil lamps, which you walked through to get to the Ganesh altar.

 
   
 

Lord Shiva's depiction

The entrance of our temporary neighborhood Ganesh temple.
 
    
   
 
 
Oil lamp illuminating a Ganesh statue
An oil lamp illuminates a small Ganesh statue.
    
   
 
 

We finally arrived at the Ganesh statue. I wish our pictures could have done better justice, but just imagine Indian design at its best.  A glittering and colorful statue which must have stood ten, maybe fifteen feet high. The statue was surrounded by beautiful fabrics, plates of food offerings and ever-burning oil lamps.

   
 

 A 10-15 foot tall Ganesh statue, soon to be ceremoniously immersed into the ocean.

A 10-15 foot tall Ganesh statue, soon to be ceremoniously immersed into the ocean.
    
   
 
  
 
Crowds begin to gather for the final puja.
Crowds begin to gather for the final puja.
    
   
 

Colleen having joined the final puja before the procession begun

Joining in the final puja before the procession begins.
    
   
 
 
The final puja.
The final puja.
    
   
 
 

Even though we stayed home for most of the festival, we didn’t miss out on a thing.  Our Bombay home faces the main street so we could lean out our windows and balconies and watch the endless stream of processions.  As the loud dhol drums and bhangra rhythms floated up from the street below, we would all break into dance in our own living room.  You can’t help but move your body when you hear those drums approaching, it’s an automatic response, and no one in this Punjabi family would pass up the chance to dance.

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