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This weekend saw the end of the Ganpati festival. Thousands of people followed processions around Chowpatty and Yuhu beaches in Mumbai. There was no chance in getting anywhere fast.

The idols were led down to the beach and then after various, more or less, vigorous rituals immersed and left in the sea.

This is one of the greatest festivals in the world…. though if I were to question the blatant abuse of the environment, as thousands of idols made from non bio degradable and poisonous substances are just left in the sea, would that make me a real party pooper.

India has far bigger problems, but maybe the festivals are the perfect opportunity to encourage a better understanding of human impact. Lets face it communication of an ideal is what the festivals were designed for in the first instance.

Click link to see the aftermath.…of-kurukshetra

Click image for more from the festival.


Following on from my previous blog entry on how Ganesh (Ganpati, Ganesha) was created here is a break down of some of the symbolism associated around him.

Symbolism within Hindu culture is prevalent in all of its deities and the rituals that go hand in hand with them. From a Western point of view all these gods and the mythology that surrounds them, seems quaint, but may seem absurd to worship. However, when you consider the symbols and the totenism associated with them and consider the meaning in the context of your own existence, then there is something beautiful about them.

So some meanings about the icon of Ganesha.



An elephants trunk has the strength to uproot a tree and the finesse to pick up a needle. Ganesha’s trunk symbolises the fact that the wise person has immense strength and fine discrimination.


Ganesha has large ears. The wise man hears all.



Ganesha has four hands.  In one he holds a lotus, the symbol of enlightenment. In the other a hatchet. That is, the old karma – all your sanskars, the accumulated good and bad of past deeds get cut when enlightenment comes.


The third hand holds laddus, or sweet meats. They are the rewards of the wise life. However, Ganesha is never shown eating the laddus. The wise man never partakes of the rewards of his deeds. He is not attached to them.


The fourth hand is shown blessing the people. The wise man wishes the best to everyone.




Ganesha has only one tusk, the other is shown broken off. The symbolism here is that the wise person is beyond duality (Our ego separate from our surroundings). Once we transcend this duality we see the universe as a single whole and we become aware of our true selves. Wisdom allows us to see all as one and ourselves as an integral part of the whole.




Ganesha is shown sitting with one foot on the ground  and the other resting on his knee. The wise person is of the earth, but not entirely.



Ganesha is seen seated on a rat. The rat is a symbol of our senses, because it is said that the rat has to keep nibbling all the time – like the senses they are never satisfied. The wise person rides on his senses, he keeps them under control.


Ganesha is the son of Shiva and Parvati, the god governing the life force and the earth mother. This symbolises the spirit and body of the wise person. Finally the wise person has the dignity of an elephant.


If you say “Aum Ganeshaya Namah”before starting anything what you are saying is “in what we are about to do, let wisdom be our guide”.


In a sense Ganesha is the most powerful god and he is usually remembered before starting any rituals for other deities.


So Ganesha is up there with the biggies and worthy of a 10 day festival. Check out the position of any Eastern statue, icon or totem and question “What does this really mean?” or more importantly “What does this mean to me, how can this be an inspiration to me?”


Ref: Kishore Asthana –  unknown paper


Ganesh Chaturthi is now well underway – a ten day festival which sees one of India’s greatest deities celebrated and culminates with his immersion in the sea.

To understand who Ganesha was and how he was created I will adapt his story, purely because mythology is based around an oral culture and thus the story must be colloquial to my perceived audience. In no way is this out of disrespect to the Lord himself, but out of respect to him and the traditions of story telling.

Ganesha or Ganpati is the elephant headed lord from Peckham, South London. According to legend, Lord Shiva was busying himself away at war like activities. Fighting on the terraces – Millwall v Pompey or something like that. Now his missus, the old growler, ‘er indoors, Parvati, being a tidy sort of squeeze wanted to take some quality bath time. A few candles, bubble bath, Mills and Boom – you picture the scene.

However, she didn’t have anyone to guard her chambers. That’s a posh word for avocado bath suite. So guess what she goes up and does, she only conceives herself a son, for this soul purpose. No Securicor bill, nothing.

Anyway Shiva, pretty riled up from throwing plastic patio chairs, returns home. Forecourt flowers in hand, he fancies a bit of slap and tickle with the missus. But, what’s this, “who is this surly geeza at me missus’s avocado coloured chambers” thinks Shiva lord god of resolution “I’m gonna have myself some resolution here”. So he promptly cuts his brown bread clean off.

Parvati clambers out of her corner bath; pissed that she has been disturbed from page 86 of the Mills and Boom, a page of great sexual insight if you know what I mean;only to discover her newly created son headless. “Feckin ‘ell, where’s ‘is feckin ‘ead – don’t even think ’em feckin’ flowers going to get you out of this one Shiva me lad” she cries.

She is right moody and takes on the form of the Goddess Kali and only goes of and threatens destruction to the three worlds Heaven, Earth and subterranean earth. That’s Rock Steddie Eddie’s cafe, man what sells plants down the market and Stockwell tube to you and me.

Shiva, knowing that she is off on one and realising that it will take him weeks of getting it in the neck, thinks “I better resolve this.” So he sends out his ganas or hordes to the north (direction of wisdom, well Peckham Library) to bring back the head of the of the first living thing they come across.

It being a Sunday morning, living things are few and far between in Peckham, so anyways he’s hanging around, smoking a fag, when the hordes rock up. “What the bloody hell is that.” “An elephant’s head my lord” reply the hordes. “Well I can see its a bloomin elephant’s head can’t I……Couldn’t you have found something smaller” cries Shiva, stubbing out his Marlborough light. “Well it just ‘appens that there was an elephant 20 yards down the road, the owner was none too happy” reply the hordes. “Well stick the thing on that headless body over there, the missus is right on one, stuff about heaven, Earth and the subterranean, I am not going to see any action for weeks less we resolve this”.

So the hordes place the head on the lifeless body and Shiva blows life into him. Parvati is over the moon. The hordes cheer. Shiva names him Ganesha lord of his ganas. Problem solved. And so the god of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune is born. Dealing with the DHS and family benefits though is completely another story.

And so the celebration of Ganesha Chaturthi is there to celebrate the day when Lord Ganesha is believed to bestow his presence on earth for all of his devotees.

An interesting point is that the festival, a private event in people’s homes, got made into a public event in 1893 by Lokmanya Tilak, an Indian nationalist. He used the event to bond and build unity between all castes against a common enemy, you guessed it the British empire. It was a way of bringing people together when the British had banned all social and political gatherings to exercise control over the population.

For ten days the festival continues, with small statues in homes and larger ones in community areas or brightly decorated mantapas. A ritual of chanting, mantras and offerings is made. Then on various days, but most notably the last day, the statues are taken to the sea and immersed. And here is where they are left.

More stories of deities and historical figures in contemporary context to come.

Some friends invited me around to see the opening ceremony for the Ganpati festival (Ganesha) at their home. The festival lasts for 1.5 to 10 days, depending on how long you want to worship him, and culminates with the immersion of Ganpati in the sea. At home the opening ceremony goes on for several hours. Chanting, prayers, singing, offerings, and orientating the body towards the Ganpati all flow from a manual of conduct, more complex than an ikea kitchen suite.

After 1.5 days they took gunpati to the sea. More chants and offerings. Followed by rotating 7 times and then taking him out and leaving him at the bottom of the sea.

Click on image to see the full set of pictures

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