Sunday, 18 September 2011

Dunking Ganesha!

Last week Tom and I visited the famous, most popular Ganpati Mandal, in the centre of the city, Laxmi Road. We left the house at 9pm and biked the 20 minutes to the centre of town. As we got nearer and nearer to Laxmi Road, the more and more people there were around.

The road that led to Laxmi was closed by the police, so we had to drive about a mile away from it and walk back through the crowds of people towards it. The closer we got in, the more people there were! It was crazy, there must've been at least 200,000 people squeezed into the small streets that led up to the Mandal. Practically down every side street, there was another Mandal. I wanted to go and see them all, but the crowd kind of dictated that we kept moving forwards toward the main one.

At every crossroad there were police who were controlling the flow of people with a long length of rope. This meant that as we were stopped, waiting to be let further down the street, more and more people were backing up behind us and as soon as the police lifted the rope, there was a massive surge forwards and I was nearly swept off my feet! It was a bit scary!

After taking about an hour to walk down a street that should normally only take 3 minutes to walk down, we finally reached the Mandal. It was humongous! It wasn’t just some corrugated metal shelter that had been erected for the event, it was a whole building! It looked like it was made of cardboard and was painted and decorated with lights. It was amazing! It even had huge elaborate chandeliers inside and the large Ganesha statue looked so fabulous inside!

Unfortunately, we couldn’t stop to look at it for very long as the crowd was so huge and we were just sort of getting swept away past it. Tom did manage to get a few pictures of it for me though.

Huge Mandal.

All the lights kept changing colours. 

Huge crowd.

Beautiful inside with Ganesha in the back!

Ganesha Temple on the way to the Mandal.

Another Mandal near where we parked. This one told
a story and different parts of the stage would light up.

Sunday was the final day of the festival and I really wanted to go out and see the immersions. Tom, once again had gone away with work so I couldn’t go with him, but luckily a few of my friends were going out to see the attractions. So at 3.30pm, I met up with Annie, Shirish and another English girl, Katie. We got a rickshaw to Laxmi Road and walked down towards the large Mandal. All down the street were huge truck floats with beautiful decorations and Ganesha statues on them.

Once again, there were so many people, but as it was still daylight, it didn’t feel scary this time, it was actually quite exciting!

Truck floats lined up down the street.

Massive Ganesha!

More trucks!

Themed truck

Beautiful flowers!
Anna Hazare themed float!

Man and his drums!

Look at the name of this crane!

We managed to walk quite a way down the street and found a great spot to stand, up some stairs that led to a shop, which was a great vantage point as it was also sheltered and we could see over everyone else’s heads.

The procession started at about 5pm and the trucks slowly moved down the street past us, all the while there was a fanfare of drums, bells, Bollywood music and dancing! It was so loud!


Ganesha procession!

Dancing down the street!

Another Ganesha float.

Marching and dancing!

We stayed there for an hour and then decided to walk to Deccan (a different part of town, to the west) to meet up with Bradley and Liam (Annie’s Canadian friends) to hopefully see some immersions of the Ganesha statues.

The walk took about 30 minutes and the streets were packed with people, partying to loud music, making loud music with huge drums and throwing pink coloured powder at each other. The atmosphere was brilliant! It seemed that everyone was out just having a good time.  The whole place had a real carnival feel!

Quite a few independent groups of people were also marching down the streets with their Ganesha heading towards the river for their private immersions. A few of them set off bangers right next to me and I swear I went deaf in one ear for about 5 minutes!

Small group of people with a whole trolley full of Ganeshas on their way to the river!

When we arrived in Deccan, we tried to find Bradley and Liam but there were so many people around, it seemed impossible. Shirish had to go off on his own into the crowd and leave us in order to find them. Ten minutes later, he came back to us victorious with both boys in tow.

The police even had a huge water canon ready to use if things
got out of hand, luckily they didn't have to use it!

As the partying was going to carry on for a few hours, we decided to go and get some dinner at a local restaurant. I can't remember what it was called but the food was delicious!

After dinner, Katie decided that she’d had enough excitement for the day and went back to where she was staying, so there was then just the five of us left.

Just walking around the streets of Deccan!

We all really wanted to at least see some immersions so we headed towards the river bank and found an immersion site at the bottom of a set of steps that led into the river. Luckily when we arrived, a group of people were just about to immerse their Ganesha. They were performing a custom called ‘Puja’ where they lit an oil lamp, incense sticks, chanted and prayed. Then the idol was given to an official looking group of men who were in charge of the immersions at this particular spot of the river. Two officials waded into the water, up to their shins and dunked Ganesha into the raging river and let him go!

Immersion spot.

Official Immersion guys.

Taking Ganesha to the water.

Wading in!

Just about to dunk!

We were told by the officials that if we wanted to possibly see some bigger Ganeshas going into the river, we should cross over the river and walk further downstream to another stepped area where those immersions would take place.

When we arrived, we were practically the only people there, but after a few minutes more people came and we saw three different groups immerse their Ganesha. The good thing about this site was that there were also two large water tanks where you could immerse your Ganesha without polluting the environment by putting them into the river. This was a really good idea because it can't be good for the wildlife that rely on a clean river. There must be thousands of Ganesha statues in the river, if ever the river was to totally dry out, it'd probably look like a Ganesha graveyard!

Getting ready to immerse!

We stayed there for nearly an hour soaking up the atmosphere and playing with some LED toys that you fire into the air with an elastic band, that I had bought everyone for 10 rupees each. Annie and Bradley also had a play fight with some children by joining in with their ritual of throwing powder colour at each other and got totally covered in pink colour!

Colour fight!

The aftermath!

A two minute walk away from the river was a main road that was filled with people dancing to loud drumming and Bollywood music, as well as huge Ganpati truck floats. Fireworks and bangers were set off all around us and I'm sure I had parts of a firework land on my head! It was such an electric atmosphere.


Fireworks above my head!

It wasn’t long before we were all dragged into the crowd and made to dance with everyone. Soon enough, we became the attraction and it really felt like we were mini celebrities as everyone wanted to either shake our hands, dance with us or take our picture.

Dancing and drumming!

More drums!

Just when I was having a breather from crazy dancing, a middle aged woman grabbed my arm and dragged me into the crowd and wanted to dance. I danced with her for a bit, then a man with some drums came over and drummed especially for us and I noticed that the whole crowd around us had formed a large circle around us and were clapping! It was so much fun and the lady really gave it some, it was very tiring though. I managed to escape finally and she then dragged Annie into the crowd and made her the attraction! It was really good fun but after a while, it was so hot and we were all knackered! Every time we tried to move on and leave the crowd and walk down the street, we were dragged back into the crowd to dance again.  

Shirish and Bradley in their freaky masks!

We finally made it out of the crowd and got a reasonable priced rickshaw home at about 11.30pm!

All the way home, there were various street parties going on and the whole place still felt so exciting. The partying went on all night and it was quite hard to get any peace and quiet when I arrived home.

It was such a brilliant day and it was so great how the whole city had come alive and everyone was having the time of their lives! 

It was the most fun festival I'd ever been to! It’s just such a shame that Tom missed it all. L


Rob said...

Hi Ray, I was looking for, but I couldn't find it :)

daemonoid said...

I'm still waiting for the rest of the India ones to get written up...

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