Eating is an agricultural act - Wendell Berry

Friday, September 05, 2008

vinakaya chaturthi (vc)

aka ganesh chaturthi aka ganpati is the second in series of the festival madness that sweeps mumbai (post krishan jayanti aka gokulashtami aka dahi handi) and continues onto ramzan (aka id), navratri (aka dandiya), deepavali (aka crackers), christmas, new year (aka binges parties).
4 months of 'trance music' and unmitigated noise pollution (among of course the regular types of pollution).

in my childhood, vc was an austere brahmin (redundancy intended) festival occassion, where early morning pure clay idol woul be procured, medium scale puja (with very yummy food) would happen. as vinayaka was a bachelor, it was auspicious that the puja be done by one (if available in the house). so i have done the vc puja many times (with my dad donning the priest role).
the next day, the idol would be removed and kept 'in the well', near a tree and will 'dissolve' into the earth (from where it came from).
fairly simple and non-elaborate.

post 1998, after coming to mumbai, i started seeing the mumbai style ganpati celebrations - which most know is a mega mega event.
for some reasons, this never appealed to my religious/spiritual senses.
i fully appreciate the 'social mobilisation concept that tilak started. master-class idea.

in the 'God ratings', vinayaka occupies the top ten slots in the marathi manoos demographic.
in most other demographics, vinayaka is in close contest with tons of others - parameshwar (aka shiva), vishnu (and his top 2 avtaars of rama and krishna), the vast army of devis (lakshmi, saraswati, durga, vaishno devi, the ammans of south india), karthikeya (aka murugan).

coming back to today's times.
my new residence is right next to one of the prime visarjan (immersion) spots.
i awaited this year's vc with some trepidation.
yesterday was the 'first day' visarjan and it was ok. read this first-timer's experience.

it is quite a stunning sight to see the number of people participating and the amount of money that flows into ganpati festival. the mandals falling over each other to outshine each other in, what i think is, the most creative marketing contests of the year. and each year lalbaugcha raja emerges tops.
i think it is a sheer waste. if only all this energy and resources could be diverted 'usefully' (need not be my definition).


Preeti Aghalayam aka kbpm said...

say it loud and clear brother. it is easy to lose one's beliefs and comfort zones when one encounters these monstrous celebrations.

csm said...

kbpm - you certainly nailed it.
there is serious element on how such monstrosities affect/effect beliefs. well said.

Preeti Aghalayam aka kbpm said...

i was taken aback recently when i heard my aunt (who recently came here to mumbai) express so much happiness for the way the festivals are celebrated here. she says people are so enthu, there is so much celebratory spirit and music and dancing that she is very happy here!! i tried to ask her what on earth Pappu Can't Dance Saala has with Ganesha or Durga or Lakshmi. She is not perturbed by it! She says its fun and it gets people together and there is good food and bonhomie between neighbours. I guess thats one way to look at it! Maybe I am just too cynical. Anyway the sight of the humongous pink faced ganesha does little for me. In fact it reminds of the story of Kubera & Ganesha where his hunger was only satisfied in the end by a bit of pounded rice served with humility.
hmm long comment. oops.

csm said...

first time viewers will tend to have such an opinion.
for e.g., when my uncle had lunch at my hostel, he commented 'how fantastic".
what is undeniable is that these festivals are unmatched community mobilisers.
that it has 'degenerated' into mostly 'enjoyment' is not cynicism, but a hearty chunk of reality.