Today — Thursday, Sept. 17 — is the beginning of Ganesha Chaturthi.
Here’s a look at how the celebration is happening in Mumbai:
Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated across Indian homes but it is frenetic Mumbai that infuses it with the greatest community fervour. This is all thanks to the ceaseless efforts of Lokmanya Tilak who rightly believed that it would help to bring Indians together, during the freedom struggle. For ten days, the city is sprinkled with majestic Ganpati pandals. Perhaps the biggest is Mumbai’s favourite Lalbaugcha Raja, who presides nonchalantly over an ocean of nearly a million visitors. The 12-foot tall Raja raises crores of rupees each year, and (like most of the other pandals) much of it is filtered back into the community through initiatives such as health camps, scholarships and hospitals. Similarly, almost every locality has its own pandal, ringing with the tintinnabulation of bells and bhajansthrough the day.
As the world keeps turning, Ganesha idols keep evolving. This year, you will spot a selfie-taking Ganesha, a Bahubali – inspired Ganesha with bulging biceps and plenty of environmentally-friendly Ganeshas (for example, Thane’s Viviana mall has a papier-mâché one and fish-friendly ones are being made by an NGO called Sprouts). Navi Mumbai even has a Ganpati swathed in the colours of the Brazilian football team.
Things were warmer by the bay this year, than last, but still brisk.
Lots of polar fleece. Beenies. Scarves.
We were in our doti and sari because, really, when else are you going to be able to wear them?
As with the 2012 Confluence, Eddie Stern’s Ganesha puja has set the tone for the weekend. The stage is sanctified, the way is open. But will there be no challenges?
Doubtful. As Eddie said at one point, the obstacles are there so when you get past them, you’ve learned something. What we will learn this weekend awaits.
As always, it was amazing to hear Eddie’s clear and musical sanskrit chanting. And not without elucidation and interpretation along the way. Those of us not fluent in sanskrit then know what’s being said, and what we all are saying.
The teachers were all on the stage with Eddie, and with their families. And they participated, representing us in the puja.
A funny moment — and if you remember last year’s Confluence or our coverage, you know that funny moments are pretty central to the weekend — came as Eddie rattled through Ganesha’s 108 names. It was Tim Miller’s job to offer flowers for each one.
Effectively, what that means is each time Eddie said, “Namo,” Tim was supposed to toss a flower to Ganesha.
Well, with a bit of a time constraint and dinner awaiting the 300 or so people participating, not to mention Eddie’s fluency, Eddie moved through the names at a pretty magnificent clip. Tim didn’t quite keep up, but they both got through it.
Eddie, we must say — and, as we often note, we are certainly biased — has a wonderfully balanced presentation, grounded at times in the grosser world — he illustrated the non-verbal communication involved in the ritual (and in our lives) with hand gestures including the Hawaiian “hang loose” — and at others in a learned, subtle one. He chanted the sanskrit for us all, but also brought everyone along. It’s not an easy thing.
Once the puja is completed, a symbolic representation of Ganesha in tumeric form is taken to the water and all its blessings are sent out in to the world, into the universe. The Confluence participants followed Eddie to the bay’s edge, chanting, “Om gam ganapate namah“. Yes, tourists (and probably locals) snapped photos and took video.
With a loud “Jai!” Eddie threw the Ganesha into the water, and our Confluence was under way. (It should be noted, Eddie again waded into the cold and somewhat funky bay.)
And then, more conversations and reunions with friends we haven’t seen in a year, or maybe in just a few weeks. And some dinner.
Tomorrow morning, Led class with Dena Kingsberg awaits at 7 a.m.
And a final thought. Last year, we watched, with wonder and delight, as Eddie chanted Ganesha’s 108 names. This year, we knew what arati is, and we reached out our hands for enlightenment, and brought our hands to our eyes so we could see more clearly.
We looked into the eyes of Ganesha, and Ganesha saw us. Everything was different now, as we prayed with Eddie.
We’re here, after a not difficult drive down to San Diego. (Those who live in Southern California know that isn’t exactly a usual phenomena.)
We’re set up. Here’s our view:
So that’s not too bad.
We’ve already run into Tim Miller, who whether he meant to or not immediately set me at somewhat greater ease. (Long tale. Needed it.) Then we ran into Nancy Gilgoff. And other friends already. Not to mention the ducks and parrots who live here. (A duck just flew by.)
From my seat seven floors above the resort, I can see Ganesh in his place of honor. We’ll be down there in about 30 minutes, for the beginning of the Confluence: the Eddie Stern-led opening puja.
Tomorrow morning’s a bit of a surprise. We thought we’d scheduled ourselves for the later Mysore class all weekend. Nope. Tomorrow it is 7 a.m. Led with Dena Kingsberg. After that, the part of the weekend I expect will be of most interest to a lot of the far-flung Ashtanga community: Nancy’s “as I was taught” class. We’ll take the best notes possible.
But now? I need to reacquaint myself with getting a doti to fit snugly, as Bobbie does the same with her sari.
The steady but sure preparations for our late December Yatra to Southern Indian continue. On Friday, I gave my new camera a test run — by catching the Los Angeles fly-over of the Space Shuttle Endeavour. Plus, we continue to read, read and read.
Namarupa, which is leading the journey to festivals and temples across Southern India (and which is co-published by Eddie Stern), still appears to be open to a few more people jumping aboard. Here’s the info.
If you need more convincing, the Namarupa blog on Friday highlighted the best Ganesh Chaturthi festivals near Mumbai — which is the last stop on this year’s Yatra:
Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the most popular festivals in Maharashtra. This is celebrated with great pomp and grandeur all over the state and especially in the capital, that is, Mumbai. People celebrate this ten days period with great splendour. For enjoying Ganesha Puja Mumbai is one of the finest places. The whole city is given a new colour and people are in a festive mood. Here are a few most popular Ganesh Chaturthi celebration in Mumbai.
This place has seen some of the most famous Ganesha idols of all times. This place is in Chinchpokhli; Mumbai is filled with a huge number of devotees from all round the country. People come with a belief that this great God will fulfill all their wishes. There are two lines here, one for the devotees in general and the other for the people who had made a wish. The Ganesha mandap over here is open all day long since 10 in the morning. People stand in long queues for as long as 18-20 hours. This Ganesh Chaturthi celebration in Mumbai is extremely popular and if you want to enjoy the festival to the full then you must visit this place.
This is also among one of the most popular Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations in Mumbai. There are two reasons for it to attract so much crowd and being so popular. One is that it one of the oldest places in Mumbai for Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations. And the other one being that every year it replicates any one popular destination of India for the decorations. This is a major attraction for pilgrims all over during Ganesh Chaturthi. And also, you do not have to wait much long in queues to give a test of your devotion. And even the idol is so replete with decorations that it falls among the list of must visits in the city.
The Gsb Seva Mandal’s Ganpati
This is one of the richest Ganesha idols in Mumbai. It is said that this idol is adorned with more than a 50 kilograms of gold jewellery. And to add to it there are also cultural functions organized here during the festive occasion. People flood in thousands over here during Ganesh Chaturthi just to have a glimpse of the idol. The clay idol is made extremely attractive every year. The best part of this mandap happens to be the fact that there is a system of walkway here and hence you do not have to wait in queues for long hours.
The Andhericha Raja
This Ganesha mandap in Mumbai is near the Andheri station and the idol here is immensely popular. People come here for a visit during Ganesh Chaturthi as the idol is said to be replete with powers. What makes this place attractive is its unique theme decoration every year.
The Khetwadi Ghanraj
Last but not the least, another of the place that falls in the must visits list in the city of joy and celebration during this festive season is the Khetwadi Ghanraj. This place has seen some of the highest statues of the time, some as long as 40 feet high. You also find it decked with a lot of diamonds and gold.
I would describe this Yatra as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the interconnectedness of faith and life in India, except Namarupa has been doing these trips annually. But we think this one looks especially awesome. And this particular highlight obviously delights one of us.
Ashtanga practice is included, by the way.
Update: Eddie’s Broome St. Temple has highlighted this event, which also seems to act as an inducement to join.
4-6 pm SPECIAL EVENT! Veda chanting, kirtan and arati on the Hudson River at Pier 40 (entrance at Houston St.)
9-12 noon puja, homa, japa, arati and prasad 4-6 pm Veda Parayana, homa, japa
6-6:45 pm Kirtan 7-8 pm Special evening Indian music concerts
Sunday 1 pm SPECIAL TALK by Robert Moses on last year’s Namarupa pilgrimage to amazing sacred places of India
Tuesday 6 pm SPECIAL EVENING TALK by Swami Sadasivananda on Vedanta and the inner meanings of worship
WEDNESDAY 19TH GANESHA CHATURTHI DAY
10-1 pm puja, homa, japa, Ganapati abhisheka and special alankara, arati, prasad
6-8 pm SPECIAL EVENT! Homa, japa and Ganesh Utsava Murti procession thru Soho with kirtan our most joyous event of the year – don’t miss it!
8 pm Homa, final arati and prasad.
Now the message:
LATEST GANESH FESTIVAL INFO!
The annual Ganesh Festival is fast upon us – here are our last two important pieces of information:
1. Saturday afternoon’s Vedic chanting on the Hudson will be at Pier 40, entrance at Houston St., on the West Side Highway. We will have chanting, kirtan and the first ever Hudson Arati from 4-6pm, and will be joined by special guest Deepak Chopra for a talk on Ganesh as a state of consciousness. Please join us if you can, and bring your friends! Full program schedule is here.2. Throughout the year, the daily and weekly services performed at the temple are free of charge, and are performed as service to the devotee, and to please the Lord. During festival times, however, we depend on your support to be able to hold our grand celebrations, serve the deities in a reverent fashion, and feed all of the devotees! Please give as generously as you are able to.Each of the below offerings are traditional in Hindu temples, and represent different ways of offering praise, surrender and devotion to the Lord. It is said that through devotional service a purifying effect is enacted upon one’s individual consciousness, which gives rise to a feeling of inner peace, gratitude and clarity to the devotee. As well, the collective prayer and individual sponsorship of the different types of worship contribute to the charging of the spiritual battery of the temple, increasing the presence of Divine energy in the sanctums.
All donors will receive special prasad, and your name – or the name of a loved one – will be included in our daily puja and your names listed on our thank you page.
Flower Sponsorship $7
Nama archana $11
Prasad sponsor $25
Ganapati Homa or Abhisheka $51
Sponsorship of one priest $301
Sponsor full week Ganesh Festival $501
Sponsor Ganesh Procession and help carry palanquin! $1001
All donations are fully tax-deductible as allowed to the extent of the law, and letters of acknowledgement will be sent upon receipt of your donations. We thank you for your support in helping us to continue our mission of providing a sacred sanctuary and traditional Hindu temple in the heart of Soho.
I’ve been hearing from my reliable sources that Ashtanga Yoga New York was going to be closed the first week of September for a Ganesh celebration. Now the word is official at Eddie Stern’s Internet home. It’s an understandable moment when the Broome Street Temple takes clear precedence over AYNY.
(I can understand how the typical Type A Ashtangi might be annoyed, though. Two words: Home practice.)
The AYNY page gives a wonderfully succinct rundown on Ganesh, which probably is a taste of what we can expect when Eddie and Tim Miller talk about their respective Ishta Devatas during next year’s Ashtanga Yoga Confluence. Here’s a bit:
Ganesha’s head symbolizes the Atman or the soul, which is the ultimate supreme reality of human existence, and his human body signifies Maya or the earthly existence of human beings. The elephant head denotes wisdom and its trunk represents Om, the sound symbol of cosmic reality. In his upper right hand Ganesha holds a goad, which helps him propel mankind forward on the eternal path and remove obstacles from the way. The noose in Ganesha’s left hand is a gentle implement to capture all difficulties.
It goes on to give a couple of stories of how Ganesh got his elephant head and a few other pieces of information on the Hindu deity who has to be the most popular here in the U.S.
The Confluence website touts a key attraction: The five teachers gathering have 175 years of combined teaching experience among them.
Yeah, that’s a lot. And it doesn’t even count the authorized teachers who will be assisting in classes and who knows how else.
I’m fairly certain that the essential confluence of these experienced Ashtanga teachers is the main draw for those of us who have signed up already. (Spots, I’ve heard, are going fast. Probably best not to dally too much.)
But there is more to it than just them. Off the top of my head, I can think of a few other draws:
* MC Yogi’s Saturday night music. Think we can count on hearing “Ganesh is Fresh”?
* Potential gathering with old and far-flung yoga friends.
* If you’re coming from outside of Southern California, a break from lingering winter.
* The chance to surround yourself with hundreds (I’m guessing) of other Ashtangis.
* The opportunity to discover a new product, line of clothing, food stuff from the promised vendors and sponsors. (I’ll admit, I always love wandering through the vendor booths, even if I rarely buy anything.)
* And, as we’ve posted about already, the asana classes, the talks, the opening puja ceremony.
There’s a half dozen things. But I’m curious what you — yeah, you, the one reading this right now — are most excited about; why did you sign up for the Confluence already, why are you toying with the idea of signing up?
And, just maybe, what else do you hope they add to the weekend?