Saturday 7 September 2013

Ganesha in Bangalore

One of the most important Hindu festivals is upon us and all Hindu households celebrate it with fervour. This is one of the first major festivals of the Hindu calender and after this comes a long list of other festivals.
This festival is unique in the sense that it is as much a private affair as it is public. Just like the Rama Navami and Raghavendra Swamy Aradhana and Ayudha Pooje, this festival too is celebrated by other communities too and the public celebrations go on much after the poojes at home.
This is the Ganesha Pooja.
Ganesha is the son of Shiva and Parvathi and he is one of the most loved gods in the world. He is perhaps one of the few gods with the head of an animal-an elephant-and he is, therefore, also known as Gajanana, Gajamukha and many more names of elephants.
One of the unique features of this festival is that people of an area collect donations and set up pandals where Ganesha is placed on a pedestal.
In cities like Bangalore, hundreds of Ganesha pandals spring up and the police have decided to regulate them. The police have made it mandatory for residents to obtain permission before installing Ganesha publicly.
In addition, Ganesha is also installed in offices and business establishments. Ganesha is also installed on the Karnataka High Court premises by the Advocates Association. Interestingly, there are several Ganeshas in the High Court itself. If the Advocates Association has one Ganesha, the law clerk association which is housed near the place where several freelance typists sit, also have their own Ganesha.
The staff of the Advocate General (AG) office in the High Court also have their own Ganesha.
There are hundreds of Ganesha pandals in Bangalore and a majority of them are installed with donations from the public. But the Ganesha Pandal in Rajajinagar III Block 14th Main - Vidya Ganapa Gelatiyara Sangha - is unique as it is a girls-only group.
It's been more than a decade since the Ganesha pandal has been coming up here and the women took over seven years ago, after the original group split up.
The BBMP has warned the pandals that they cannot keep the Ganesha idols beyond September 20. They say all the idols have to be immersed in water by the date. This deadline, however, does not stand for houses.
The BBMP has also designated places in lakes for immersing Ganesh idols. On their part, the police have said permission should be taken from them for setting up pandals in public. BESOM has urged the pandals to apply for permission to draw temporary power.
It is only in the recent decades that Bangalore saw pandals coming up for the Ganesha festival. However, Shahaji is believed to have popularized the Ganesha festival way back in the 16th century when he wrested Bangalore from Kempe Gowda. Bangalore for more than half a century remained under Maratha rule and Marathi was made the State language. Ganesha festival became popular during this period.
However. the festival became less of a public show after Hyder and Tipu conquered Bangalore from the Peshwas. The festival became a family affair during the times of the British and the Wodeyars and it was only four decades ago that the first public celebration began.
Having said that, what is really strange is that the public celebrations of Ganesha goes on months even after the ten day period. More shockingly, some install Ganesha idols during the Pitru Paksha or the 16-day lunar period which starts in a fortnight. Pitru Paksha is considered to be inauspicious, given the death rite performed during the ceremony, known as Shradha or tarpna. In southern and western India, it falls in  Bhadrapada, September–October, beginning with the full moon day (Purnima) that occurs immediately after the Ganesha festival and ends with the New Moon day known as Amavaysa  or Mahalaya Amavaysa.
The organisers of some of the Ganesha pandals have scant regard for such religious customs and of course none for the people. They play film music and organise dance and other events which is not even part of the Ganapathy rituals. Blaring loudspeakers, ostentatious sets, pompous speeches and a huge waste of money mark the celebrations by such pandals.   

Do Bangaloreans deserve such celebrations. Let the pandals organise religious functions, discourses, cultural events for families and children but playing Western music and Hindi music at full blast is a little too much.  

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