Anytime is a good time to experience one of India’s many, many festivals. If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in the country during the months of August or September, then you’ll definitely want to experience Ganesh Chaturthi, the birthday of the Hindu “Elephant God,” Lord Ganesha.
For 10-days, devotees bring idols of Ganesha into their homes with the belief that during this time the God himself is paying them a visit. Family members, friends, neighbours and guests pay visits to each other’s homes throughout the celebration bringing gifts for the God. It’s a time to offer prayers and receive blessings. The festival comes to an end on the last day when the idol is immersed in water.
We’re going to tell you a few of the best (and a couple of the most uncommon yet awesome) ways to experience the spectacular celebration which includes joining a public procession and having an exciting dialogue with a local child!
Scroll down to get straight to the experiences
Tell me more about Ganesh Chaturthi!
Ganesh Chaturthi is held in celebration of the birth of Ganesha – or Ganpati – one of the most worshipped deities in Hinduism and the son of Shiva and Parvati. Ganesha is iconic across the world because of his striking appearance (he has the head of an elephant). To Hindus, he is the Lord of Good Fortune. Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated across India, although it’s in the more southern states of the country, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala where the celebrations are particularly spectacular.
For the most part, the festival takes place privately in homes. For a period of one day up to 11 days (homes are free to choose), households entertain Ganesha with poojas (prayers), music, dance, singing and food. Families are expected to be in the home during the entire time Ganesha is with them, giving real meaning to the popular phrase Atithi Devo Bhava, Guest is God.
The festival reaches a climax on the last day when the idols are carried to a nearby body of water and immersed. There are huge public processions involving floats and trucks carrying gigantic idols of Ganesha, music thumping and crowds chanting as they make their way to nearby rivers, lakes and even oceans. This marks the deity’s send-off from their homes and the dissolution of any problems or obstacles in their lives.
If you are lucky enough to be in India during Ganesh Chaturthi then it’s a celebration that you definitely won’t want to miss out on. Here are some awesome ways to experience it!
1. Join in a local procession
Pop-up pandals, temple structures, are constructed throughout cities in India (it is estimated that over 10,000 are made during the festival). The Lalbaugcha Raja in Lalbaug, Mumbai is among the most iconic and worth getting lost in the crowds to see.
2. Sign-up for a Clap Talk
A great thing about this festival is the way in which it’s celebrated uniquely in homes. Delve into a discussion with a child in their classroom and ask what they do to celebrate. Listen as they excitedly share their unique celebrations with you.
3. Visit a local’s home (with an invitation, of course)
Be sure to bring some modak, a sweet dumpling made of rice flour, coconut shavings and jaggery, as a gift – it’s the favourite of Ganesh!
4. Visit a local workshop
Watch local sculptors and artists at work as they hurry to get through massive orders of Ganesh idols!
5. Sign-up for a local tour
Idol-hop your way around an Indian city with a local tour guide. Join the Pune Expat Club on their guided Ganesha walk around the city of Pune visiting some of the cities most prominent and spectacular Ganesha.