for Ganesh Chaturti, the Ganpati festival.
is probably the most popular god in the hindu pantheon, and as the
god of prosperity and remover of obstacles, his services are in great
demand in Bombay. The Ganesh Chaturti festival, held during the monsoon,
lasts for 12 days and finishes with three or four days of deafening
drumming and crazed dancing which blocks the traffic along all main
roads leading to the sea or open bodies of water as the idols are
taken in their thousands for immersion.
Of course, as with all religious issues in India, the potential for
conflict is enormous, and the processions often follow the most provocative
routes possible, through Muslim neighbourhoods, past hospitals and
so on, to prove the primacy of Hindu religious feelings over all other
demands. Often a procession will stop outside a Muslim restaurant
and demand free refreshments for the revellers, and no doubt fights
do often break out.
Everyone has seen pictures of the giant idols being taken to the sea
at Chowpatty beach in south Bombay. But the best way to celebrate
the festival is at a small Ganesh puja in someone's home, with the
incense circling and the repeated chant of "Ganpati bapai, Murya!"
building to a deafening crescendo before the prasad (sugar sweets
and nuts) is handed round to all the guests with tea, followed by
a delicious meal on which the women of the family have been working