Drumming practice for Ganesh Chaturti, the Ganpati festival.

Ganpati 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 all afternoon.

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