Friday, October 17, 2008

Why rains in India make so much noise - Reason 2

Second reason! Well, I did mean to put this up a lot sooner, but one thing led to another and an effort to lend 'a method to this madness' required me to push this post to today. So the second reason why rains in India make so much noise is because we Indians like to make a lot of noise when we have guests around. Indeed, Ganeshotsav is all about bringing India's favorite God home. Most non-Indians generally know about Diwali, since all said and done, Hindi movies have immortalized Diwali since time immemorial. In fact, even Ganeshchaturthi/ Ganeshotsav had never taken on the behemoth proportions that it occupies now, till a few years ago. The practice of getting Ganpati idols home, conducting the puja with varied foods as offerings, till finally immersing the idol in the sea or a river, has been going on since eternity. This festival has so many varied facets and offshoots, that in India, Ganpati is a phenomenon. Since the aspects are many, I plan to dedicate 3 posts to this piece of religious/festive consciousness... Hope you have a good time reading....

Since the late 1600s, the 10 days from the Shukla Chaturthi to the Anant Chaturdashi (fourth day to the fourteenth day in the waxing moon period of the Hindu month - Bhadrapad) of Bhadrapad have been celebrated as Ganeshotsav. Traditionally, the whole family used to gather at the house of the patriarch, and a ceremonial Puja would be performed of the Ganpati idol in the house. This was the practice in North India. Now, in South India, on the Chaturthi day, there would be a 'vendor' who would 'plop' Ganpati 'lumps' on to a wooden plate. Surprised? Well, my grandma has told me, that on the Chaturthi day, the lady of the house would go with a wooden plank to the vendor who sold the Ganpati 'idols'. Now, these idols were just mounds of fresh, wet clay in a mould shaped like Ganpati. So when a customer went to this vendor, he'd literally plop the idol onto the plank. These Ganpatis would be brought home, placed along with the usually worshipped Ganesh idol of the house, and once the Puja is done, the clay would be washed off into the nearest rivulet!

The key factor here is the fact that people come together. In the olden days, it was family members in far flung locations who would all make an effort to come together to one central place, for religious reasons. This fact was converted into a phenomenon by India's premier freedom fighter Lokmanya Tilak. He initiated the practice of the Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav or the public congregation for the celebration of the festival, with the idea of uniting the people against the Raj. This festival and its associated congregation became the medium to get political messages across to the general population.

In free India, it has become another reason to rejoice and make merry. The celebration is generally accompanied by loads of lights, loud music, crowds, Prasad, and some general merry making! It doesn't matter what language the songs go blaring. On day one, there is a perennial 'background music' of drum beats. Tiny wagons, huge trucks, all have some form of drum accompaniment as they move along the roads. This year, however, the first day - Chaturthi coincided with the last day of the Jain festival - Pajushan. Therefore, garish music was at a minimum. Rather almost non-existent. Now, all the while that I have had to live with the perennial bam bam that goes with having a pandal next door, I have gone from annoyed to exasperated with the complete loss of my noise-free peace. But this time, when all was silent, something did not feel right. In fact, I sort of missed the noise. I felt like the festival had become hollow, carved out from inside. I even asked a few people around, as to why all was so quiet, contrary to the tremendous noise that is omnipresent every year. Some said that the silence was on account of directives by the police to keep it down, so that they could hear bomb blasts! Funny? Yeah!!! But thankfully, on day 2, the noise was back, and so was the festive mood and spirit. It was as if the whole city was out to absorb the religious consciousness that wafted in the wind!

Tomorrow - Bringing the Lord home - a few snapshots.......

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