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The holidays are here

This week marks the beginning of the big party season in Mumbai. Ramadan begins tomorrow, so all the Muslims are gearing up for a month of daytime fasting and nighttime feasting. There is a large Islamic enclave clustered around a huge mosque somewhat near our house (on our route to school), so it will be pleasant to see the green and white flags festooning all the buildings in that quarter.

The really big draw, however, is the upcoming celebration of the Hindu god Ganesh. The Ganesha Chaturthi is one of Mumbai’s biggest holidays. He is considered in some ways the patron saint of the city, and many people and neighborhoods go out of their way to celebrate him. In a nutshell, he is invited into devotees’ houses to bestow blessings for a set period of time, and then – just as any honored guest eventually leaves – he is ushered out with great fanfare (carrying all the worshippers’ worries and cares) and immersed in water. As the idols were originally made of easily-distintegrateable mud, the entire process also echoed the birth-rebirth cycle.

A large elephant getting ready to greet the god Ganesh

A large elephant getting ready to greet the god Ganesh

This is easily the most colorfully fantastic of the holidays,as each neighborhood tries to outdo the other in the sheer size and spectacle of their pandal, or temporary temple, and idol that is prayed to, sung at, and eventually set out into the water. I’m sure that Mumbai’s proximity to the sea has a great deal to do with the popularity of the event here, and the city’s reputation for ‘living large’ is certainly well earned at this time. Going downtown just this past week, we caught a glimpse of some ginormous elephants guarding the doors of an elaborate shrine.

We had the chance last year to attend a family celebration last year, and are looking forward to seeing the city all swaddled in lights and elephants again!

(ps: the pictures from our latest trip to FRRO – the first webpage addition of our seond year in India – are now posted!)

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