Au Revoir Ganpati
Thousands of Mumbaikars bid farewell to Ganesha or Ganpati as he is more fondly known in Maharashtra, yesterday. Its been a while since I was in Mumbai for Ganpati Visarjan*, but the infectious enthusiasm of thousands chanting,
Ganpati Bappa Moraya,
Phudcha varshi lavkar ya
Rough translation from Marathi, Dearest Ganpati, bye for now, but come again next year.
still rings in my ears, whenever I think of the last day of the Ganpati celebrations.
Ganpati , a rotund figure with the head of an elephant and who rides a tiny mouse is the most beloved of the legions of Hindu gods. Beneath his portly appearance is a sharp mind that can outwit even Shiva, one of the three that make up the Hindu trinity.
Bal Gangadhar Tilak, the leader of India’s freedom struggle before Gandhi, in a stroke of political genius, tapped into the popularity and affection people across caste and class lines felt for Ganpati and used the annual celebration for grass roots organizing against the British rule. After their bitter experience in the first war of Indian Independence in 1857, the British were vary of messing with religious rituals of their Indian subjects and gave the Ganesh festival a wide berth. India won its freedom in 1947 but the Ganesh festival in the public square still endures .
*Visarjan : Ritual immersion of the Ganesh idol in a body of water, in Mumbai that usually is the Arabian sea.