Sunday, September 21, 2008
Ganapati Festival - Mumbai
What a blessed opportunity I had to be a part of the celebrations of Ganesh, the Hindu god of Protection. After going through a deep state of resistance toward Aditya, the young man whom invited me to his place a few times before I agreed, I ended up embarking on an incredible journey into the heart of devotion. It happens so many times in our lives that we have something amazing right in front of us that every part of our being in is in a state of resistance toward. I feel those emotions come simply because it allows our experience of what's to come that much sweeter. I knew deep down in my heart that I would be immersing myself in something special, as it always is in this country, but I had no idea I would be carrying the Idol, performing a pooja, leading and Satsang and again carrying the Idol to the sea for immersion. How many people can really say they experienced this holiday to the core of it. What an amazing gift from god.
So the festival begins with the pre-purchasing of an Ganesh Idol and pickup of the idol for transit to the house. Many people do an elaborate transfer and play the drums and sing loudly during the transit, but we took a milder version in the car and saved our screaming and hollering for the final day. As I carried the clay version of Ganesh back to the house, I was met with a stream of thoughts ranging from "Why the hell am I doing this" to "This is the most magical thing I have ever done". The devotion and love that goes into these replicas is astounding to say the least, my heart was wide open and my mind was shut off. Our night ending with a placing of the idol in the center of the room in which it would be waiting for the final decoration of it's 1 and a half day resting place on an large alter located at the entry way of the door. At around 3 AM in the evening, the decoration crew LOUDLY arrived at the house in a frantic scurry to prepare the space for the morning pooja. When we woke, only a few short minutes after the decorations embassy left the space, the family was met with some shocking news. Now, in India, when someone dies, the family must go into mourning for 10 days, performing no religious rights and such. So, being that this was the first day of the 11 day Ganapati celebrations, you could imagine the shock to the family when the Brahman, who came to the residence for Pooja, told them that they must not perform Pooja or celebrate any of the festivities for the holiday. And, with this comes along the horrific news of covering up the Ganesh for the the 10 days that it will remain in the house. No one who enters the house will be able to see the Ganesh. Now, Aditya and his family believe in tradition, but, the fear that this brahman instilled with speaking such things as, "Bad things will happen to you if you carry on," sparked a little bit of hesitancy to believe in such a tale. Immediately, Aditya's mother got on the phone and called 3 other Brahmans and received the comforting news that they could carry on, under special circumstances. Pooja and ceremonies would remain in the house, but nobody from the family could perform Pooja, touch the Idol, or lead in the chanting. This is where I would come in.....
My first line of duty was to perform the Pooja. I felt confident and up to the task but was pulled at the last minute when they brought in a family friend to perform the ritual. I was able to take part in the offerings and be a poojari for the ceremony. The whole experience of it drew me to stillness in which I carried through most of the day, speaking only when necessary. That evening I led the family and a large group of friends and loved ones through Satsang, singing Ganesh and Shiva mantras. The next day I was invited back in the evening time to do the immersion of the idol on the shores of Chowpatty beach. I sat in the back of the truck while all the young boys and girls chanted Ganesh mantras and sang and danced the night away. The ritual is to place the Idol, that has been the center of prayer and worship the previous days, in the back of a truck, sing and dance your ass off as you slowly escort the Idol back to the sea, where you perform the final pooja and immerse the figure into the sea. It is a little bit of an emotional experience, especially for the Idol. Honestly, the face of the Ganesh changed when we were carrying it out to the sea. I could see a tinge of sadness and loss in the clay figures face. Astonishing, really. A few passerby's made comments that the whole scene was like Jesus carrying the Ganesh. I laughed in the humor and love in the situation.
There really is nothing like an Indian Ceremony and the faith and energy that is restored in the act of it. If you have not had a chance to partake in such an venture then please, get yourself to India, there is always a festival of some sort going on. immerse yourself, without the blockages of the mind in whatever comes your way and you will see the pure love and harmony that resides in these ancient rituals and traditions. How Could I Be So Blessed, even after the Resistance? I thank GOD for the opportunity to become one with this remarkable festival.