Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Let the festivities begin!

For most of India, late-August / early-September marks the beginning of the festive season. Last Friday was the start of the 11-day festival of 'Our Lady of Health' at Veilankanni, which is celebrated all over Tamil Nadu. Yesterday was the start of the holy month of Ramadan and also the first day of celebrations leading up to Onam, a festival in Kerala. Today is a holiday to mark Vinayaka Chathurthi, the festival honouring Ganesha, the remover of obstacles. And then, at the beginning of October, there is Navarathri, followed by Diwali. Each of them is celebrated over a few days so there is a lot of good food, cheer and celebrations to look forward to.

Vinayaka is probably the most prevalent of the deities in the city. There is a belief that if your house is at a T-junction, a small statue of Vinayaka (or even a tile with His image) must be placed in a way that it looks down to the foot of the 'T', so as to deflect any ill-luck that might come up that road. Add to that the numerous clay idols that have made expressly to celebrate the Chathurthi and there is a glut of Ganeshas all over Chennai. There are pujas at each one and if you pause there, you will be given a leaf-plate with some prasad; kozhukattai or modakam, typically, as it is Ganesha's favourite food. And then you can have a bit of suspense as you taste it, because it comes in both sweet and savoury forms.

On Venkatnarayana Road, there is a space just outside the JYM Kalyana Mandapam (Marriage Hall) where a group of devotees build a large Vinayaka every year. When they started the practice, it was a clay-and-papier-mache idol: like any other, only bigger. But for the past few years, the materials have been varied - can you find out how many vegetables it takes to make a Vinayaka?


Hilda said...

Whoa, that's cool! But the eyes looking out of all those vegetables is also kind of creepy. ;)

LVISS said...


bitingmidge said...

I'm looking forward to more reports!

Sunshine Coast Daily - Australia

Shantaram said...

>> Hilda>> Haha!

>> Ravindran>> Not if you're a marketer! They just love this time of the year, don't they?

>> Midge>> You'll get them!