This post is stale before I even got to publish it. Read it maybe for background, but the next one is the real story here.
The title loosely translates to Holy Mother Of God, in this case the God is Ganesha.
Like the music surrounding this festival, I might have been banging on a bit about Ganesh Chaturthi. Once I discovered it and that the festival was happening while I am here it has been a constant theme, from the day I arrived.
Down every other street and lane there is a brightly decorated statue of Ganesh, some big, some small, some like the main ones here in Mumbai are huge!!! The festival ends today with the statues being taken and immersed in water to dissolve, here it is at the beach and I am hoping to get there.
That I am able to cope with the crowds and lack of respect of personal space is nothing short of miraculous in itself. I tend to avoid crowds, I don’t like the jostling much. But here I have managed to mentally detach a bit and remind myself I am on an adventure and that makes it mostly bearable.
A Rs50 ($1) taxi ride to a wall of people and traffic saw me take pity on the driver and jump out before we actually got to Laulbag Raja. There is nothing I can think of to compare this to so you will get a sense of the volume and visuals of this place. People everywhere, 2 of the 3 road lanes are closed for pedestrians making the traffic even worse. There are strings of flashing lights leading to all Ganesha, but they have exceeded themselves in this area. The area is floodlit, there is live TV showing the festivities, hawkers everywhere, police and army just hanging around, barricades to funnel people in a general direction. There is obviously some sort of order in the chaos as it all seems to flow, but it is madness.
I hadn’t come all this way to not go in boots and all so I stood in a not too long line (30 mins) to get in to one of the Ganesh idols. I took the easy line where I just passed through the room caught a glimpse and then ended up in sideshow alley.
While I am making a bit light of my experience, this is also an intensely spiritual time and experience for every other person there – I seem to be the only westerner. The other line would have been a couple of hours long and funnelled people to the feet of Ganesha to touch them and have their wishes granted. There is a lot of puja happening and given the situation people are remarkably patient.
One thing I am good at is getting the most out of a situation and when we were being pushed through quickly I did a mix of ignorance/bold tourist/curious onlooker/friendly short guy/try to be inconspicuous and managed to spend a fair bit of time watching and videoing. I am sure I wasn’t supposed to wander into this area but no one stopped me so you get to see what was involved. Of course video never does reality justice.
In fact the whole experience was quite amazing. The idol is huge and georgeous despote being garishly decorated (they all are), the atmosphere is electric, and although there is conflict between keeping moving and wanting to stop, people are in a generally good mood.
I am not 100% certain of the setup but I think there is a number of big Ganesha in the area. I wandered into another fast moving line that went into a big room that was your theme park nightmare. You know how you see a ride and there is about 50 people in line so you get on the end and make your way forward and then you realise that around the corner is that sneaky hidden snakey line with about 200 people? Well around this corner was that sneaky hidden snakey line that I guess would have held at least 2,000 people…no kidding! But it was empty right now and it led to this gauntlet…note the queue on the right.
When I got to the main body of people I just couldn’t do it. There was just too many people too jammed together, but like Ikea there is no obvious exit. Going with the flow of people was one thing, imagine going against it. By the ti!e i got out I was in overwhelm, I turned my hearing aids off, had a sugar hit and walked the few Km back to my hotel where a cold shower was such a relief – and I hate cold showers.
The hotel has let me use a computer and finally I have fast internet [update: ‘faster’ internet]. Meanwhile this is random Mumbai.