GET `TIKKA’, ENJOY CHAVATH!

DIGITAL: Unfortunately, digital images of Lord Ganesh and digital puja have not met with much response.

By Rajan Narayan

You don’t have to use Zoom but get vaccinated and follow Covid-19 protocol. Even Lord Ganesh can’t save you from Covid-19 so let us not have an action re-play of last year’s Ganesh Chathurthi or Chavath as it is called in Goa.

THE Print online journal brought out by Shekar Gupta, former Indian Express editor, has recorded that after the Ganesh Chaturthi festivities last year there was a steep hike in Covid-19 cases across the state. Again, witness that after Onam celebrations in Kerala which is the state’s most important celebration, there has been a sharp spike in covid cases and these include the feared Delta variant. In Goa, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has told the High Court that it will not support “liberal tourism.” It has further clarified that it will not support group activity.
Never mind that urban centers like Panaji are emptying out for the 10-day Ganesh festival. Most Hindu Goans residing in urban towns close up their homes and head back by their ancestral village homes to observe and celebrate Chavath together with family and extended family members.
The BSNL linesman who looks after the Internet will be disappearing to Marcel to be with his family during the Ganesh Chaturthi days. Panaji is a smart city with maximum number of government servants, the majority return to their ancestral homes to welcome and celebrate Lord Ganesh.

URBAN EXODUS

THE urban exodus starts a week before Chavath commences, it starts on Friday, September 10 this year. It means government offices will be go empty and even the streets will sport an empty look. Panaji will be more or less emptied out. Other parts of Goa too like Ponda, Mapusa and Bicholim, many Goans and bhumiputra will be migrating back to their home placesot their ho
In other parts of Goa such as Ponda Mapusa or Bicholim many Goans and bhumiputras go be in their home towns and villages for to observe the Chavath puja. Goans from the Konkan areas, particularly in Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg, Dodamarg, right up to Thane in Maharashtra, had re-located post Liberation to fill up vacancies for jobs in schools and various government departments.
They work in the towns and booming cities but for Chavath festival they return home. It’s the one time in the year when they will have saved enough money to distribute largess during puja of Lord Ganesh in their home villages. For however many days the Lord Ganesh is housed and worshipped altogether they will be together, primarily a family affair to catch up with distant members of the family. All will return to their homes and jobs in the city only after the vissarjan of Lord Ganesh, promising to meet next again during Ganesh utsav.

COMMUNITY FESTIVALS

IN a sense all festivals in India are family and community festivals. There may be festivals which enjoy more importance in some states than others. For instance for the blue-blooded Bengali the most important festival is not Chavath but Durga puja. Goans settled in Goa will return to Kolkotta or West Bengal family homes with parents or grandparents to welcome the Goddess Durga image home and will follow days of puja, usually nine to ten days. This coincides more or less with the Dussera.
Perhaps, because of the belief that Goan Saraswats and migrated from Bengal to Goa at some stage of history the head of the Dempo family here in Goa has always been the chairperson of the Durga Celebration Committee.
However, with the number of Oriya families growing in Goa, their Chaath puja has been acquiring importance and many Orissa natives will be seen on the beachside performing their puja and prayers in worship of the sea. Diwali or Deepavali is primarily a festival of north India and most everyone will be exchanging sweets and savories of the festival with neighbors and family. There is also the firing off of firecrackers in the middle of the night and through the dawn hours, it creates havoc in the lives of senior citizens going for a walk and the pets at home who run for cover.
To suggest that tourists who come for fun and games or for Chavath, should restrain from any group activities, is absurd. Religious functions by their very nature mean a gathering of people. As in the case of a Goan Chavath we can’t think of Christians not coming together for their Christmas midnight mass. Similarly, Bakri Eid mandates that half the “kurbani”goat’s meat should be shared with as many poor family and friends as possible.

AT HOME WITH ZOOM

COVID-19 has been able to get children out of schools and locked them up with their mothers at home. Covid-19 has managed get employees out of offices and got them to work from home. Covid-19 has even managed to get judges and lawyers including the chief justice to run the courts from home through Zoom and other electronic software. There is even the image of a chief justice being suddenly caught with his pants down, as only his half body is seen on screen.
But India has not been able to prevent people from getting together during religious occasions. The most notorious instance of this is the last Kumbh Mela at Haridwar. Where millions of devout Hindus believe that taking a dip in the river Ganga waters will purify and bless them. Plus, there was the scam of the local administration ordering 50,000 Covid-19 tests to be performed daily. It was subsequently discovered that one million of these tests were fake.
Whether it is Christmas or Eid we cannot prevent Muslims or Christians gathering in their mosques and churches. Similarly, we cannot expect Indians to celebrate Chavath or Diwali or Durga Puja on Zoom virtually. Even if Mamata Banerjee has been projected as the new Durga Mata of Bengal. The only precaution that can be taken is to ensure that anyone who attends any get-togethers have been vaccinated with both doses of Covid-19 vaccination.
CAN we imagine a BJP government demanding RT-PCR negative certificates from the thousands of priest who come from Udupi and Maharashtra to perform religious rituals. We have still not heard of puja being performed on Zoom. Normally after being brought home the idol of Lord Ganesh is kept outside the house and it is only after a puja installing him that the festival will start off. Everyone stays in fasting mode on that day till puja is over.
Since every home needs the services of a bhat for performing the puja it so happens that only those with influence will see him arrive early, while other homes will wait indefinitely for their puja and this may be as late as 6pm in the evening. I have personally had to wait for at least five hours for Lord Ganesh puja to be over before being served my Chavath lunch or dinner.
I am very fond of Lord Ganesh. Though I am not religious I like the symbolism represented by Lord Ganesh. There is something very comforting about the roly-poly elephant god of Hinduism which suggests that all of us should be concerned about eliminating poverty. It is significant, that unlike other vain Hindu gods who ride peacocks, tigers and lions, Shri Ganesh chose the humble mouse as its vahan (vehicle or mode of transport).

LORD GANESH COLLECTION

THERE was a time when I had a huge collection of over 500 images of Lord Ganesh in gold, silver, ivory, jade and panchdhattu (a mixturte of five auspicious metals). When I was very ill in the early 90s and I was off in hospital for a six-month steroid detoxification treatment, I gave away all my images of Lord Ganesh to friends or at least people whom I thought were my good friends.
When I returned five months later very much alive much to the surprise and disappointment of some, not a single friend came to return my Lord Ganesh And the last amusing incident from the legends surrounding Lord Ganesh is that it is believed that the moon laughed at him while he was travelling somewhere on his mouse and there was a humiliating incident. The moon apparently mocked his mouse for stumbling and so Lord Ganesh cursed the moon and declared that the moon would never be able to him on his birthday. Which is why we have Ganesh Chaturthi festival commencing on dark night or on Amavasya night or no moon night.

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