Friday, August 29, 2014

Chennai Holidays: Ganesh Chaturthi

One of the perks of working overseas for the government is that we get the day off for some (or all) of the host country's holidays! I figure what better way to show my appreciation than to learn a little more about what's being celebrated. I've already missed Indian independence day (though I mentioned it at the time) and Idu’l Fitr (Ramzan), but I'll catch them next year.

Today's holiday is for the festival Ganesh Chaturthi (also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi). It celebrates the elephant headed god of wisdom and beginnings, Ganesh. You can read the details in the wiki article, so I'll talk about the festival in Chennai.

The festival is biggest in the Mumbai area, but I'm told it is observed all over the country. Followers celebrate by creating and honoring clay idols of Ganesh. They are given offerings of fruits, herbs, and plants, and after 10 days they are paraded around the city before being thrown into the ocean. Our housekeeper told me that fruit and vegetables are very expensive today (due to the high demand), with prices averaging around 10 rupees above normal. She said the prices will stabilize again by Monday.

I actually volunteered to work today (to earn comp time for a future trip), so I wasn't able to walk around and see too many of the idols in our neighborhood. Fortunately they should be there for awhile, so I'll get another chance. I  did see  several stands selling them on the auto ride to and from work, as well as an increased number of vendors selling offering flowers.

The clay statues shown in the pictures above were around 10 rupees. Pretty crazy.

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