How We Used to Celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi 30 Years Ago!

How We Used to Celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi 30 Years Ago!

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Ganesha Chaturthi (Vinayaka Chavithi as it’s called by Telugu people) was a wonderful festival for us kids some 30 years back. It still is a wonderful festival, in a different note though. Those days of life in the beautiful, picturesque village were the most wonderful days of my life.

Ganesha Chaturthi festival used to come either in late August or early September. We kids were looking forward for this festival because after Ganesha Chaturthi, many festivals follow till the next Ugadi (traditional new year in south India. In fact, Ugadi is the first festival in the year. But the next festival will be months away and it feels like Ugadi is the last festival).

On the day of Ganesha Chaturthi, it’s the duty of all the kids to wake up very early, take bath and then go to the remote hills or forest areas farther from the village and fetch all kinds of leaves, wild flowers, grass blades and seasonal fruits. This early morning adventure in the mist was the most looked forward event of the day. We would be literally waiting for this. The walk to the hills, the search for the leaves, flowers and fruits was like a treasure hunt. The beauty of the dew drops on the glass blades, the smell of the earth was so intoxicating. By the end of the adventure, there used to be a sense of pride and joy on every kid’s face.

Once back at home, we used to have breakfast (kids usually don’t fast), and the next big event was to make or get clay Ganesha. Those days, we either have to make it or travel 3 kilometers on bicycle or on foot to buy it for 5 or 10 rupees. Most of us kids wanted to make it with clay. We used to go to a nearby water body, a small lake where the clay is plentiful. We bring a lot of wet clay in polythene bags and assemble under a tree. Somebody used to have a wooden mold of Ganesha to make the outline of the idol. This used to be an undeclared competition to make the most beautiful Ganesha idol. The ideas of idol decoration are jealously protected (we take the finished idol home and make the decoration in secret so that other kids won’t copy it. Once the pooja is over then we show off our creative achievements. Golden days indeed).

It is believed that whoever looks at the moon on this day, will have to bear the consequences of defamation or accuses. We naughty kids used to try different tricks on other kids to make them look at the moon during the night. When we see an unsuspecting kid, we used to go near and startle him by shouting something like “Oh my… Look what is there…” pointing our hand up. Sometimes he/she will accidentally look up and you guessed it right, looks at the moon. Sometimes they won’t fall for it. However, I remember no life threatening situations come in their lives, except few beatings from their parents for mischievous deeds.

The nimajjan day was the actual festival day for us. We get bullock carts, put the big Ganesha idol on it and then put all the small idols from the individual homes. With the traditional drums and other musical instruments leading us to the big lake, we start on a ride. The ride for the next 1 kilometer was a joyful ride, full of fun, chanting, devotion and excitement. Once we reach the lake, elders will drop the idols in the lake amidst the chanting and drum beats. It was a spectacular event for all of us. The ride back home was as much fun with jokes on each other.

Now, after 30 years, we have the same devotion for Ganesha but that excitement and innocence is missing along with the climate. It became more of a mechanical event. My heart often longs for those golden days; those were not rich in luxuries but rich in experiences.

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