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  1. 1. Celebrate India - The many colours of Ganesh ChaturthiIt is usually the charm of a particular destination that goads an average individual to travel. However, for a true travelaficionado it’s not the destination that holds much charm but the events taking place in that destination that makes him packhis bags. The festival of “Ganesh Chaturthi” is one such event that draws millions of people from all around the world to thebeaches of Mumbai, every year. If the Brazilians have their Rio Carnival then we Indians have the Ganesh Chaturthi. Which,trust me, is by no means any lesser of a spectacle.This festival celebrates the birth of Lord Ganesha, son of Lord Shiva & Parvati, who is worshipped as the God ofwisdom,prosperity and good fortune. The festival usually falls between 20th of August & 15th of September (this time aroundit is on the 1st of September). The historical importance of this festival is as crucial as its religious importance (although mostpeople might not be aware of it today). Though, the origins ofGanesh Chaturthi can be traced back thousands of years tothe SātavāhanaEmpire but its resurgence is attributed to the Indian freedom fighter and social reformer Lokmanya Tilak. Herecognized the mass appeal of this festival and popularized it in order to bring together all castes and communities,especially Brahmins and non-Brahmins, to facilitate a feeling of unityamongst the masses. However, his main purpose was to ignite anationalistic feeling in the masses by bringing them together in atime when the British authorities discouraged social and politicalgatherings. The fruits of the seeds that Tilaksowed can be tasted eventoday in the feeling of unity that pervades in the air during thefestival where not only Hindus but Muslims, Christians, Jains andothers as well join in the festivities.Ganesh Chaturthi is the biggest event of the entire year for the stateofMaharashtra. Although the festival is 10 days long, thepreparations start well in advance. 10 days is too long a time to skipoffice but I still managed to get leave for 3 days so that I could bethere for the Ganesh Visarjan. By the way,Ganesh Visarjan is the 11thday of the festival when they submerge the idol of Lord Ganesha inthe river or the sea and this marks the end of the festival. Oops! in myexcitement I jumped yet again right to the end so let me start fromthe beginning.So, as I mentioned, I was there 2 days before the Visarjan and what I observed was not that different from how wecelebrate Durga Puja - there is daily pooja for 10 days straight. During that time I got to see plenty ofcoconut,jaggery, modak, durva (trefoil) blades of grass, red flowers, kumkumand sandalwood paste. The most interesting of these beingsouth IndianModak sweets, which is the main sweet dish of the festival. It is a dumpling made from rice flour/ wheat flour witha stuffing of fresh or dry-grated coconut, jaggery, dry fruits and some other condiments. It is either steam-cooked or fried. Itwas so delectable; I was practically living off it during those three days.All this was fine but I was eagerly waiting for was the last day of Ganesh Visarjan. This is when all the mayhem and themadness descend upon the streets of Mumbai. People carry the same Lord Ganesha idols that they had installed in their homesfor the daily pooja to submerge them in the river or the seawater. This symbolises the Lord’s journey towards his abode inMountKailash while he takes away with him the misfortunes of his devotees. There is singing and dancing and shouting andcheering and hooting and drumming all over the place and especially on the beaches, where the crowd is at its thickest. I amnot sure how many of you have heard of the Ghaati dance, but if you have, you might be interested to know that it probablyoriginated during this festival. The best part about this dance form is that it requires NO training and a complete lack of shame(I think I did a fairly good job at it!). Beware, it can be pretty untamed but if you take my word, that’s where true essence ofthis dance is.All this is well and good, but nothing beats the star attraction - while I was on the beach I saw something that, till that day, Ihad seen only on television, the gigantic, 25 feet tall, idol of Lord Ganesha. I can’t even begin to imagine the kind of time andartistic skill that must have been put into to making something like that. If it was up to me I would have put it up in a museum,It is such a pity that they had to submerge it. Make sure you don’t miss this, otherwise it will be all for nothing.We make special trips for World Cup Finals, Dubai shoppingfestival, Special Award ceremonies, I say, why not trysomething little earthy for a change? After witnessing what Idid, I can only suggest that you shouldn’t wait for one of yourtrips to coincide with this festival. This festival is worthmaking all just for itself. Each time they submerge the idol,they chant, ‘Ganpati bappa moray, pudcha warshi lavkar yaa’ –something that upon translation, pretty much echoed mysentiment too – Lord Ganesha, come back sooner next yearwith your love and blessings!Connect with on Facebook, Twitter and YouTubeas well.