From Maximum City to City in a Forest: Ganpati Bappa Travels to USA

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As Mumbai bade its final farewell for this year to its beloved Lord Ganesha yesterday during Ganesh Visarjan, what better day to be reminded of the blissful three days that we experienced right here in Atlanta. In my last post O My Lord Ganesha, I Miss You; I had mentioned that I don’t remember a single year since childhood when we did not celebrate the Ganesh Chaturthi festival. We used to (and still do) bring HIS idol at home for seven days and worship. Fun and frolic and religious and spiritual sentiments taken care of, those seven days at home were boisterous yet replete with tranquillity. After moving here, this was the first time in my life when I would miss having the Lord over at home. I was really depressed and hated the thought of missing out on all the festivities back at home.

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Just a week before the festival started, Desh and I went grocery shopping at the Indian store and guess who we met? The Lord of Prosperity – Ganesha, was smiling ear to ear at us! My heart did a few cartwheels and I looked at Desh with eyes full of longing. We got one idol of Plaster of Paris for home that day itself (for keeps) and asked the lady at the store if the celebrations really happened in our city (obviously why else would there be so many idols otherwise, but we were not aware), and were any immersion possibilities there. She advised us to speak to the Panditji at the Hanuman temple close by and I was thrilled just with the thought of replicating the celebration in my new house. We drove to the temple immediately and figured that Ganesh Chaturthi was indeed celebrated in Atlanta, in fact there would be a big idol in the temple as well. Things are different here obviously; it’s not like the celebration we have back home and it ain’t possible to complete the immersion ritual on any beach close to home in your city of residence. Many people ofcourse either make or get a dissolvable idol of clay and do the immersion in the tub at home, but that’s not what I wanted to do. Having seen the festivities and every single process at such close quarters I have become a stickler to do everything as per process and hence wanted to follow the good old regime. And we were in luck as the main panditji of the temple told us that we could bring our idol before Sunday morning – 20th September, as they would do the immersion in Jacksonville. They had taken special permission for that and needless to say that they were also going to pay a huge amount of greenbacks for the same. Nevertheless, that trip to the grocery store and the temple ensured happiness galore for Desh and me!

Being a Delhi-ite, my husband hasn’t witnessed the festival at all, but he was very excited and supportive; and looking forward to bringing the Lord home for the three days of worshiping. He’s an extremely spiritual person and is more serious about such things than me, so I can’t even begin to express my delight and contentment when Desh consented and was excited about the celebration himself. I immediately called mom and dad to ask them about the preparations, as I had always participated in the arrangements at home, but was never responsible for everything myself. Here the tables had turned and if we had to do this, it was completely on us. To be honest, we knew that we would not be able to do things the way they are done in India, but we revelled in the thought that we would be ensuring that we don’t lose touch with our culture just because we now live in a foreign land. So we started our preparations and booked a lovely idol at the Indian grocery store, to bring home only on the day of Chaturthi. They were sweet enough to keep HIM for us till the actual day arrived.

On Ganesh Chaturthi, I gathered all the things needed as per instructions from my father, and we set out to bring the Lord home. It’s a little funny with just two people doing everything. A big change for me from what used to happen at home – the big fat procession and celebration as against just sitting in the car and getting the idol home. But as they say, the connection with God is one to one, so as long as you are devoted, the number of people and other paraphernalia doesn’t really matter. So we got him home and like a good girl I was dressed in Indian clothes. As the ritual goes, Desh stood at the door holding HIM, with a scarf on HIS crown, and I did the aarti and puja with the pre-prepared puja ki thali, and the dupatta (stole) on my head. I felt a bit odd, as mom did this at home. This time it was me doing it with my husband partaking in every little thing, but then this was our house as well.

We placed HIM on the table that we had already decorated. Ofcourse we had already figured vastu directions from dad and ensured that we placed the idol facing east as that is the best direction. We completed the setting and then started the puja. It was so odd, seriously. I had never done this before, as in the complete ritual on my own. Here I took my father’s place! During the puja, papa gives the instructions while mom completes the ritual of applying the vermilion, placing the fruits and the prasad, putting the garland and flowers, lighting the diya and the incense sticks and many other small elements before the aarti and bhajans are sung by everyone. Here, I was giving the instructions and Desh completed the rituals. Though I know the prayers by heart, thankfully I also had the prayer book, so we kept that open too. When I think of it now, it brings a big smile and now I realise how stressed I was too. I wanted everything to be pit pat and perfect! We did the puja once a day unlike twice a day back at home. My parents have always said that we should take on only as much we can accomplish and put in our best foot forward rather than trying to overdo and spoil it completely. Desh and I were happy to do the puja once a day given his busy schedule and we were satisfied with it.

We also had a few guests who came for the darshan and it felt really good. The best part about the whole festival was that Bella was as much a part of it as we were. She would sit on the carpet in front of the idol the whole time and would not hesitate when we put the vermilion on her head after the puja. She is an inherent part of a spiritual family after all. On Saturday evening, after the main puja, we recited a kshama prarthana (a forgiveness prayer in Sanskrit) that I learnt from mom. It is to ask for forgiveness if we went wrong in doing anything despite being totally devoted to the Lord. The last aarti always has me in involuntary tears and even this time I weeped like crazy. I didn’t know whether it was because we were bidding farewell to Ganpati Bappa or whether I was missing my parents and family in India during the festivities, but it was too emotionally charged a moment for me. Thank god for Desh by my side, he makes everything so cheerful for me.

We then took the Lord to the temple and placed HIM there for the immersion to happen the next morning. Though the celebrations were not as they happen at home, atleast we were happy that we could still be a part of the festival and feel ONE with HIM.

Here are a few pictures of our celebration. Hope you enjoy them as much as we did during those three days.

 

Desh bringing Ganpati home
Desh bringing Ganpati home

 

Ganeshji finally settles down
Ganeshji finally settles down

 

Ganpati's Perch
Ganpati’s Perch

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Bella bleses as well too
Bella bleses as well too

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Bella in front of Ganpati
Bella in front of Ganpati

 

Doing Puja
Doing Puja

 

Taking Ganpati for Visarjan
Taking Ganpati for Visarjan

 

Desh and I taking Ganpati for Visarjan
Desh and I taking Ganpati for Visarjan

 

 

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