Ganesha in Rameswaram

Very close to the Ramanathaswamy temple in Rameswaram we passed a large idol of Ganesha on a truck. Since we visited Rameswaram at the beginning of the Ganapati festival, this was not unusual. What made me stop was the drumming. A group of boys was ranked in front of the idol, wearing a white dhoti and a purple angravastram, playing a staccato rhythm on drums. It was loud, and the rhythm was not very complicated, but it was clearly the first act.

Behind them were older men with a yellow angavastram, with drums. I waited for them to start. It was a treat when they did. I discovered a wonderful new sound, made by rubbing the curved stick across the stretched membrane of the drum. Note the oldest man in the ensemble (at the center of the photo above, facing the camera). If the colour of the angavastram is anything to go by, then he was clearly special. He was absolutely focussed on the music, and seemed to be directing the others.

The drums are an announcement of an approaching event, and my guess was that this was merely the start. It would be some time before the truck moved, and the drummers would move behind it, announcing the approach of Ganesha.

Durga Puja

We are past the middle of the season of festivals now. Ganesha showed the way at the end of the monsoon. Now Durga is gone for the year. This season is the Indian summer, the muggy period which sets in after the end of the monsoon. The season will end in another couple of weeks, when Diwali swings around again, and signals the beginning of the winter.

I took the featured photo at a puja in Powai. I love the sight of people taking selfies in front of the idol. The Family’s Instagram stream was full of such photos.

Fire and smoke

One of the biggest festivals of India is the Durga Puja. One part of the festivities is a dance to the goddess performed with live coals in earthen pots. There was a time when only men were allowed to perform this. The times are changing. At least in one place in Mumbai this year the only dancers were women.

Behind the scenes

This is a season of festivals in India. It started with Ganapati a couple of weeks back. Now the festival of Durga just got over. In one form or another Durga’s is a pan-Indian festival. A few more smaller festivals, and the season will end with Diwali. The Bengali version of Durga puja is a grand party. Like all grand events, it requires many hands to make sure it goes off satisfactorily. Drums and drummers are an important part of the ceremonies. The featured photo shows a couple of drummers waiting for their cue.

Durga puja food

Food is a large part of a festival. Crowds which come to see the puja and the associated amateur singing and plays stay on to eat. The crew in the photo above are making the rolls and wraps which are an important part of the meal.

Durga puja toys

Cheap little toys have been associated with these festivals for as long as I can remember. I used to beg uncles and aunts to buy me tops at such places when I was a pre-school child. I wonder if children still want these things. You see little families hawking them late into the night, so there must be buyers.

Durga puja ride

Fairground rides have become popular over the last decade or so. It must have become easier to hire out or assemble some of these rides. This one was waiting for customers even after midnight.

Durga puja balloons

You see sleepy children drifting in the wake of their parents at these pujas till the early hours of the morning. This balloon seller hopes to snare the attention of a few who are awake enough to buy one.

The festival season

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After the end of the monsoon till the beginning of winter, the time that would be called autumn in the north temperate part of the globe, is the time of festivals in India. In Mumbai the season opens with Ganapati. In most of the rest of the country it is Navaratri, or Durga Puja, which is the beginning of the series of festivals which end with Diwali.

I took the photo above in one of Mumbai’s famous Durga Pujas. It is organized every year by a family which is closely connected with movies. The Mukherjee clan was established by a film producer who started working with a famous director in the 1940s, before founding his own studio. His family remained in control of the studio he started. His grandchildren include one well-known star and an up-and-coming director. I thought that this place is popular because one can gawk at film stars and other people known for being known. But the person in the foreground is praying, his whole attention on the idol, and not on the celebrities.