At the very beginning of my experience in India, I was lucky enough to experience the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi, a ten-day long festival celebrating the birth of the elephant god Ganesh. During this festival, thousands of people throughout our city paint and adorn small clay statues of the god, and proceed to parade them around the city. It’s common to see the idols set up on the back of a truck, led through the streets by a group of drummers. It is also common for communities to make larger statues, some as tall as twenty or thirty feet. During Ganesh Chaturthi, one of my friend’s host families showed us around a neighborhood in the city that had dozens of these massive, beautiful and meticulously designed shrines to lord Ganesh. To me, the most fascinating part of the festival comes on the tenth day, during the process known as immersion. On this final day, people bring their statues to one of the many lakes and rivers in Hyderabad and drop them in. The largest idol in the city, which this year towered over sixty feet tall, required a crane to push it over into the water. Once the immersion is over, the statues are gone forever, and the beautiful art is never to be seen again. The dissolution of the clay in the water is meant to symbolize Ganesh returning to his mother, the goddess Parvati on Mount Kailash.
About Jack Swartzentruber
Jack Swartzentruber is passionate about economic justice, philosophy, and music. He has been involved in music his entire life, playing piano, upright bass and guitar as well as being a singer. He also has participated in political activism and service projects in Philadelphia with groups such as Broad Street Ministries and Philly Socialists, as well as in West Virginia helping to repair homes with the Appalachia Service Project. His goals for the year are to become fluent in Hindi and develop a close relationship with his host community and cohort. He really likes this quote by Ursula Le Guin: You cannot buy the revolution. You cannot make the revolution. You can only be the revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere.