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Photo by Shana Dressler

Ganesh Fever in Incredible India!

By Alecia J. Cohen
Published August 1, 2005

I had dreamed of visiting Mumbai (Old Bombay) since I was a young girl. The romantic India I created in my head now stood before me, alongside a chaotic India I could never quite imagine.

Touching down in Mumbai after 16 hours in the air, my senses immediately told me that I was in for an adventure unlike any other. I knew India was going to be interesting, but little did I know I was in for an experience that would change my life. For starters, flying Air India was a smart choice: kicking back and watching Bollywood films while dining on Indian cuisine made the long journey easy to manage.

But travel within India is a slow process. The country reveals herself like a long, flowing sari, bursting with color at each seam, winding around every space of your being as she drapes you completely in the fabric of her traditions. Each day has a way of presenting obstacles in the midst of the heat, even as India’s hidden jewel, her people, open up gently and gracefully through a smile, a cup of chai and the standard salutation, “Namaste.”

I had dreamed of visiting Mumbai (Old Bombay) since I was a young girl. My imagination was filled with an India in which one encounters lovely scented spices, women shrouded in flowing, luminescent saris and temples filled with deities who welcome you with their presence alone. The romantic India I created in my head now stood before me, alongside a chaotic India I could never quite imagine.          

Mumbai is one of India’s most dynamic, Westernized cities and offers up everything in raw form. This sprawling metropolis of humidity, hassle, traffic fumes, relentless crowds and appalling poverty attacks all of your senses at once. With 32.5 million urban dwellers, five million of whom who live in shanties and street slums, the broad boulevards, streams of commuters and teeming bazaars create a frenzied feeling bound to overwhelm you within 24 hours of your first visit. While the level of poverty and filth is insurmountable, the level of spiritual wealth and hospitality is far beyond what I have experienced during my travels abroad to some 30 countries. 

The journey of my long-planned trip to attend the Ganesh Chaturthi festival in Maharashtra began many months back. While I was previously familiar with Lord Ganesh, a chance invitation by a musician friend, Bapi Das Baul (Purna Das Baul), to a Ganesh temple in Paris created a link between this devotional god and me. It was there I received a blessing by a Hindu priest, attended a puja and was given an offering of flowers and fruit.

Ganesh, the elephant-headed god (also known as Ganapati), is the son of Lord Shiva and Parvati and most commonly known as the Remover of Obstacles. He is the god that Hindus worshipped before any others in both private and public ceremonies. He has more than 1,000 names, many of which describe his appearance (Ekadanta; the single-tusked one; Lambodara, the potbellied one; Vinayaka, the remover).

Later last year, when my best friend Shana Dressler suggested I join her at the Ganesh festival, fate had found me once again. Shana had<

  Travel notes

Air India: www.airindia.com

 

Where to Stay

 

Mumbai

The Ambassador

V.N. Road, Churchgate,

Mumbai 400 020

T: 2204 1131

 

Pune

ER Hotel Regency

192, Dhole Patil Road,

Pune 411 001

T: 403-0303

 

Places to Shop

FabIndia

Jeroo Bldg., 137, M.G. Road

Kalaghoda, Mumbai 400 001

T:22626549

 

Fabric Shops

Kala Niketan Silk & Sarees

95, Queen’s Road

Mumbai 400-020

T: 2200-5001

 

Vendana Fabrics

Chandralok-A 97 Nepeansea Road

Mumbai – 6

T: 2363 2150