Friday, September 19, 2008

For whom the Ganeshas drown......?

The annual Onam Celebrations concluded in Trivandrum on September 16th with a carnival of floats and cultural performances which flowed down M.G. Road from Kowdiar to East Fort, a spectacular sight not seen for many a year.

While the people were out in force to witness the cultural extravaganza, the attendance at a procession the very previous day was dismal in comparison. This was when a tradition of Maharastra was grotesquely replicated in Kerala for what can be at best called mysterious reasons. I am referring to the most recent fad in the religious calendar of Trivandrum and Kerala - the Ganeshotsav, the puja of and later immersion of idols of the Hindu God Ganesh.

One can question the basis of this new "tradition" on the very fact it is an alien tradition which has no precedent in the culture of Kerala or the sheer nuisance it creates to life in a major city. I am sure if someone proposed that we start celebrating Pongal with the vigour of our neighbours or the Festival of the Great Kahuna with the reverence shown by the inhabitants on some remote Polynesian island, it would be rejected with a laugh. Why then, a replication of a thoroughly Maharastrian custom all of a sudden? And it does create a nuisance to everyone, with idols ranging from medium to jumbo size, pardon the pun, taking up scarce space on the sidewalks and roads of the bustling city. The fact that there was hardly ever a soul at any of these idols is a sure sign of the fabricated nature of this so-called festival, as opposed to the throngs one usually finds around Durga Puja pandals in Kolkata or even Ganeshas of the same ilk in Mumbai. Add to this the mess created at the beach when the idols emulate the mythical lemmings.

However the main reason that this mass hara-kiri of the Ganeshas is a disturbing trend for the city lies in its organiser. If the Nazi Party started functioning in today's Jerusalem, I am sure there would be more than a minor stir among the local populace. However, an organisation born on an anti-Madrasi plank, which cut its teeth through violence against South Indians, including Keralites, and their establishments in Mumbai has been functioning in our midst for years and not many eyelids have been batted over it. The Shiv-Sena has been in Trivandrum and Kerala for many years now, best known for their fleet of ambulances plying in the city. The Sena began as a regionalist organisation which promised to throw out migrants including our brethren from the hard-earned jobs and to give them to Marathis. How ironic that they are proliferating in Kerala, and not many seem to be bothered by it. Even more ironic is that they have chosen to use Lord Ganesh as their brand ambassador and propogation medium, "Ganesha is also a secular god as other faiths have no misgivings about him!", is what one worthy of the party has to say. Somehow, the words "Trojan Horse" keep ringing in the background on hearing that.

Some of you might be wondering why I have embarked on a sudden vendetta against Lord Ganesh? Lol, I have nothing against everyone's favorite transgenic God. In fact, he and I share the same star or something but as I usually write about steps we take forward in the long road of progress, I think I should also mention once in while those steps which are taken in the reverse direction. And there is no better example for the latter than the invasion we recently witnessed.


  1. christmas ramsan n dyfi rallies are not aliens they r integral part of indian civilization isnt more man improve ur gk

  2. Well, Ajin, last time I checked - Christmas and Ramzan have been here for a long time and are accepted by the good people of our city. Political rallies, sadly they too are part and parcel of any capital city.

    I am not being communal in any sense, I believe all religions are menaces but what I wrote about was a concerted use of religion to create an event which can only set us back.

    In case, anyone has a saffron outlook, do note that I haven't singled out many other religious processions of the same ilk eventhough many have similarly dubious aims. The only question is whether a modern city and society need customs like the Ganeshotsav which are not even theirs??!

  3. ajay, good observation. Ajin seems to take it personally. But the fact is no god is happier/sadder because some morons chant his name in a rally, be it for chaturthi, perunall or muharram. Except that the people who organize such nonsense get curses from others whom they put in trouble through traffic jams, high decibel kolambis and junk on the streets. A procession for a cultural/patrotic reason like an independence day procession, onam, kerala day etc are still tolerable as these are more of symbols of the community and the way we have chosen to live and respect a common culture. But why impose on other people issues like religion and faith which are best if held personal. After all faith is a daialogue between self and the almighty and not something that should matter whether one man prays or a thousand pray together. (all religions attribute praying in greater nos and praying greater no of times as a virtue- this surely have some tribal/historic reasons rather than faith related).

  4. Very true indeed. I ve been in Trivandrum for nearly 3 decades and the last 2 years or so, we have been seeing 'alien' festivals being celebrated here.

    There were always muslims, hindus & x'tians in the city and the festivals or celebrations always remained the same.

    Ganesh Chathurthi is something strangely new here and seems to be more of a propaganda from the saffron-ites and that is very obvious.

    There is some sort of unhealthy competition happening here to decide who can draw the largest crowds. Compete all you want but please do not disrupt traffic and the way we live our daily lives!

    @Ajin - Christmas, Ramzan & DYFI all have been co-existing with Kerala for eons (maybe not the DYFI). That does not mean, tomorrow we gonna host the Haj or Amarnath pilgrimages here in Trivandrum. Seriously, nobody understands what Ganesh Chathurthi is doing here in Trivandrum :-s ???

    PS: I have nothing against any religion, but surely denounce any form of religious extremism be it Hindu, Christian, Sikh, Jain or Muslim.

  5. Nice to see this topic being raised. I was at the receiving end of hardships caused this ganesha rally last year in tvm. traffic was held up for hours and I was witness to the highhandedness of the shiv sainiks who were misbehaving with motorists trying to go thru the side roads. and all this in the name of God. and in the name of an organisation which was actually formed as a movement against southies, as u rightly pointed out. I really doubt how many of the kerala shivsainiks know this particular history of the sena.
    Also, thnks 4 the new info on lemming...hehhe..was funny..

    have blogrolled u. really appreciate the intent behind this blog. I remember visitng this blog sometime back.

  6. Thanks for your comments, guys. I am happy to see that the hypocrisy of the Sena's existence here is becoming clear. I am sure that more than a few of the organisation's members may not be aware of its origin, as you mentioned. As for the lemmings, I thought it was an appropriate comparison, lol!

  7. Ajay,

    We have no right to raise our voice against this.if you are that much concerned raise your voice against the violence and strikes happening in a daily basis at the heart of the trivandrum city.

    This is religious and let them do that, as all other religions in our secular least it doesn't have any bloodshed or harm to anyone in the city.

  8. Ajay,
    Well said.
    Lokamanya Tilak visualized the cultural importance of this deity and popularised Ganesha Chaturthi as a National Festival "to bridge the gap between the Brahmins and the non-Brahmins and find an appropriate context in which to build a new grassroots unity between them" in his nationalistic strivings against the British in Maharashtra.

    Ganesh Utsav was a social mobilization idea by Tilak to bring people to the freedom movement forgetting the Brahmin Non Brahmin divide.
    And it is really stupid that such a festival, which is nothing godly but a social extravaganza is being made popular for the heck of it to show some party's strength.



Thanks for your comment, I will take a look at it and put it up at the earliest.