My Night Celebrating Ganesha’s Birthday, Alone In India

I went out for a walk, headed for the small temple in my neighborhood to join in on the festivities of Ganesha Chaturthi. The sound of traditional music from the nearby temples leaked into the streets. There were other women draped in classy saris and kurti sets while the men wore plain dress shirts and blue jeans. They were also either coming or going to the temple like I was, everyone smiling and laughing among themselves. It is so nice to see people happy and it created a good vibration throughout the area.

The moon was to my right, and as I walked beside an open field it seemed as if it were shining brighter than usual. Even hidden behind clouds it sat, lurking in my peripheral vision, looking right at me. “Nope, you’re not gazing at the moon tonight” replayed over in my mind. But you know when you tell yourself not to do something it just makes it that much harder? I wondered if anyone else walking the road was thinking the same thing, or if someone had accidentally taken a glance.

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I made it to the large statue of Lord Ganesha, and let my shoes join the other pairs neatly lined on the dirt road. Before walking up to the statue of the deity I placed my two palms together in a prayerful gesture, raised them to my head above my brow, and back down to my heart. There was an older man, dressed in all white, who was instructing the children to hold the lit flame for everyone. When they approached me I held my hands out, in a cupping motion and passed them through the flame a few times drawing the blessings towards me. Afterwards, I walked close to the statue of Lord Ganesha, made the prayer motion with my hands again, and laid down my offerings—some red flowers and a couple of rupees.

Myself with the statue of Lord Ganesha
Myself with the statue of Lord Ganesha

The children called me back over putting a piece of newspaper in my hands, then scooped a small portion of the Prasad that was made earlier onto it. I held it in my hands, walking back outside, eating it little by little. It wasn’t overly sweet, which I liked, and had a grainy texture to it. I noticed a group of women approaching, including one who smiled at me, asking where I was from and from there we sparked up a conversation. She was really kind-hearted and asked if I wanted her to take my picture with the statue. Of course I did! Afterwards, I snapped a couple of shots and then she brought over a bowl, asked me to kneel, and applied a little sandalwood paste to my temples and some red powder in between my brows. She said it would help strengthen my third eye, and who doesn’t want a little intuition boost?

I was invited into the home by another one of the women who lived across the street. This is one of the reasons I really enjoy being in India. Everyone is so welcoming and it doesn’t matter that you’re a stranger, they’ll still wrap their arm around you and lead you straight into their home! (No, I’m not telling you to just go into any random person’s home, please use good judgment.) I’m thankful the young woman who had taken my photo came along too, her name is Sneha, and she helped translate between everyone so we could have a conversation.

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They served me with a plate of food which had Kadubu, a steamed dumpling made with rice and usually grated coconut or jaggery as a filling. It tasted great, with a slight nutty flavor to it. I also had a Papad (fried crisp), and a really tasty fried patty with spinach, corn, and chilies mixed together.

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Again we did the ceremony with the sandalwood paste and red powder between the brows, and another of the women brought some bangles out as a gift for me to wear. They were green colored glass bangles, usually worn to signify fertility and prosperity, and wow did we have a great laugh trying to get them on my hands! I have found a majority of the bangles in India to be smaller than what I am familiar with wearing back in the states, so we continually pressed my thumb inwards to put these one. I felt bad when one broke, but after about 10 minutes we managed to fit them on to both of my wrists!

Afterwards we sat for a while, took some photos, and said our good-byes.

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