KARACHI: Chanting prayers and hymns sitting in a boat, 'Ganpati Bappa Morya, Pudcha Varshi Lokakarya [O Father Ganpati , please come early next year]', the family of Rajesh Kumar brought the idol of Lord Ganesha for Visarjan - the act of releasing the idol in the middle of a sea, lake or river, preferably in any flowing water.
The Hindus of Karachi celebrate the meeting of Lord Ganesha with his mother, Parvati, once every year on the 11th day of the holy month, Sarawan. They hold puja in temples across the city from Tuesday night till Wednesday evening. Hundreds of Hindu families gathered at Lakshmi Narayan Mandir on Tuesday night for 'Shri Ganesha Chaturthi Jainti Puja Utsav' - the official name of the festival - with many fasting for the holy day.
Lord Ganesha, also known as Ganpati Ji, is the most revered among the 330 million gods and goddesses of the Hindu faith. Prayers for the deity are held before starting any good initiative. The believers have to whisper their wishes in the ears of the idol. "We tell him all our wishes before he goes and meets his mother," said Vandana Sharma.
According to the maharaj of Lakshmi Narayan Temple, Gopal Sharma, the day is special as Ganpati Ji goes to meet his mother. He added that it is not mandatory for the people to fast on this day but they do it for their health, wealth and family bonding.
The puja utsav [festival] is celebrated during the first 10 days of the month of Sarawan, explained one of the worshippers, Ajay Kumar, while holding a small idol of the elephant-headed deity made of mud.
The idols can be made of rice, sand, plaster and cement, said Rajesh Krishna Naik, who moulds the idols at his residence. The devotees keep the idol of Lord Ganesha with them at their home for some days, which can vary from one day to 21 days. "People keep him and do puja at their homes, too," said Karishma Devi, who made her idol herself. "Everyone keeps him at home according to their feasibility."
After praying the whole night on the 11th of Sarawan with idols of the deity decorated with coconuts, flowers and sweets, the devotees take out a procession on the street to reach Lakshmi Narayan Mandir for Visarjan [release] in the sea.
According to a devotee at the temple, Arjun Rajput, statues from all over Karachi, including Dehli Colony, Madrasi Para, Jinnah Colony, Soldier Bazaar, Chanesar Goth and Clifton temples, are brought to Lakshmi Narayan Mandir as the sea is close by and the puja can only be completed there.
"The process of bringing the Lord to the mandir continues the whole day and night," said Rajput while devotees danced in the temple and chanted prayers and hymns to the tunes of dhol, tasha and other traditional instruments.
After the puja, idols were taken to the middle of the sea via a boat for Visarjan as families prayed. One member of each family prays and leaves the idol in the water after releasing a coconut, betel leaves and rice as part of the prayers. According to Vishal Rajput, the general secretary of Shri Maharashtra Panchayat, the replicas made of mud are left in the water while the expensive and originals idols of the Lord are just dipped into the sea on the last day of the prayers.
The devotees break their fast after Ganpati Visarjan with the 'Prasad of Lord Ganesh', which is called Modat ka Laddoo and is made of coconut, honey and wheat flour.
"Ganpati Ji comes back and emerges from water after three days," said another devotee holding a 'puja ki thaali' [the plate for puja that contains rice, coconut, butter and banana].
Published in The Express Tribune, September 8th, 2016.
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