The Hindu festival of 'Ganesh Chaturthi' marks the birth of Lord Ganesha, the remover of obstacles, and the God of wealth, sciences, knowledge, wisdom, prosperity and new beginnings.
The 10-day festival begins on the 'chaturthi' (fourth day) of the month of 'bhadrapada' (the sixth month of the Hindu lunar calendar between August and September).
Celebrated with extravaganza by Hindus by globally, this year's celebrations took on a different form due to Covid-19 restrictions on large gatherings and government guidance on social distancing.
'iGlobal' caught up with the Mauritian Marathi Society to find out how the community celebrated the auspicious Hindu festival this year.
Founded in November 1982, the Mauritian Marathi Society gave birth to preserve the Mauritian Marathi culture in the UK. Ganesha Chaturthi is one of the main festivals for the community and it is usually celebrated in opulence, with devotees and members gathering in hundreds to adorn a handmade Ganesh murti (idol) with flower garlands and lights and participate in prayers and aarti.
However, this year celebrations have taken on a virtual form due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with the community gathering via live stream to commemorate the festival - a first for the Mauritian Marathi Society.
“Normally we would celebrate the festival in a hall, but due to Covid-19 and taking into consideration the wide spectrum of ages in our community, we decided to hold the festival as a closed-door event and live-streamed prayers, aarti and the immersion of Lord Ganesha,” says Gavin Hunma, Secretary of the society.
The festival kicked off on 22nd August and it was celebrated over two days. Members of the community tuned in live via YouTube.
“Although the festival this year was very different, it was still a very joyous occasion. Usually, we would have 200-300 people turning up on one of the days, so it was a bit strange because when you're at a festival you bump into friends that you haven't seen for almost a year, whereas on this occasion there were about 15 of us in the room”.
The festival begins with 'pranapratishhtha', whereby the priest chants mantras. Offerings such as modak, payasam, coconut, rice, ladoo and several other sweets are placed in front of Lord Ganesha.
“Each section of the prayers was live-streamed. The first prayer was at 11am when the murti was placed down and before the unveiling of the murti which lasted for one hour followed by a second prayer at 6 pm and then the third prayer at 9pm”.
The following day, the 'uttarpuja' ritual is performed bidding farewell to Ganesha, followed by 'ganpati visarjan', a ceremony where the murti is immersed in water. This ritual is done to signify the birth cycle of Lord Ganesha.
“On the last day of the festival, we started at midday with aarti, and sometime in the afternoon was the start of visarjan (immersion) - here final aartis are conducted, the murti is then taken out of the house following a small procession and we then get ready to immerse the murti into the water”.
The murti is immersed in water so that Lord Ganesha may return to his home in Kailash, and to his parents, Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, after his 'stay' at the devotees' home or temple where the Ganesha Chaturthi rituals are conducted.
“As this was a closed-door event, only those who took part in preparing for the festival were able to attend and do prayers. On this occasion, we were all just trying to make sure celebrations went through without any issues at all, especially on the technology side. The festival was well received virtually, with around 30 or 40 people per live stream joining in, but since then I have looked at the data and there has been a lot of replays on the live streams.”
by Preeti Bali
More info: Mauritian Marathi Society's Ganesh Chaturthi 2020 live stream available here