As coach loads of people descended on South Pier, many onlookers wondered what was going on…
The festivities for Ganesh Utsav lasted for five days, and were celebrating the birthday of Lord Ganesh, the Elephant Headed God. Ganesh is the son of Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati, and is known as the remover of obstacles and the patron of good luck. Ganesh's actual birthday (Ganesh Chaturthi) was on Wednesday, where members of the Leeds Hindu Community gathered at the Temple on Alexandra Road, for an evening of singing, dancing and prayers (puja), and that's just the start of the festivities! Over the days, the temple was host to a variety of activities and festivities inspired by the events in India to celebrate the festival, some of which included bhajans (hymn singing), lectures from Swamijis, quizzes and games.
|Taking part in the aarti competition|
On Saturday, the younger members of the temple were given a treat, as it was their turn to take part in the festivities. Many children arrived at the temple armed with their colouring pencils as they took part in the drawing competitions and also the mythological character fancy dress competition. Everyone made an effort to join in, and were rewarded with a magic show which kept most of the children entertained, whilst mum and dad had the chance to relax at the back of the hall… after all, everyone had been celebrating for the past three days!
Saturday evening saw the aarti competition, which is the decoration of a plate, on which is placed a wick, dipped in ghee (purified butter), which is lit and then offered to God to dispel darkness. Great efforts were made to see who would win first prize… and I do have to say, as one of the judges, the level of entry was very good! The evening ended with the prize giving, and then the aarti ceremony followed by prashad (holy offerings).
Sunday was the big day… people started arriving from 9am ready for their trip to Scarborough for the main part of the festival, which is the Visarajan - this is when the idol of Lord Ganesh is immersed into the sea, so that it can be back with the elements. The reason for this is that the idol is made of clay, and so when it is put into the sea, through natural processes, the idol disintegrates and turns into earth, so we reuse it - it's like the circle of life - similar to reincarnation some would say. So, clad in colourful outfits, members of the temple performed the final ceremonies at the temple and then carried out the idol, whilst others sang, danced and eagerly joined in the celebrations by throwing coloured powders over the onlookers. They even managed to get the coach drivers involved!
|Narhari Joshi carries the idol|
As the coaches made their way down the A64 to Scarborough, spirits were high amongst all. As the police escort joined us just on the outskirts of Scarborough, the mood was unmistakably exciting. Onlookers on the pier were slightly amazed at the number of people, and the amount of noise they could make as nothing was going to stop them now! Two boats were filled with lively and excited followers and so the trip began. In the first boat, the Pujariji (priest) started the rituals and the singing carried on.
Not even the rough sea was enough to stop some of the crowds, as the boat battled to take us out to sea. The youngsters loved the trip, as they sat out on the deck and tried to avoid getting wet, whilst the older members moved underneath to stay warm and dry!
Finally, the big moment came, and it was time for the Visarajan. As people crowded to see the event, the second boat positioned itself to allow its passengers witness the big moment. And there it went. The idol was lowered into the sea and was followed by chants of 'Ganpati Bapa Moriya, Pudcha Varshi Laukarya' which means 'O Victorious Lord Ganpati, Return Early Next Year'.
The boats then turned around and took everyone back to the pier. Apart from a few green faces, and some very very wet kids, the trip was successful. The community appreciated the chance to be part of such an event, as it was the first time in the north that such an event has taken place. The coaches then went to a nearby park for a picnic, and then headed back for Leeds.