Monday, September 16, 2013

Happy Rebirthday to Ganesha

Men celebrate the Ganesha festival on a boat on the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok. They were part of a crowd of hundreds of Hindus immersing deities of Ganesha in the Mae Nam Chao Phraya. 

It’s almost unimaginable to me that my first year in Bangkok is ending. I got here on Sept 19, 2012. I fly back to the US on September 25. I am wrapping stuff up here now and cutting back a little on my photography.

One of the first things I covered on my arrival last year was the Ganesha Festival in Nakhon Nayok, it seems fitting that I close out my year with this year’s Ganesha Festival in Bangkok. I chose Bangkok instead of Nakhon Nayok because the Nakhon Nayok festival was the same day as the mass merit making in Bangkok.

I had a great time at last year’s Ganesha celebrations but this year’s was even better. I stayed at the ceremony the entire day - from the opening prayer to the final immersion of Ganesha in the Mae Nam Chao Phraya.

Ganesha is the son of Shiva and Parvati. He is known as the remover of obstacles and is one of the most popular deities in the Hindu world. He's also worshipped in other religions originating on the Indian sub-continent including Jainism and Buddhism. Ganesha's iconography - the elephant head - makes him easy to identify even for people who aren't familiar with Hindu deities. 

The Ganesh festival celebrates Lord Ganesha's rebirth. It's a very happy holiday. Joyous really. The celebration of his day ends with lots of singing and dancing and immersing statues of Ganesha (called deities) into a body of water. It’s a huge holiday in Hindu India, especially Mumbai (Bombay) where the faithful immerse deities in the Indian Ocean. In Thailand, Hindus immerse Ganesha in local rivers, in Bangkok, the Chao Phraya. 

I had a wonderful time celebrating Ganesha’s day with members of Bangkok’s Hindu community. There are lots of photos of my coverage of Ganesha’s day in my archive or available from ZUMA Press

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