Uncertain Times in India, but Not for a Deity

NY Times: “As this year’s monsoon season receded, onions were selling for an eye-popping 58 cents a pound, and inflation had accelerated to a six-month high. It has been a period of belt-tightening in India’s financial capital, a slow but sure blunting of hopes.

But you would hardly have known that if you were standing under a 25-foot, gemstone-encrusted statue of the elephant-headed god Ganesh, who is believed to have the power to remove obstacles.

The idol, necklaces cascading from its neck, was unloaded at the edge of the Arabian Sea on Wednesday to be submerged in the water alongside its brethren: the Ganesh laden with 145 pounds of gold ornaments; the Ganesh that was fitted with a new satin loincloth each day of the 10-day festival marking his birthday; the Ganesh lounging under strobe lights and crystal chandeliers, one plump foot resting on a gold-dusted globe.

This year’s crop of Ganeshes — about 13,000 of them, according to the evening news — stood out for its gaudiness.

Narendra Dahibawkar, who heads an umbrella organization overseeing the city’s idol-producing groups, said spending on this year’s Ganeshes was up 10 percent over 2012. The number of visitors during the festival had reportedly risen between 10 percent and 30 percent across the city, with five- and six-hour waits to make a wish. Mr. Dahibawkar said he thought the underlying reason was worry.

“People are coming because they are insecure — about rising prices, about the way ladies are treated,” Mr. Dahibawkar said. “The government is not just to them. Only God.”

At midafternoon, the idols began trundling past the graceful, derelict facades of Marine Drive, past the King of Kings Printers, to the edge of the sea. Prancing beside them were men and women dusted with vermilion powder, so they looked like red ghosts.

Nikita Trevedi, 27, a pharmacist, watched dreamily as boys poled a raft heavy with idols out to the open sea and slid them below the surface of the water. It was a grander display than she had seen growing up in the 1980s.

“Belief is growing,” she said happily. “It’s like going back in time.”

The annual immersion of Ganesh became popular in the early 20th century as part of the Indian independence movement. It provided a way to bridge the gap between castes, and it served as a pretext for gathering without the interference of British forces.”

via Uncertain Times in India, but Not for a Deity – NYTimes.com.

See also: https://chindia-alert.org/social-cultural-diff/indian-body-mind-and-spirit/


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