Community Celebrates Ganesh Chaturthi FestivalSep 20, 2021 ● By Malavika Nair and Madhavi Nair
Contributed by Malavika Nair and Madhavi Nair
Frisco has a rich and diverse population that brings together many different customs, cultures and religious practices to the area. During festival times, its Indian community gathers together to celebrate its culture and keep traditions alive.
On Sept. 10, the community began celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi, an auspicious 10-day festival in honor of the Hindu Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed deity.
Widely revered and believed to bring good luck, Ganesha is considered the remover of obstacles, giving devotees good fortunes and spiritual knowledge.
During the festival, families gather to perform poojas (worship rituals), decorate idols, eat traditional foods and sing prayers to Ganesha. A popular festival food is modak, a dumpling dish known famously as Ganesha’s favorite sweet treat.
A large part of the festival is supported by Frisco’s Indian-owned businesses. Devotees can shop for idols, decorations and food ingredients at local retailers including India Bazaar and Patel Brothers.
In Frisco, Lord Ganesha’s arrival is typically celebrated with small family gatherings. The festival begins with people bringing in clay idols of Ganesha, symbolizing his visit. On the first day of celebrations, people bring idols to their homes and keep him in a decorated area for others to join in the celebrations.
Ganesha is worshipped for 10 days with family and friends. The festival culminates on the day of Anant Chaturdashi, when the Ganesha idols are immersed, symbolizing his departure. Dishes such as gujia, a sweet filled dumpling, the flatbread puran poli, and modak are made as offerings to Lord Ganesha.
Along with home and backyard gatherings, there are also public events held at local temples including the Radha Krishna Temple in Allen and the Sri Ganesha Temple in Plano.
Larger pandal structures are set up inside the building, and pooja worship rituals are conducted for Ganesha. People perform dances and music in cultural programs, and food offerings called prasad are given to worshippers. (Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, temples have instituted some changes so that devotees may witness these celebrations and festivities virtually.)
The Frisco community is doing even more to pitch in with the festivities. The nonprofit DFW Maharashtra Mandal is organizing a special event in honor of Ganesh Chaturthi to be held Sept. 18. The day filled with food and music performances will include a concert by award-winning vocalist Mahesh Kale.
Many aspects of the festival have changed as people have moved from their home country to the United States.
“A lot is different,” says Vinay Tambe, a longtime Dallas resident, about how he celebrates with his family. “When you bring Lord Ganesha home back in India, it used to be a very festive occasion where all the family members get together in a procession and sing songs and dance on the road along the way.” However, “In the U.S., especially with COVID-19, you just purchase Ganesha idol from the Indian store and bring it home.”
Mr. Tambe says family members are missed during the festival. “We do celebrate here with friends, but it's only a shortened affair. Back in India, basically the entire family used to live together and celebrate for 10 days.”
He describes the practice of immersing the idol as “a symbolism of a life cycle in terms of the birth, the welcoming, the enjoying of life, and then eventually the cycle has to come to an end. But what does not come to an end is the community involvement, the friendship and the common good that stays on for years to come.”
Mr. Tambe hopes to pass along feelings of friendship and community as well as Indian customs to his children by continuing to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi, which he calls “truly a public festival with a social gathering, with the emphasis being community participation and involvement. We do make an effort to mimic that in a small environment, still have fun and keep the tradition going.”
Facts about Hindu Lord Ganesh Chaturthi:
• Ganesha also goes by 108 different names, including Vinayaka, Ganpati and Gajanana.
• One of the elephant-headed deity’s tusks is broken because he is believed to have hurled it at the moon for looking at his belly.
• It is considered unlucky to look at the moon during Ganesh Chaturthi because Ganesh cursed the moon.
• The largest Ganesh idol (about 20 feet tall) is the Lalbaugcha Raja Ganapati, located in Mumbai, India.
Malavika Nair is a Frisco High School sophomore who enjoys writing, drawing and making music.
Madhavi Nair is an IT professional and Frisco resident who is actively involved in organizing events within the local Indian community.