india: day 10: mumbai: ganesh chaturthi and ramadan

they say mumbai has everything and they mean it. this rings true in the cultural/religious backgrounds of the city’s inhabitants as well as their financial backgrounds. september 11th was a day of great importance in india this year. it was ganesh chaturthi and the final feasting day of ramadan. a very rare occasion.

ganesh chaturthi is a 10-day hindu holiday that involves parading idols of ganesh through the streets, dancing,  music and praying. hindus pray to ganesha for inner spiritual strength to attain success in all their undertakings. and that is exactly what happened to me this year!

for muslims, the final day of ramadan marks the end of a month of fasting from sunrise to sunset. so as you can imagine, they do a lot of eating and celebrating!

i was lucky enough to sneak my way into the lalbagh cha raja (king of kings) site in mumbai. it is extremely difficult to gain access on a good day, but i somehow managed to do it on the busiest day of the year. so i skipped the 5-hour line and paid homage to ganesh.

afterwards, i went to investigate the garbage dumps and slaughterhouses in one of mumbai’s slums. while i was turned away from the dump and chop shop, i stumbled upon a small fair in a muslim area nearby.

here are some pictures from ganesh chaturthi and the carnival. the kids at the carnival were very aggressive. it was the first time since i’ve been here that i was concerned for my own well-being. i was swarmed by 40 kids grabbing at me and following me everywhere.  i hope my pictures don’t convey my fear.

sunny works at the salvation army where i am staying. he did not go to school but can read, write and do arithmetic.

beautiful children living on the street.

a sacred banyan tree symbolizes life and fertility in india. it is never to be cut down or hindered in any way.

blessing the idol of ganesh.

a truck bringing an idol of ganesh to a village or home.

people celebrate for 10 days straight for ganesh chaturthi.

throwing dye at each other symbolizes the deity ganesh coming to the people.

the police had a major presence at the lalbagh cha raja. it is one of the holiest sites of the hindu religion. it is the largest ganesh statue in all of india.

don’t ask me how i got on the other side of the barricade, but my guide said that ganesh was holding me in the palm of his hand. people pay upwards of $50,000 to go to the front of the line on the first day of ganesh chaturthi.

the police didn’t even notice me!

they started to get pretty rough with the crowd.

they used long wooden rods to jab at people indiscriminately. they even jabbed old ladies!

yes, children participate in this onslaught.

this officer was a beast! he was shoving everyone out of his way (including fellow police) to get me to the front of the line.

they even gave me food and water! i just went with the flow.

the line was long.

really really long.

i mean, REALLY LONG!

but people young and old waited very patiently.

some people had a hard time.

apparently it’s a really big deal that i was able to take this picture. not only is it rare to bring a camera into the lalbagh cha raja, it is rare to get in as a foreigner. AWESOME!

when somebody finally asked, “what are you doing here?”,  i was politely escorted out.

dancing in the streets!


ganeshes of all different shapes and sizes.

celebrating the final day of ramadan

the carnival was a major change from the ebullient streets of ganesh. it is positioned directly next to a garbage dump.

some of these kids were seriously scary.

like this one. here i am, an american at a carnival in a muslim area on 9/11. needless to say, they were very confused.

full burkas abound.

these kids followed me all the way out of the carnival to the dump. i had to oblige them by taking a picture.

the most famous restaurant in mumbai. this is chicken, goat liver, goat leg and mutton. it was incredible. i ate everything you see here.

this woman is a “patient” at a mosque that is said to expel demons from people.

they bring “patients” to this beach where they dismantle ships. they wail and moan as they tear apart these massive tankers. it’s a very eerie scene.


~ by jacobbmurphy on September 12, 2010.

4 Responses to “india: day 10: mumbai: ganesh chaturthi and ramadan”

  1. I must say you are really lucky to have an interrupted look at Lord Ganesh at lalbagh. I remember when I was in Mumbai, I had to stand in the queue for 3 hrs on a normal sunny day to have a glimpse.
    This is also the festival where all ladies in the house come out and dance during the immersion of the lord. Incredible times..

  2. Fantastic, I would love to do what you are doing right now – travel and experience the world as it is, and more importantly capture exactly as it is through those photo shots you have taken. May I ask, what is your intention later, once you have completed this project in India? Have you considered a video blog or maybe a youtube documentary?

  3. I absolutely loved this pictorial of the holy days in India. You are a fabulous photographer. Thank you for sharing these wonderful and insightful pictures. Send them to National Geographic–an insider’s view is incredible.

  4. Stunning shots! Love the one where this guy is standing in focus, with the blurred film-star posters in the background!! somehow it seems like the quintessential India!

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