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Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Ganesha Idol at Khairtabad, Hyderabad


Ganesh Chathurthi, or Vinayaka Chathurthi is a big event here in Hyderabad. Apparently, the two places that show the most fervent observance of this festival seem to be Hyderabad and Mumbai, but that could be an over-generalization of sorts. Still, it is evident the way life in this city has all but come to a halt on a couple of occasions involving the transportation of some of these 10-foot-plus idols by hordes of religiously-charged devotees who in their reverence give little heed to traffic rules, or anything other than the idol that stand before them, for that matter.

Today, for the first time since I've been here in the city, I walked down with a friend of mine to see what all the buzz was about, and before I get down to the usual lead-in to a point of interest, as I am often prone to prolong, I just wanted to say that the security arrangements in place made it look like I was crossing the border into another country.
With a distribution of about 5 policemen per square foot, the throng of eager worshipers standing in queue brought this density up to 5 human beings per square inch, par for the course in this country. There was an entire market laid out, and all sorts of things were on sale, from special snacks and trinkets, to the usual eats and religious paraphernalia that you would normally find. Finally, after moving at snail's pace through the mass of humanity in front of us, we took up a spot out of line, but opposite to the idol. Frankly, for as much nonsense and poor comments I heap upon this country and her people and other things from time to time,  I was amazed at what I was staring at. To think that this was a temporary decoration was kind of disturbing because it would mean a few tonnes of waste material once the festival was over. For those not familiar with Hinduism, there is generally no "using things from last time", and practically everything, except those idols that are cast in stone and have a permanent resting place in a shrine of some kind are disposable, and have to be remade each time.

I remember glancing at the newspaper in the last couple of weeks and seeing headlines the likes of which I will post soon, but not taking any notice of them, for whatever reason. However, seeing this idol in front of me, I couldn't wait to look up the "stats" behind this idol. First, this idol of Ganesha stands 56 feet in height. According to an article from the Times of India titled "Cap put on Khairatabad Ganesh idol height", this is the tallest that this idol will ever grow, which is of some comfort, I'm sure. Or is it? The article goes on to mention the reason for this cap on the height stating, "The reason for freezing the height is partly because of the Sankaraiah building (S Sankariah, a freedom fighter, was also founder of the Ganesh Utsav Committee in 1954) which is around 60 feet." But wait, there's more. Apparently, this idol holds out a large laddu, an Indian sweet, that is six feet in diameter and weighs 3,500 kgs. According to "3,500 kg ‘maha laddu’ for Khairatabad Ganesha" in The Hindu, the previous best attempts for the laddu record were "500 kgs" in 2010, and "2,500 kgs" in 2011. As far as all 5' 8" of me is concerned, this laddu would qualify for a re-shoot of the opening sequence of Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark, with me as "Indy" and the laddu as the giant stone ball, only a whole lot sweeter. Now tell me that this isn't impressive.

The Khairtabad Ganesha will continue to be displayed until the 29th of September, 2012, when they will submerge the idol as part of the Ganesh "visarjan" part of this festival, bringing all festivities to a close. I'd love to be around to see them transport this to the Hussain Sagar Lake to be submerged, unfortunately for the already defunct ecosystem of this reservoir, but if the density of human beings is any indication to go by, I anticipate a hundred times the number of people in one-tenth the space...so, no thank you.
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