Last Sunday, Paris celebrated Ganesh Chaturthi. If you are on this blog, it means that you certainly know Ganesh, one of the most important Hindu demigods who removes obstacles and can make things easier. I will certainly have the opportunity to talk about our dear holly elephant again so, I’ll just focus on the procession itself. (Part I is here )
Every year, in Paris, Hindus and the others, take part in a procession dedicated to Ganesh. It takes place in a few Northern Paris streets corresponding to the Indian district. Ii was the 17th procession and this event is more and more successful. I noticed that there were many more Hindus, this year. The atmosphere was very friendly and many families had come to spend their sunday morning in India!
Then, you feel a bit like a tourist in your own city. It is so unusual to see all the decoration, all these men and women in traditional clothes marching bare-foot in Haussmanian streets! During the parade, a spectator was on her mobile phone and was telling to her friend: « I can’t talk to you now! I’m in India! Listen! »
(Please, if you want to use my photos, don’t forget to leave the link corresponding to my blog.)
So, the procession starts at Ganesh Temple, also called Sri Manicka Vinayakar Alayam in the 18th Arrondissement in Paris. (Vinayakar is another name for Ganesh). The temple is not very impressive from outside, but it is quite a modern temple as it was built in 1984.
Before the start, the streets have been purified with rose water and saffron. Shop-keepers light encense sticks on heaps of coconuts in front of their shops and street-salers sell garland of flowers. All these different smells mix up and you leave Paris to India immediatly! I wish there were candy-floss and pakora stalls!
The parade is organised like an army. Ganesh and his brother Muruga are the chiefs. If you want to take part in the procession, you have to take off your shoes or else you must stay on the pavement. But all this is not always respected.
The procession is recorded by official cameramen and photographers. They are standing on a kind of pickup which leads the procession. On this same pickup there are musicians and even an old wise man. I don’t know if he is Vyasa, the man who dictated the Mahabharata to Ganesh.
First, there is a nice elephant made of resin. I heard it was from Bollywood but I don’t know if it is true.
Behind him, people are holding banners and the infantery follows. I like this part of the procession because it is very colourful and quiet.
Then, you can see young men carrying « cavadis ». Cavadis are heavy wooden arches decorated with peacock feathers and pompoms. The men sway and dance despite the weight of their burden. It is one of the most impressive parts of the parade. Men take the cavadis in turns since the procession lasts for four hours.
Then, the cavalry follows…yes, it’s a very small cavalry… some men carry strange giant flowers …I don’t really know what they are and people carrying buckets pour some water on them from time to time as if they were carrying flames…if you know what it is, don’t hesitate to leave a comment!
Behind them, there are women carrying burning camphor pots on their heads. I suppose it is difficult to do that job because they seemed very concentratre and they hardly ever smiled. I tried to take a few pictures but I didn’t see real enthusiasm in their eyes.
It was the first time I had seen this terrible papier-mâché woman at Ganesh celebration. I hope she is not Parvati! But the man next to her was very handsome. I remember he was there during the procession in 2010 because I had taken a picture of him!
At last, the chariots containing Ganesh and his brother are dragged by men and women. They puff and shout as if they were making great efforts and repeat mantras.
Then, everybody returns to the temple for a series of prayers. But I didn’t go there this time. I entered the temple two years ago but I don’t like leaving my shoes outside and walking on the white swimming-pool-like stone floor. I am ill at ease and have the feeling I disturb worshippers.