Sunday, 21 September 2014

Ganesh Chaturthi

Vakratunda mahakaya suryakoti samaprabha
Nirvighne kuru me deva sarva karaye shu sarvada

Surat city has witnessed the blend of rituals and customs and is much diversified. The pleasure-loving people of Surat have a very classy and influential perspective. They are very joyful and are quite composed. Being cool, calm and at ease is what they believe in. It isn't a matter of surprise that Ganesha is worshiped in Surat with not just devotion but also enthusiasm. Any celebration is incomplete if Suratis' do not gather or rejoice with their near and dear ones. And yes, the occasion like Ganesh Utsav provides just the right opportunity to them to celebrate and enjoy their intimacy.

Suratis' inwardness has been like a roller coaster ride. They have witnessed the tragic incidents of flood and diseases, but in spite of that, the people have always been in concert. Their culture and beliefs have bound them together and they have been contented and gratified with their emotionalism. In fact, these people are very religious, irrespective of their social group or religious conviction they celebrate all the festivals with great happiness and delight. ‘Ganesh Chaturthi’ is the auspicious occasion for the people of Surat, as they are bringing home their beloved deity, Ganesha, the lord of good luck, wisdom and prosperity.

As this diamond city is geared up to welcome the deity, Suratis' have created pandals showcasing their creativeness’ and are ready to celebrate 10 day Ganesh festival with great vigor and fortitude. They scrub clean the area created for Lord Ganesha and decorate the place with garlands, colorful embellishments, and bright dark colored curtains in order to liven up the place. Alternatively, they add beautiful illumination to make the corner look more stunning and ravishing. They make candied home cooked meals and Prasad. The city is echoed to the mantra of ‘Ganpatti Bappa Morya.’”Puja” and “Aarti” are performed every morning and evening; everyone gathers to sing “bhajans” hymn. There are different groups that are formed and various activities are organised to add more joyous to the celebration. Undoubtedly, Suratis having a whale of time celebrating these 10 day Ganesh festival. One must spot the aura of this wonderful procession in order to experience it’s the real beauty.

Perhaps, Hinduism’s most popular divine figure, riding on rat rules the hearts of the Suratis like nothing else. Ganesha is worshipped foremost before launching any new venture, be it starting of a new factory or entering a new home. He is considered to be immediately accessible all around us, and takes many forms for those who imagine him in a more personalized fashion. Nevertheless, Suratis' wide-ranging systems of beliefs are quite flimsy.

My family is quite theological and spiritual. In 1994 when they migrated to this city, they did witness the aura of this carnival although on a very small scale. But sequentially they have watched this procession showing an upward trend. In fact, they too are now a part of this phenomenal rally and have started celebrating these days with great delight. Since 2008, we bring the idol of Lord Ganesh at our work place and perform all the rituals for 10 days. The excitement and pleasure of bringing Ganesha, within the staff and family are incredible. We buy the idol before 2 days of the Ganesh Chaturthi and clean up the whole place created for Lord Ganesha. My father in law and husband sits to decorate the idol with the decorative materials that are pleasing to the eye. They get mesmerized in their own dreamland and would work till late hours. My husband would predominantly design a unique stall for Lord Ganesha ensuring of superior quality. The happiness and contentment within the house are simply unimaginable.  
My son waits for these wonderful days, as he enjoys the drums, the aroma of the home made food and Prasad, bhajans and chant of ‘Ganpatti Bappa Morya,’ and ‘ek, do, teen, char.” Before this day, he would come to me asking several questions and would insist on to listening stories relating to Lord Ganesha. He loves listening to the one when Parvati asked her son to guard the door while she was taking bath. At that time, Shiva arrived there and wished to enter, but Ganesha did not allow to let him in. Shiva got so infuriated that he cut off the boy’s head. When Parvati came, she was horrified to see Ganesha’s body without the head. She pleaded Shiva to replace it, and he obliged with the head for the first creature he could find, an elephant. Thus, Ganesha became an elephant-headed God.
But mumma, “my son would ask me,” Is this true? Hmm, and I get clueless as I am little skeptic about the facts. Anyways, he simply loves the story about how Parvati asked her two sons, Ganesh and Kartikey, to go around the world in a race. Kartikey the more vigorous and martial minded of the two, set off at once, so that he wins the race. But Ganesha had other ideas. He requested his parents to sit together and encircled them.  On being asked by his parents what he was doing, Ganesha very cleverly answered that his parents were his world and he has gone around his world to complete the race. Thus, Ganesha won the race with his intelligence.

Ganesha is worshipped for 10 days, from Bhadrapad Shudh Chaturthi to the Ananta Chaturdashi. This year, in a diamond city, the devotees on Monday took the idol through the streets and pavements in a procession accompanied with dancing, before a live audience. Nearly 42,000 idols were then immersed in a river symbolizing a ritual see-off of the Lord in his expedition towards his house in Kailash. Suratis' strongly believe that on this day, Lord Ganesha will take away with him the misfortunes of all man. People involved in this final procession march shouting "Ganapathi Bappa Morya, Purchya Varshi Laukariya."
Suratis' get quite emotional and sad to see the idol disappear beneath the waves. However, they still hold on to their belief system and continue to worship lord Ganesh; the inseparable relationship between devotee and God. But how does it connect to the getting Ganesh idol immersed? Anyways, that is questionable.

All in all, Surati culture though very diverse in its flavor it still reminisce the essence of the Indian culture. Most of the foremost Hindu festivals are celebrated here with great conviction.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Narmad Library is great news for Surat’s book lovers!

Do you enjoy reading? Are you a book lover? What’s your reading personality? Are you interested in providing a learning environment to your kids. ‘Yes’ I am chattering about the people who are mostly quiet, mild mannered people and who love to sit on comfortable chair, get lost in their own dreamland and not talk to people for the extended period of time. I hope it doesn’t get that unexciting while writing about such a blissful place. 
Undoubtedly, I am writing about Kavi Narmad Library, one of the most important places in Surat.It is situated in the heart of the city. The site and the location are splendorous as it is free from the industrial pollution and the sound of the intense traffic.The library was set up by the Surat Municipal Corporation on 24th August 1991, at Ghoddod Road and named after the renowned and the greatest Gujarati poet Veer Narmad.
In December 2003, when I first came to Surat, I was absolutely clueless about the place and the community. I have always been fond of reading books on different subjects and would prefer to be in calm and a cozy environment. I remember, in 2008, while preparing for Banking & Insurance, I started visiting Kavi Narmad library over and over again. The serenity and tranquility of the place; the outstanding collection of the books on various subjects; outstretched reading rooms and sections; computers and manipulative for kids to challenge their thoughts; grabbed my attention and I was completely spellbound. While writing this article, I am reminiscing about the glorious moments that I have spent at the library with my son.
My son and I often visit library on Sundays, as it is a ‘Sabbath day’ meaning for rest and leisure; basically diversion from routine work; and we are keen on spending time reading books and also in checking out different classifications of published documents. He gets very excited at the thought of going to the library and is mostly interested in looking at the book series of Enid Blyton, Geronimo Stilton and Harry Potter to name a few. He makes it a point to read a chapter in the library and then spends time playing games on a computer, stroking a few lines and creating pictures on the board and exploring the section on new arrivals. I must say, it’s an absolute pleasure to watch him engrossed.
Last week, when I visited the library, I went with a clear vision to look around the books on sovereignty and I found exceptional, well-reasoned, thorough and provocative books with personal experience, fiction and memoirs written in striking and compelling prose. Indeed the administration of the library is exceptionally great,  as I could discover the support staff and librarian arranging books and providing access to electronic resources to the people. It’s such an enlightening and enriching experience at this place that I often get enthralled being in a different world altogether. The ambience of the library is incomparable.
Before its renovation, the community had very limited exposure and material to acquire information of their field and a choice. But with its redevelopment the library now makes available nearly 30000 books on various subjects. People have enough space and privacy to explore the books at their own pace. The library charges very nominal fees to the investigators and the enthusiastic readers; so that they can read newspapers and magazines there and if they wish they may carry books at home. The kids have computers and educational games to enhance their vocabulary and knowledge. The administration of the library is really commendable.
To press upon, the SMC and its administrative team have left no stone unturned to the development of the library and in volunteering to establish a Central full-fledged library in Surat. Undoubtedly, I am overwhelmed to witness the progression of this valuable place and would strongly recommend to the book lovers of Surat to visit this place on a regular basis.