I continued attending the Ganesh bhajans in the Kalari from 9-10 each night. All in all, it was nine nights of pure bliss for me as we sang the rocking, high intensity songs. How I have yearned to return to the days when bhajans affected me that way. Two or three of those days, I even sat cross-legged on the floor for the whole time although I asked someone for a hand when I wanted to get up at the end. For one reason or another, I’ve needed to sit in chairs at programs for several years so was excited to see that I could once again be comfortable sitting in the middle of a bhajan group.
Then on Sunday, the big day arrived. It was Ganesh’s birthday, the culmination of the ten day celebration. At 3:30 in the afternoon, devoteese gathered near the Kalari for the procession. We put on orange headbands and placed sandlewood paste and red kum kum on our foreheads, slightly above the junction between our eyebrows. Once we did that, we were instructed to have a seat in the Kalari.
I sat down in a place that was near perfect. (The photo at the top of this post shows the view I had even though the photo was taken on a different day.) I knew I was in an ideal location for the singing that was to come prior to the procession. I was torn though, because I also knew that Lakshmi, the ashram elephant, was in front of the temple and soon I could hear the sound of the horns and drums that have been associated with Hindu festivals since antiquity coming from there as well. I didn’t want to miss anything. Then, to make it even harder to stay put, the sound of big drums being played began. I stayed where I was, choosing to have a slightly delayed gratification.
Before long, I could tell that the drums were coming our way. They got louder and louder. I was so excited. Simultaneously, the bhajans began. By now, most of the songs were familiar to me. I was in bliss. I don’t remember how many we sang but before long it was time to begin the procession.
The big and heavy statue was moved to a decorated cart. That was quite a feat. As soon as it was ready, two men got onto the cart behind it and some others began to pull the cart. The procession had begun.
After leaving the Kalari, we walked to the courtyard in front of the temple where Lakshmi and the two devotees who were riding her were waiting.
Lakshmi and musicians with ceremonial instruments lead the procession.
We wound our way towards the auditorium, where Amma was giving darshan, singing the whole time.
When I started the procession, I was walking with a friend who prefers to be on the outskirts of crowds. I soon realized that this experience was one of the main reasons I had come to Amritapuri this time, so I darted into the crowd and made my way to the front where I could be in the thick of things. As I reflect on it now, I find that interesting. I always want to be on an aisle seat on a plane or in a theater, because I don’t like getting hemmed in. But this was different. I wanted to experience every drop of what it was possible for me to experience.
Soon, Ganesh was in front of Amma.
After leaving the auditorium, we headed towards the beach. Normally that would be a five to ten minute walk but we walked slowly. People lined both sides of the streets and pathways, watching as we walked by. Every so often the procession would stop and the singing and dancing would intensify.
When we made it to the beach, Lakshmi and the musicians waited on the beach…
… while a smaller group of devotees took the Ganesh statue out onto a rock jetty. There he was dropped into the ocean so the clay he was made from could dissolve and his essence return to Mt. Kailash, his heavenly abode.
The crowd spread along the coast line to see the immersion as best they could. After Ganesh had been taken by the ocean waves, everyone dispersed and made their way back to the ashram. I felt happy and full.
Most of the photos in this post came from the Amritapuri Facebook page. Many photos were taken that day so I suspect there will be more available on amritapuri.org in the next few days. If that happens, I will provide links to them in future posts on my blog.
To view the previous posts in this series click here.