Is it Theatre? – India notebook #1

I am sorry that my blog has been a bit quiet for the last few months, but I have been moving to India and starting a new job. Working now as HS teacher at the American School of Bombay, I am able to really live as an international person and experience first-hand the amazing richness of Indian culture.

Since I have been here there have been several festivals, all of which I will blog about at some stage, but this time I wanted to share with you the Ganesha festival. Before sharing some photos I took of the immersions of Ganesha, let me share with you some of the background:

Ganesha – The Elephant God

Easily recognised as the elephant god, Ganesha is one of the most important gods in the Hindu Pantheon, and the most loved in Maharashtra (the state which contains such cities as Mumbai and Aurangabad). He is known as the remover of obstacles, and before every undertaking: the opening of a shop; the beginning of work; laying the foundation of a house or going into an exam, Lord Ganesha is worshipped to invoke his blessing.

He is the son of Shiva and Parvati, and the story about him acquiring his elephant head goes: One day, Parvati was bathing, and created Ganesha, in the form of a young man, with a human head, out of mud and sweat, to guard the entrance to her apartment, so that she would have privacy. Shiva returned to the apartment from his journey and sought admission to his house. Ganesha blocked his path, so Shiva, enraged at not being allowed access to his own home, chopped off his head.

A tearful Parvati explained that the dead ‘guard’ was their offspring. Shiva then promised that he would put the head of his next kill on the body, and give it life. The head was that of a baby elephant. So, that is how Ganesha got his elephant head.

(Information taken from ‘Gods and Goddesses of India’, K.N.S. Chaturvedi, Diamond Books; tour guide Manavi, ‘The Indian Perspective’, Mumbai – the.indian.perspective@gmail.com)

Ganesha Chaturthi Festival

Ganesha is also thought of as the Lord of Beginnings, and in August/September, there is a ten day festival dedicated to him. This festival crosses social boundaries, and everyone in the community is involved in the celebrations. Huts are constructed at the ends of streets to create a home for Ganesha. Communities will club together to pay for one clay Ganesha. The community then make their Ganesha a welcome guest in their home, on a decorated stage or in a pandel. He is the worshipped for 10 days and given sweetmeats, including bananas and nuts. He is kept company 24 hours a day, and dressed in beautiful new clothes, on a daily basis.

 

 

The immersion

 

On the 10th day of making Ganesha welcome in the ‘home’ the community then takes Ganesha in a procession, to the coast,

 

Ganesha offerings

 

accompanied by drumming, folk dances, chants and clouds of marigolds. At the water’s edge Ganesha is then carried by the community into the water. His immersion marks the deity’s return to his home.

The Ganesha figures vary in size, from one you can fit on your mantle piece to one that would be the size of your house. As a team the worshippers carry the Ganesha, whatever size, into the the ocean – now that is what you call ensemble work.

How does this all relate to Drama class?

Idea 1: In class you can create your own rituals for a deity, devising what the deity does (remove obstacles, new beginnings, fertility, wealth) etc, and then accumulate objects for the ritual and devise your own song, dance and drumming to accompany the ritual.

Idea 2: Another idea is that you could work as a community to decide what you need in the community – more water for the crops, better health in the village etc, and create the image of that deity. What does the deity hold? Why? How do you care for the deity and what is the role of each person in the community?

Idea 3: This information can also be a starting point for a PPP or used as an aspect of Greek Chorus work.

 

 



 

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