Deepavali or Diwali


Deepavali or Diwali is celebrated with much gusto here in India. Fireworks (or firecrackers as they are known here) are set off everywhere by everyone. I imagine it’s what a battlefield would sound like. The booms and bangs are loud and relentless as people celebrate. Businesses are also booming at this time of year.

When is it?



Deepavali falls on the darkest moonless night of Amavasya on the fifteenth day of the month of Kartik. In 2017 this is 19th October. Deepavali begins from the the thirteenth day of Kartik, known as Dhanteras. In south India the fourteenth day is celebrated as Narka Chaturdashi. It’s called Choti Diwali by children.

What is it?



In Hindi Deepavali means ‘row of lamps’ and it is for this reason that the festival is known as the festival of light. It is celebrated by Hindus the world over and markets the beginning of the new year in North India.

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How is it celebrated?



There are a LOT of fireworks! There are also oil lamps, candles and tea lights placed at the entrance of houses and also inside. Coloured lights decorate homes and streets. There are lots of sweets and chocolates, big feasts and much celebrating. Gifts and cards are exchanged and more money is supposed to come to people. (It is traditional for every worker to receive a months salary as a bonus at Deepavali). In fact the celebrations are very similar to Christian Christmas celebrations but here people also buy new utensils, metal objects and ‘holy’ items during this period. The belief is that these things will wards off ill health and evil for a whole year.

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Dasara or Dussehra 

Festival display in Spar

What is it?



It is a festival that celebrates the conquer of good over evil. In north India it is celebrated as ‘Navratri’and is observed in the nine days preceding Dussehra. It is also known as Durga Pooja, Vijayadashmi and Dasahara.

In Karnataka it means the start of 2 weeks of celebrations in Mysore ending with a great elephant parade. 

When is it?

It is on the 10th day in the bright half (Shukla Paksha) in the month of Ashwin. Ashwin is the seventh month in the Hindu calendar starting on 17th September and ending on 16th October. (Ashwin means ‘light’ in Hindi and the Sanskrit translates as ‘possessor of horse’ or ‘horse tamer’.)

 In 2017, Dusserha falls on Saturday 30th September. The start of Dassara festival in Bangalore is marked by a government holiday on Monday 18th September. 

History and legend

Dussehra is celebrated as the victory of the lord Rama, the seventh incarnation of lord Vishnu. His birth was to overpower the powerful ruler of Lanka, the ten-headed demon king Ravana. The story is that Lakshmana, the brother of lord Rama, cut off Surpanakha’s nose, the beloved sister of Ravana. Full of revenge, Ravana, disguised as a sage, kidnapped Sita. Later lord Rama declared a war against Ravana and brought Sita back.
Mythology states that goddess Durga killed demon Mahishasura after a long period of cruelty and oppression. Another story involves gold coins. The lord Kuber rained coins on the city of Ayodhya following Kautsa asking King Raghu for 140 million coins to give to his guru in exchange for knowledge. After giving 140 million coins to his guru, Kautsa distributed the rest to the people of Ayodhya.

How is it celebrated?

It is believed that the celebration of Dussehra commenced in the 17th century when the King of Mysore ordered a celebration of the day on a grand scale. The celebrations at Mysore Palace attracts thousands of visitors each year – it’s a real crush. Children are lifted on to shoulders of parents to see the great parade of elephants at the palace. The Karnataka State government arranges 10 days of festival celebrations with a program of music and arts. Major buildings are decorated with lights and colour across the city of Mysore.
Episodes from Rama’s life are staged in the form of ‘Ram Leela’. In the evening of Dussehra big effigies filled with crackers (fireworks) are installed in grounds. The figures are the embodiment of Ravana, his brother Kumbkarna, and son Megahnatha, which are burnt later in the evening.
People visit the Pooja Pandals wearing new clothes, prepare traditional food at home and celebrate the festival with their friends and families.
The day also coincides with the immersion of the idol of goddess Durga.
The Dussehra celebrations spread the message of victory of good over evil. It is also start of the festival season with Deepavali / Diwali next month and national holidays to mark Anniversary of Gandhi.

Adverts

There are lots of adverts appering at this time of year as it is the start of the festival season. Here are a selection from the newspapers.

St Mary’s Feast


What is it?



St. Mary’s Feast celebrates the birth of Mother Mary is the most important festival celebrated in St Mary’s basilica and is attended by thousands of people. 

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St. Mary’s Basilica is a basilica located in the Archdiocese of Bangalore. It is among the oldest churches in Bangalore and is the only church in the state that has been elevated to the status of a minor basilica. It really is a beautiful piece of architecture and is busy with visitors all day.

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 When is it?



The festivities go on for 10 days beginning on Tuesday 29th August and end on Friday 8th September; the day on which the Mother Mary was born. The first mass began at 5:30am with masses every 30 minutes in three different languages. At 6:30am the Archbishop offered a thanksgiving mass.

How is it celebrated?

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The festivities begin with the masses. In the evening of the first day, the first novena flag is blessed and hoisted (it’s a traditional flag). The flag with the image of “Our Lady” was blessed by Archbishop Bernard Moras and was hoisted by Sri KJ George (a former Home Minister for Karnataka state).

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A Novena ( a form of worship in the Roman Catholic Church consisting of special prayers or services on nine successive days) is held on the first nine days from Tuesday 29th August to Thursday 7th September. 

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On Friday 8th September, the day on which Mother Mary was born, a Holy feast is celebrated. Holy Mass is offered in different languages and mass marriages are conducted for those in need. A thanksgiving mass is also organized for couples who have completed 50 years of marriage. Eucharistic celebrations (mass with bread and wine, the body and blood of Jesus Christ) are held on the day of the feast. The day culminates with a grand chariot procession with a decorated chariot with the image of Mother Mary drawn by devotees along the various streets of Bangalore. 

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Afterwards food is distributed to the thousand of people who have joined in the celebrations. This throng of people consists of all religions with Hindus joining Christians in the celebrations. It is a great time of enjoyment and feasting together.

Bible College in Bangalore – my story of how it happened

This is a post I never thought I would be writing. My friends will tell you that I am the least likely person to go to Bible College. (In my opinion, I am also the most likely to get kicked out at some point!). So how did this happen? How, after 33 years of being a (pretty crap) Christian, did I end up going to Bible College? How did I get here? Obviously it’s all in God’s great plan for my life, but I can tell it from my perspective.

Becoming a Christian – my belief in God

Woodvale Chapel

I had attended Woodvale Chapel in Ainsdale, where I grew up, ever since my cousins Michelle and Carol had taken us at a very young age. I loved going. The folks were kind and accepted us (me and my twin) with all our challenges, having come from a ‘chaotic’ family childhood which made us aggressive, defensive and outspoken. (I know, not much has changed.) 

Billy Graham, Mission:England

The church took the youth group on a trip to the Billy Graham Mission:England at Anfield Stadium in 1984. I sat listening to this old American preacher saying things I had heard a thousand times before. God loved me. He loved me so much that He sent His only son to die for me so that I could go to heaven. I knew it and I believed it, only I had never said ‘the prayer’ asking for forgiveness and accepting Jesus into my life. Billy Graham did an ‘alter call’, which is asking people to make a public declaration of faith and saying ‘the prayer’. Me and my twin looked at each other in the stands and asked each other should we go down. We went down together and in front of thousands and together with thousands of others, asked for forgiveness of our sins and welcomed Jesus into our lives. I didn’t feel any different. I just knew I had done it. I was 14 years old. 

My Christian life

Now, becoming a christian doesn’t magically make your life perfect, and mine hasn’t been, but it does give you an assurance that your sins are forgiven. My Christian life has had many ups and downs. There have been some very deep downs, the biggest being when my father died of cancer in 1996. I was 26 years old and my father had been taken away from me. I was, and am, devastated by it. My life changed forever and God seemed very far from me. It took me a very long time, years in fact, to ‘forgive ‘ God for what had happened to my father and robbing me of a parent. 

Whatever happened in my life, when I drifted away from God, there was always something to bring me back. My faith has never wavered, ever. I know that God is there. It’s just sometimes in my life I wish He wasn’t. That’s quite bad really. I do get fed up, frustrated and angry. As I have got older, and hopefully wiser, I have realised that I am not alone in those feelings. I also know that I think I am the worst sinner in the world and God can’t possibly forgive me again for doing the same thing over and over and not learning. He does. Thankfully.

How did a crap Christian get into Bible College?

Faith Camp

So last year Zahra and me went to Faith Camp. It’s a family camping week at the South of England Showground and Peterborough Arena organised by Kingdom Faith Church. It’s a week of fun filled activities for the children, of all ages, and a week of lectures and seminar and praise and worship for the adults. It’s a great atmosphere and the teaching is great too. 

Last year there was a big advert (for want of a better word) for their Bible College. I was sat listening thinking I wouldn’t mind going to Bible College BUT, I thought, they would never let me in and it was on the south coast and the fees were out of my price range. As I sat there thinking this, friends surrounding me kept nudging me, winking, indicating I should apply, and laughing. I thought it was funny too. I thought they wouldn’t know what hit them if they did let me in. It WAS funny. I WAS the least likely person to go to Bible College (after all, I have been known to bring bottles of Prosecco to Bible studies!). There was absolutely no way I was going, even if I did fancy the idea.

Move to Bangalore

God, of course, had different plans. Fast forward a few years and here we are as a family in Bangalore, India. We moved here in 2015 with Rez’s work. It was a traumatic move and affected my health badly. I had to give up work. I’m not going to bore you with that long story, but it now meant that I was free to do what I liked. For the first time in my life I didn’t have a job. It is very liberating. I have never been out of work. I worked through college and university and went straight into work afterwards. No travel or inter railing for me. Now I had time to do something I wanted to do.

Volunteering

I spent most of last year working on the school PTA raising funds for the three charities they support. I baked and sold and organised and badgered sponsorship from local companies. It was all encompassing and kept me busy. When the school holidays were approaching I was considering whether I wanted to continue on the PTA or do something else. 

All People’s Church

That is when All People’s Church (APC) started advertising for applications for their Bible College. Now Zahra and I have attended APC for about 18 months now but I didn’t know they had a Bible College.

Again I thought about it and thought I might enjoy it. I also thought they wouldn’t let me in. I thought about it for several weeks before I spoke to Pastor Nancy about it. She encouraged me to apply. I finally plucked up the courage and filled in the application form and sent it in. I had done my bit and fully expected to be rejected. I mean I am 47 years old competing against 20 something’s from all over India for a college place. I didn’t rate my chances. God had a different idea obviously, and I still think this is His sense of humour coming out. I received a phone call from a number I didn’t recognise. Normally I don’t answer them but this time I did. It was the Bible College asking me to come in for an interview and arranged a date. 

The interview

I was bricking it. I have not had an interview in decades, literally decades. I know nothing about modern interviews for colleges and universities. I had no idea what to expect, whether there would be a panel and how many other candidates would be around and what they would ask. I arrived at the appointed time at the church office and waited, alone. I was met by a lovely lady who led me into a small interview room and offered me tea. I was disoriented. For the next 30 mins or so, she asked me questions, none of which I can remember and all of which I answered. She then tells me about the college and what the subjects are, the teaching is in English (a relief) and timings (9.30am to 1pm), fees and that as an “elderly student” I might “nap” during lectures but not to worry, they were there to help and support me. (I try not to laugh but fail).  I am confused so I ask when will I find out if my application is successful. She tells me immediately that it is successful and I am going to Bible College. 

I’m in!

WHAT?! Wait. How did this happen? This went far too smoothly to be real. How did I just get into Bible College? It fits with school runs too. Just too surreal.

Then the spanner in the works came. Bible College started in July. I would be in the U.K. until the middle of August so I couldn’t join. No problem! What? You’re letting me start 6 weeks after the course commences? Yes indeed. I was stunned and delighted.

I returned home in a daze. It was still sinking in. I was actually going to go to Bible College. No one was going to believe me. No one was going to believe they actually let me in! How was I going to tell people and what would there reactions be. Probably similar to those I experienced when I told people I was getting married, no one believed me then!

Bible College

Anyway, here I am at Bible College and really enjoying it. I am learning so many things about history in the Old Testament as well as prayer, praise, worship, the Holy Spirit, practical christian living… load of things. It’s great. I’ve already caught up on assignments (some of which were pretty tough) and I’ve managed not to nap in lectures! I am the second oldest in the class surrounded by young men who look likely to be pastors and ministers of the future. It’s exam week next week. A whole week of exams. I’ve not even caught up on what I’ve missed yet but who cares…this is the first time I will have taken exams in over a decade too; I don’t care what my result is, it’s the experience which will be valuable. 

I am sure I will do another blogpost about Bible College itself in future, but for now you have my tale of how I got there. Lesson? Never underestimate what God has planned for you…it may well be outside your range of possibilities but it is never outside His!

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If you want to find out more…

If you want to find out more about becoming a christian take a look at CrossCheck for more information and help: http://www.crosscheck.org.uk/ 

A Bad Day in Bangalore 

Monsoon Season

It’s monsoon season here in Bangalore and it is raining….a lot. So much so that the monsoon is a record breaker with at least 17% more rain in Bangalore than ever recorded apparently. That means it is raining for a few hours each day, usually in the evening or at night, and the rain is heavy. It’s not the constant insipid cold rain from the UK, this is buckets being thrown down in a matter of minutes, and it’s warm. 

It’s worth stating at this point that my husband Rez flew to the UK at the weekend on a business trip, so isn’t at home.

The Flood

Last night it rained constantly and hard. I know this as I was up several times in the night with Bangalore Belly (yes, again!) and heard it thundering down. What I didn’t hear was the waterfall outside our bedroom. There is a balcony at the front of the house, with a drain hole. Water from the roof drains off directly onto the balcony (what an amazing thought through design feature that was). The drain can usually cope with the rain from the roof and directly falling in the balcony and we have a inch step at the door to prevent flooding. That’s all very well until ‘someone’ (not me, and none in the house is admitting to it) decides to place an upturned bucket over the drain hole. As a consequence of this ingenious action, water rapidly gathered and arose above the step. 

Zahra’s room was completely floooded. Her rug was sodden. As the bedroom was overflowing the water escaped over the top of the stairs and directly into the lounge and Rez’s office. Both were flooded with at least an inch of water. The Persian rug in the lounge soaked up a lot of water and prevented some further damage. The computers were sat in an inch of water, as were the plug sockets on the floor, and the wifi. It was a mess.

The Discovery

Zahra had a sleepover at a friend’s house last night so I went to open the curtains in her room. I stepped onto the landing, at the top of the stairs, and into a puddle. I stopped dead in my tracks. A puddle at the top of the stairs is super dangerous. I then looked up to the skylight overhead thinking it might have leaked, but there were no obvious signs. I grabbed a towel to soak up the water and opened the door to Zahra’s bedroom. It was a pool of water. Everything on the floor was sodden, her rug included. I gently paddled my way in and opened the door to her balcony. It was completely flooded. I turned and looked at the drain to see that an upturned bucket was covering the drain. I paddled out into the water and removed the bucket. Water imediately started gushing down the drain.

Becoming Bambi on ice

At this point the doorbell rings. It’s 7:30am and I have no idea who would be ringing the doorbell that early. Still in my PJs I bid a retreat from the pools and go downstairs. I step off the bottom step into a pool of water. I stop, confused. Why is there water down here? I step onto the Persian rug and it is sodden and squelches under my feet. I step towards the door an immediately become Bambi on ice, fall flat onto my back, smacking my head on the marble floor and slide with my feet in the air to the door, where I was able to plant them firmly with a thud. Both my hands are holding my head, which is soaked from the water I am now lying in. My PJs are soaked. Yet still I get up and open the door as though nothing has happened and discover the temporary driver has turned up early. He looks at me and I look at him and say “the house is flooded, please just wait” and hand him the car keys. How very British!

Surveying the damage

I close the door and grab my head. It’s hurting, a lot. I gingerly step through the puddles, sopping wet, to the bottom of the stairs. I survey the mess. The lounge is flooded. Rez’s office is flooded. The computer is sat in a puddle of water, as are cables and electrical sockets. I hold my head and wonder where to start. I decided on a shower first. Goodness knows what came in with that rain water, but I was now covered in it. I walk back upstairs and take a shower. Washing my hair I can feel a lump forming, it’s very sore.  I quickly dress and go back downstairs. I Whatsapp some friends and ask for help. I ask the driver for help – and I have never met him before. As is traditional in India he went to remove his shoes before entering the house; I told him not to. He walks in and stops immediately. He tells me it’s a bad flood. (With a throbbing head I missed the opportunity for a sarcastic response.)  He goes off to find a squeegee mop thing to just pushed the water out of the house.

The clean up

As we start cleaning up with a squeegee mop, ordinary mops and towels, friends start to turn up to help. All have the same astonished reaction at the amount of water in the house. Kirin has already arranged for extra help. Atifa asks me how I am. I feel my head and find a huge lump. Atifa does too and immediately tells me I have to go to the hospital. Kirin insists. Reluctantly I leave the clean up to others and head to the hospital with Kirin.

Zahra

On the way to the hospital I receive a call from school. It’s the school nurse. Zahra has a fever, is not well at all and needs to come home. I am in a car on the way to the hospital myself and feel a bit helpless. Kirin took control and calls her husband and tells him to pick up Zahra from school and bring her home. I advise the nurse of the plan and she wishes me well too.

I now wonder if this day can get any worse. (Thankfully it didn’t.)

The Hospital 

We arrive at the main entrance and have no idea where accident and emergency is. Kirin asks and is directed to follow the signs through the hospital. It’s a good job I wasn’t critical because I would have died on the journey through the maze. (We later discovered there was a separate entrance, around the corner and out of sight, for accident and emergency). We explain to a Dr what has happened and he nods and says “fast track” to a nurse. We stand there and look lost for a few seconds before another nurse guides me to a bed. I try to climb on but the wheels haven’t been fixed and the bed slides away from me. I quickly stand up and let go of the bed before I injure myself again. The nurse didn’t apologise and merely locked the wheels and told me to lie down. 

I explain to her that I can’t lie down as I have a massive lump at the back of my head. She goes and speaks to the Dr who comes over. I explain I have a huge lump on my head and I am not lying down. He prescribes an ice pack and tells the nurse I can sit up. He disappears. Some time later he reappears and starts asking me a multitude of questions: did I pass out or faint?, have I a history of heart problems?, was I unconscious at any point?. Clearly my description of slipping and falling on my arse and sliding to the front door wasn’t cutting it. Kirin tells the Dr what happened. He then feels my head and says ” oh, that’s a big lump!”. (Again I missed the opportunity for a sarcastic interlude.) He tells me I have to have a CT scan and they would take some blood tests. He tells Kirin to go and register me (that means they set up a tab for billing later). 

The nurse comes along and inserts a long needle into the back of my hand. “Just a slight scratch” she says as she pushes a 10cm needle through the thin  skin on the back of my hand. ‘Slight scratch’ my arse! I could feel that needle all the way in – it flipping hurt. The nurse then  took enough blood for a transfusion never mind some tests. I did wonder whether they were short of a few pints of O+ and took the opportunity to stock up their reserves. She then administered some fluid paracetamol as the Dr didn’t want me to eat until after the CT scan. Then she gave me an ice pack and left. 

After quite a short interlude the Dr was back advising me my blood sugar was low and they were going to put me on a drip. My blood sugar was low as I hadn’t eaten or drank a thing since waking up and it was now nearing noon! It doesn’t take a Dr to figure out my blood sugar might be low because of that. Anyway, I am now hooked up to a drip with an ice pack at the back of my head. 

Kirin is running around arranging things in the background so I don’t have to worry about anything. Zahra had been safely delivered back home and Saroja was looking after here. Sophie went round to check on her and reported back that she was unwell but basically fine. Saroja was busy cleaning up the mess with Anan (the replacement driver). I start to relax a little and realise how much my head hurts…like really hurts. I feel the lump that is now cold from the ice pack and can’t quite believe how big the lump is. All from slipping in water.

The nurse returns with a wheelchair. I get in after being detached from the drip. I am wearing shorts and a tee shirt. The sight of my glaring white legs reflecting the ceiling lights is clearly dazzling everyone and before we leave the emergency room three doctors yell for a blanket to cover me. Yes this is India and ladies do not display their legs. But you know, I was in a bit of a rush and modesty wasn’t the first thing on my mind when I left my flooded home this morning.

I get wheeled  through various corridors and up in the lift and through various waiting areas, all whilst being stared at. We reach the CT room and it is occupied so I have to wait in the corridor – but this is fine as the nurse then covers up my tee shirt and arms as well in the blanket. I definitely won’t offend anyone now – I look like I am in a straight jacket. 

The CT scan takes a few minutes and I am wheeled back to the emergency room and re hooked back up to the drip. We await the scans. The drip finally finishes and it is removed. We await the Dr to go through the scans. He confirms that I do indeed have a brain – he can see it clearly on the scan. I don’t have any fractures or bleeding on the brain – so all good. I do however have a flipping great big lump on the back of my head. He explains that this is better as it is a soft tissue injury and will eventually go down with ice packs and prescribes plenty of paracetamol for the pain.

Great – I can leave. Well no, not quite. We have to await the discharge report and pay the bill. Kirin goes off to pay the bill but there is a computer glitch which means they can’t add on all the treatment I have had to the bill. I didn’t see what happened but Kirin told them to write a manual bill and she paid that. About INR 5000 in total ( Note to self: I need to pay her back!). I had to ask for a nurse to remove the needles from the back of my hand otherwise I wokukd be walking out of the hospital with them.

Back home

Kirin drops me off at home and I am truly grateful, for her accompanying me to the hospital and looking after me whilst I am there. She had to rearrange her whole day for me.

I get in the house and Anan has already told me it is all done and finished. I see Zahra lying on the couch, looking quite a sorry state, and Saroja in the kitchen preparing lunch (great timing!). The house has indeed been all cleaned up. Rugs have been washed and are hanging out to dry. Water all cleared and floors mopped. Towels washed and hung it to dry. It was a completely different scene than the one I left in the morning. Friends popped by to see if I was ok, and relieved to know I was.

Zahra is till running a temperature and feeling quite poorly. I am now discovering new aches and pains from my fall.

A Bad Day in Bangalore 

It was a bad day in Bangalore. I have a headache from hell and my daughter is unwell. No parent likes to see their child ill, you just feel helpless. Dealing with a flooded house, injuring myself and looking after a sick daughter is too much in one day. I have survived it, so far, with the help of some truly wonderful friends. It could have been a lot worse and I am thankful it wasn’t. It was a bad day but tomorrow is a brand new day.
* Update: The newspapers are reporting 122.5mm of rain fell in 5 hours in Jakkur (where we live). The highest rainfall in Bangalore. A lot of houses in our complex flooded as a result.

Bakr-Id

What is it?



Id-ul-Zuha (Bakr-Id), which is also known as Eid al-Adha or Id-ul-Adha, is an important festival that many Muslims celebrate with special prayers, greetings and gifts. Eid al-Adha is called “Bakr-Id” in India due to the tradition of sacrificing a goat or “bakri”.

When is it?



It begins on the evening of Friday 1st September and ends in the evening of Saturday 2nd September. Saturday 2nd September is the holiday. The date changes every year according to the Gregorian calendar but is the same date every year in the Islamic calendar. It is usually in September, October or November. Some references state it is a four day festival. It is a gazetted holiday* in India and is also referred to as the festival of sacrifice. It is also at the end of the month of fasting during Ramadan and begins after the culmination of the holy pilgrimage ‘Hajj’ at Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

How is it celebrated? 



Id-ul-Zuha is a festival that is celebrated with traditional fervor and gaiety in India and the world. Many Muslims wear new clothes and attend an open-air prayer meeting during Id-ul-Zuha. They may sacrifice a sheep or goat and share the meat with family members, neighbours and the poor. Many Muslims feel that they have a duty to ensure that all Muslims can enjoy a meat based meal during this holiday. Large scale prayer meetings take place in areas of India with predominantly Muslim population.
National, state and local government offices, post offices and banks are closed on Eid al-Adha. Islamic stores, businesses and other organizations may be closed or have reduced opening hours. public transport operates on reduced timetables (although I’m not sure how a timetable works in Bangalore, and I have never seen one!).

Background and History



Muslims around the world believe that Allah (God) commanded Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son Ishmael. Ibrahim followed God’s orders, but his son was replaced by a sheep at the last moment. Muslims celebrate this at Eid al-Adha. Eid al-Adha is called Id-ul-Adha in Arabic and Bakr-Id in the Indian subcontinent, because of the tradition of sacrificing a goat or “bakri” in Urdu. The word “id” derived from the Arabic “iwd” means “festival” and “zuha” comes from “uzhaiyya” which translates to “sacrifice”.

*Note: During a gazetted holiday, government offices and most businesses are closed so people have a day off work.

Ganesh Chaturthi

 

What is it?



Ganesh Chaturthi is the Hindu festival celebrated in honour of the elephant headed god. It is generally considered to be the lucky festival and devotees pray that every new activity is started successfully and completed without any obstacles.

When is it? 



It falls on the fourth day of the Sukla Paksha ( the dark waning moon or lunar fortnight) in the month of Bhadrapad ( a month in the Hindu calendar that corresponds with August/ September in the Gregorian calendar). In 2017, this is the 25th August.

History and Legend



Ganesha was born on this day. The lord was declared first amongst the gods. It is described in the Puranas (ancient Sanskrit writings on Hindu mythology and folklore) that once goddess Parvati commanded Shiva’s gana (attendant) Nandi to guard the entrance of the palace whilst she bathed. However, lord Shiva ‘trespassed’ the rules so she created her own guard in the form of Ganesha by taking some saffron paste from her body and mixing it with water and clay. When Shiva came home again he was barred from entering by Ganesh and was furious (as you might expect when you find a young boy at the door of your home telling you that you can’t come in). Shiva ordered his army to destroy the boy, some fighting followed while Ganesha remained obstinate and guarded. Lord Shiva cut off Ganesha’s head from behind. Parvati was furious and decided to destroy all creation. Brahma (the lord of creation) pleaded with Parvati to reconsider her plan. Parvati agreed as long as Ganesha was brought back to life and that Ganesha was worshipped before all the other gods. Lord Shiva asked lord Brahma to bring back the head of the first creature discovered with its head facing north. Brahma soon returned with the head of a strong and powerful elephant, which Shiva fixed onto Ganesha’s body and breathed life into him. Shiva declared Ganesha to be his elder son, made him chief of his army, was foremost amongst the gods and leader of all classes of beings (‘ganas’).

How is it celebrated?



It is celebrated by families at home, people at their workplace and in public. It is a statutory holiday so very few people will be working. Locals return to their villages to celebrate with family and friends. There are lots and lots of statues, all decorated with intricate designs which are placed in temporary shrines (‘pandals’) and worshipped. The pandals and idols are funded by local residents and our car has been stopped several times in the villages by locals collecting for the statue. The shrine and idol are usually decorated with flowers and other materials. The statues can be small (a few cms) for the home to huge (20m +) for public ones. Pottery Town in Bangalore prepare Ganesha idols months in advance and it is an important source of income for them. After 10 days the statues are dipped into a river or sea and sometimes left there.
  

There is a lot of fun and festivity associated with this celebration with parties arranged in communities. It will be a happy day.

Ganesha Chaturthi festival area in the Sobha Ultima complex
Ganesha display in the Sobha Ultima complex
Ganesha