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An amazing thing to see, celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi

Stuck in the Palma labyrinth, we feel like outsiders driving around in circles in an attempt to find a street that we are not acquainted to. I am following Maya’s car, while trying to avoid the holes on the cheese-like road.

We are on our way to the Govinda’s house. It is a family that worthily celebrates Ganesh Chaturthi, the birth of Lord Ganesh, each year, by welcoming hundreds of people who come to pray and enjoy the feast together at their house.

The mother is a little old lady. Her skin is wrinkled and her smile filled with friendliness. She tells us that she was born “dan Gorz”, in the Black River Gorges, and it isn’t just an expression. By this, she means that she was literally born in a small house found in the forest of the Gorges, surrounded by a tiny village made up of people who had come from the state of Maharasthra (India) to start a new life here. She then grew up at Bois Nourri. Her husband, the esteemed patriarch, and her have just celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary.

They have had a fulfilled life. 5 sons and 5 daughters-in-law. 3 daughters and two sons-in-law. 17 grand-children and 12 great grand-children.

The Ganesh in the main room, is of a bright-red color. A deep and concentrated red. It has been carved by Mr. Govinda himself. Couples are gradually coming in their festive clothes. The women are shining their thousand lights, with their bright pink cheeks, the talc on their necks and their sparkling sarees. The wife holds her husband’s right arm while he does the aarthi. They both hold the plate where stand a diya, a small terracotta lamp, a lighted camphor and some incense – and they turn it around Lord Ganesh. When the prayer is over, they leave the room backwards so as not to turn their backs to the god.

Ganesh is resting under an arch decorated with stars made out of silver leaves and clumsily glued all over. We can guess the time and energy spent on cutting and placing them, as a gift to the god. We think that it must have been done by the great grand-children, as a contribution to the celebrations. But it’s not. The Patriarch himself has patiently created the blue, pink and silvery stars.

“Om Shri Maha Ganapati”, “Om Shri Maha Ganapati”, “Om Shri Maha Ganapati”, “Om Shri Maha Ganapati” … These Sanskrit incantations to Lord Ganesh are continuously playing on a disc. Drops of water are slowly flowing on the lingam (or Shivling – the oblong-shaped stone symbolizing Lord Shiva) using an ingenious system. An incense scent fills the air and wraps around us.

Sitting on small white wooden benches, we find ourselves being carried away by the moment. Dizzy.

“Om Shri Maha Ganapati”, “Om Shri Maha Ganapati”. Our thoughts are suddenly stopped by the sound of a cutlass tearing apart a coconut. Crac!

Some of the people who have come to pray are quite unsure of their gestures. “What should we done next?”, they think out loud. An assistant is kindly guiding them. “Pran delo dan seo”, "take water from the bucket" to pour on the lingam.

Once the prayers are done and the offerings are made, they go and ask for Sonee’s blessings. They bow down and touch her feet. She gently taps their head. They greet her with a Namaste, and put their hands together as a sign of respect. She is the Matriarch, aged 84.

Each family that comes to the Govinda’s also undergoes a long tour across the region up to Cascavelle to give prayers to Ganesh.

“Manz enn tigit”, eat something, “non mersi, fek manze la”, no thanks, we have just eaten. They give and ask for news about each other and, in half an hour, ties that have been loosened during the year while everyone was busy with his respective life become tight again.  “MBC pou vinn filme aswar”, the MBC will come and record tonight.

Curious, a lady who was watching us taking notes and pictures, tells us: “han, morisien ou… mo ti krwar etranze”  - oh, you’re Mauritians… I thought you were foreigners. She lives in La Louise and is on her way to Cascavelle. Like most of them, tomorrow she will go to Pierrefonds and watch the immersion of Ganesh. She stops at each place, where she goes and greets everyone. It will take her a day to go from La Louise to Cascavelle.