The annual Ganesh Chaturthi Festival is reaching its conclusion, as members of Leicester’s Hindu community prepare for a special celebration in Stratford-upon-Avon.
The festival marks the birthday of the Hindu god Ganesh. As part of the celebrations, a special statue has been on display for the past 10 days in a dedicated tent at the Shri Guru Ravidaas Gurdwara on Harrison Road in Belgrave.
This is the 32nd year the Ganesh Chaturthi Festival has been celebrated in Leicester, with a group of volunteers working tirelessly to ensure the events are a success.
“Leicester’s Ganesh Chaturthi Festival was originally started by a lady named Vanisha Dhammi,” said Dee Patel, a member of the organising committee. “The statue was originally in her house, and people used to come and visit it there. Vanisha was originally from Mumbai, and in Mumbai the celebrations are huge, with hundreds of thousands of people involved. We now have our own version in Leicester of course, and ours is the only place in the city that celebrates for the full 11 days of the festival. Many visitors will make wishes to Ganesh, who Hindus believe is the remover of obstacles.”
The Leicester event has attracted huge crowds this year, with Dee estimating around 4,000 people came to see the statue on the first day, and around 1,000 visitors each day since. She says between 15,000 and 20,000 people will have visited the statue by the end of the festival.
“Our team of volunteers work all year to create everything that is available to see and it is all made by hand,” said Dee. “Members of our team have stayed with Ganesh, even staying overnight, to ensure the statue stays safe. We have had fantastic support from the High Bailiff of Leicester and the Leicestershire Constabulary to ensure everything has run smoothly.”
On Friday 9th September, three coaches will be departing from Leicester and travelling to Stratford-upon-Avon to immerse Ganesh in the river there, marking the conclusion of the festival.
“The water is symbolic of the sea, and when we immerse Ganesh in the sea, he is going back to his parents Shiva and Parvati and removing our obstacles.” Dee explained. “There will be a procession in the morning, before we share food and then perform the Garba, the Navrarti Clap Dance. It should be a great day!”