Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Journey Home

I spent the end of September in the San Francisco Bay Area, there on self-imposed assignment, to cover the Fremont Hindu Temple’s Ganesha Chaturthi festival. Ganesha Chaturthi is an annual ten-day celebration around the Hindu god Ganesha’s birthday. During the festival, Hindus believe that Ganesha comes down to earth to bestow his presence upon his devotees. People buy an idol of Ganesha specifically for his birthday to keep in their home during the festival, and after a pran prathista (a prayer ceremony that infuses the god’s presence in the statue) the idol is seen as a form of Ganesha himself. He is prayed to nightly, offered sweets, a guest in his devotee’s home, and at the end he is immersed in a body of water and sent back to his home on Mount Kailash. The temple in Fremont, a city near the Mission Hills about sixty miles from San Francisco where I spent most of my childhood, hosts one of the largest celebrations of the festival in the US.

I went to cover the festival partly as research for my novel. The myth of how Ganesha got his elephant head is part of the family curse that plagues my protagonist. I wanted to hear about this festival from those But also because I've been drawn to the Bay Area for some time. Mostly the landscape - the sandy hills, the bridges that connect the east bay to the coast. I went there with my camera in hopes of turning the experience into a photo essay...

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