Dubai: Thousands of Indian expatriates on Thursday celebrated the Hindu festival of Ganesh Chaturthi that marks the deity Ganesha's birthday on the fourth day of the fortnight of Bhadrapada, a month in the Hindu calendar.
The deity Ganesha is invoked at the beginning of any new venture.
Long queues were seen at the temple in Bur Dubai early in the morning and also in the evening. People started visiting the temple as early as 4.30am for prayers.
The entire temple area was crowded, shops were all decked up and people were seen buying clay statues of the Hindu god on Wednesday evening, apart from sweets and other offerings.
The 10-day long celebration started on Thursday.
"We went to buy the Ganesha idol yesterday [Wednesday] and the shops were very crowded. We could only return home by around 2am. We have installed the idol in our house and will perform special prayers during the 10 days that we keep it in our house," said Rajesh, a devotee.
"People started buying Ganesha idols almost 15 days ago, though the rush was maximum yesterday [Wednesday] night and we worked late. It is one of the busiest periods for us in the year," said Shibu, a shop worker in the Bur Dubai temple area.
According to tradition, people install idols of the Hindu deity in their homes for a certain period at the end of which the idol is immersed in the sea or river, a tradition that is called as ‘seeing off' the deity.
Janvi Bhambani, a Bur Dubai resident, has been installing the idol for over five years in her house and says it is a special time of the year for her. "We keep it in our house for three days. This time we bought a 21-inch idol and have adorned it. We have decorated our pooja area and friends and relatives have been visiting in large numbers. It is a very special occasion for our family and we also make prasadam [food offering] every day which we distribute after the prayers," she said.
There is a heavy rush to buy modak, a sweet dumpling made of rice flour traditionally filled with coconut and jaggery and considered to be the favourite of the deity.
Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated elaborately in the western and southern parts of India.
After the 10-day celebrations, the idol is immersed in the sea or river after a procession accompanied by song and dance. The ritual see-off is believed to ward off misfortune.
The Saka calendar, used in India along with the Gregorian one, was introduced by the Calendar Reform Committee in 1957. It is a lunisolar calendar in which leap years coincide with those of the Gregorian calendar. The year is counted from the first year of the Saka era, A.D. 78, and year 2011 translates to Saka era 1932-33.
The calendar comprises the months of Chaitra, Vaishakha, Jyaishtha, Ashada, Shravana, Bhadrapada, Ashvini, Kartika, Margshisha, Pausha, Magha and Phalguna.
According to the Hindu calendar, a lunar year consists of 12 months. A lunar month has two fortnights, and begins with the new moon.