Japanese blog, but thought I would share briefly here for my English-speaking friends as well.
Ganesh Chaturthi, which starts on the fourth day of the waxing moon period in late Aug to early Sept, is one of the most important festivals for Hindus. This year, it started on Sep 1.
Around this time, people buy Ganesh statues made of mud or clay, or, nowadays, of plaster of paris, which is causing an environmental problem, and worship it for up to 10 days. Then typically on the 11th day (this depends on the family tradition and some may do this on the 3rd, 5th, or 7th day), they would take Ganesh to the nearby sea or river to immerse it, so as to let go of all the misfortunes Ganesh gathered during the puja for the family. In the case of Bangalore, which borders no ocean, people immerse their Ganeshes in a closed part of a lake. Our super driver Babu took us there one evening (thank you Babu!). The surrounded area was filled with people immersing Ganeshes and watching other people's Ganeshes being immersed and children oohing and aahing at the sight.
Ganesh statues come in different sizes, with the biggest over 70 feet high. The biggest one we saw was probably 8 feet high that day. Still, it is too big for a human to carry it into the water, so they were using a crane to carry the bigger ones to the middle of the lake, so that the boys can just dump (yep, dump) them into the lake. It was rather funny as the act of dumping Ganesh itself really didn't have a feel of any sort of sacred immersion (do you call that?).
On the other hands, smaller Ganeshes were carefully immersed into the water.
Note from Bob:
On Monday our office had a Ganesh-related pooja that lasted almost an hour. Apparently this kind of thing doesn't bother the Muslims or Christians at all, compared to the havoc that would be caused by, say, having a nativity scene in the lobby of your company in the US, which would result in multimillion dollar lawsuits. I myself participated in the pooja (carried out by the same unassuming priest that did our housewarming pooja), including circularly waving some flaming camphor in front of the idol, who looked quite handsome, not to mention pleased, festooned as he was with garlands of flowers with offerings of bananas and coconuts in front. Tomorrow is the seventh day and as there is some related festivity in the office (where the Ganesh idol remains enshrined for the duration of the celebration), I will be wearing ethnic clothes along with other employees, who look quite smart indeed in their elegant kurtas and saris.