Mumbai or Bombay, as it was formerly known, is one India’s largest cities. It is a melting pot of India’s many diverse cultures, as people from across the country have headed to Mumbai for decades, seeking to make their fortune. This makes Mumbai a microcosm of India, with people from different regions, speaking different languages and following different faiths, living side by side with each other. For a tourist looking to get a quick feel of India, Mumbai is the place to go, especially during festivals. Let’s take a look at three major festivals that are celebrated in India with great pomp.
Ganesh Chaturthi celebrates the birth of, Lord Ganesha the son of Parvati and Shiva. The festival is celebrated during the months of August or September, and the highlight of the festival is the immersion of the many idols of Ganesha in the sea or a nearby lake. Some of the statues are sponsored by various communities, and they can be immense, reaching 50 feet in height.
Celebrations at home include the preparation of sweets and many special dishes, and the chanting of mantras sacred to Lord Ganesha. Ganesha is also important in the practice of tantra, according to which he is said to represent one of the chakras or energy centers of the body, so tantric temples in the region mark this day as well.
Gudi Padwa is the new year festival celebrated throughout the west Indian state of Maharasthra, of which Mumbai is the capital. Gudi Padwa falls in the month of April and is supposed to mark the day when Brahma, the god of creation in the Hindu pantheon, gave birth to the universe. This day is also considered an auspicious day to begin a pilgrimage to the town of Kashi or Varanasi.
The people of Maharashtra have several unique customs to mark this day. For example, a cloth is tied atop a tall pole, and is termed “the Gudi.” According to tradition, this represents the victory of Shivaji, the medieval king who ruled over much of Maharasthra during the seventeenth century. Certain communities may also venerate the linga, an aniconic stone that represent the first form created in the universe.
Guru Purnima falls in the lunar month of Ashada, according to the Indian calendar, which corresponds to July and August. “Purnima” means the full moon, and Guru Purnima is the full moon night celebrated to honor Lord Shiva as the first Guru or Adi Guru, who offered the yogic sciences to humanity.
Mumbai is a major global metropolis and is well connected by air from almost every major city in the world. Festival time is a major season for tourism and everything from airline tickets to accommodation can be expensive, so plan well ahead of time.