After several days of pujas and celebrations, the highlight of the festival is when all the neighborhoods that have made large statues of Ganesh joined together in a huge parade carrying them down to the sea to immerse them. The statues are supposed to be made of clay so that they don’t damage the environment, but many of them appeared to be plaster of paris, which gave me somewhat mixed feelings about the whole thing. It was fun, though. I have to admit that.
The procession to the sea included dozens of huge statues like these, mounted on trucks, vans and trailers of various descriptions. South Indians are really into bright colors, so it’s inevitable that they were nearly all painted with a wild spectrum of colors. Flying into Chennai, incidentally, is enough to let you know that this is a place where colors are extremely important. Interspersed among all the white and beige houses, you see an amazing array of intense violet, green, blue, pink, orange, red and yellow ones. However, even the drabber houses tend to have bright decorations. The house across the street from me is painted violet and yellow, with a large terracotta mural, yet it doesn’t seem particularly garish because it fits right in.
Some of the boys were splashed with Holi-style colors. These boys paused in their dancing to strike a pose for me. They were really having a good time. Of course, it was a holiday from work and school for most people, and, in true Indian style, these boys were making the most of their day off.
The procession came to an end on the pier, where the images were immersed in the sea. It started pouring rain just as the immersions began. We got drenched, but were able to hitch a ride on the back of the open truck that this Ganesh had been on. There were at least 15 people crammed in, all wet and muddy, with only a small umbrella among the whole group, but it was a happy ride.