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Region 1 - Ganesh Chariot Festival

On 29th August 2012, several thousand devotees commemorated at the Shree Ganapathy temple in Wimbledon to celebrate the annual Ganesh Chariot Festival.

The annual procession went around the block of streets from the temple, with three chariots carrying three deities.

Just before the procession, Sai volunteers gathered in the meditation hall and divided into their respective teams of medics and stewards consisting of youths and adults. All the volunteers were fortunate to be blessed by the priests before commencing their duties.

The festival procession commenced with rituals performed to Lord Ganapathy, Goddesses Ambe and Gayatri. The male devotees placed the magnificently decorated deities on three mini chariots and carried it on their shoulders. They swung backwards and forth as they made their way outside the temple where more worshipers awaited eagerly.

Once the deities were outside, at the temple's entrance, they were all placed on to another three chariots which was grand in size and appearance.

A crowd of male worshipers gathered around a pile of 1008 coconuts placed around a large wooden box filled with water and large rocks. The worshipers swung the coconuts on the rocks before the chariots could be pulled on into the road. Groups of men and women, traditionally dressed, took hold of the ropes on the giant chariots and the procession began.

Women carried bowls of flaming camphor, and other walked with jars on their head. The younger girls danced away clicking their dandiya sticks together while the older girls were singing devotional songs into a loud speaker. Volunteers carefully looked after the men, striped to the waist, rolling over the ground till the end of the procession. It was a fascinating and overwhelming experience for the residents as well as passers-by. Musical bands played continuously throughout the procession. Women who were offering gifts of fruits and flower to Lord Ganapathy on the chariot were blessed by the priests. Despite the rain, everyone still carried on joyously singing hymns and chanting mantras. It was God's loving grace which showered upon all.

As the procession drew to an end, the deities had to be sprinkled with water before they could be taken back inside the temple and be put back to their respective shrine. The priests continued with the rituals, and the day concluded with group devotional singing. It was thoroughly an eventful day. An amazing experience to be cherished forever! The day had been blessed for the management team including doctors, police and stewards who made the festival possible by the grace of our beloved Swami.

Alisha Manandhar, Region 1