Houston Cha Raja: Shiv Shakti Mandir Celebrates 5th Ganesh Utsav with Grand Mumbai Style Parade at Hillcroft

GM 6in

Photos: Carlos Pena

By Preanka Desai

HOUSTON: “Ganpati Bappa!” shouted Virat Maharaj, Hardik Rawal, and Temple Trustees from 2 Ganesh Moorti-filled trucks and Sunil T from atop the Ganesh orange Masala Hummer, and in unison, a crowd of over a thousand marching down a bustling Hillcroft responded “Morya!” – the mantra repeated frequently – as the Ganpati Visarjan Yatra (immersion procession) commenced.

GM 8in

Leading with prayers, Virat Maharaj and Prakash Maharaj, Shiv Shakti Mandir’s chief priest, carefully guarded the ten-foot statue of Lord Ganesh and a smaller but more intricate Visarajan-ready clay idol symbolizing Lord Ganesh’s return to Mount Kailas.  Vigilant devotees who had kept the Lord in their homes for one-, three-, five or all ten days of the Ganesh Utsav brought over a hundred person statues to include in the parade, and later the Visarjan at 8 PM at Madras Pavilion on the Lake in Sugar Land.

GM 2in

Temple Trustees Dhirubhai Khotak led the Parade, followed by a crowd-amusing little Masala Rickshaw, Ganesh Trucks led by Ashok Bhambhani and Rajan Bhatia and Ninad Gupte-driven Masala Hummer with Radio Jockeys Dilip, Rajoo, Preanka, next gen Sahil, Priyanshi and Harshin, and Sandhya T.  The procession ignited shoppers throughout Houston’s famous Mahatma Gandhi District (also known as Little India), stopping at shopping centers to receive salutations from business owners and pass out laddos and whole fruit prasad to devotees before returning to the Shiv Shakti Mandir.  DJ Zee spun popular music on turntables positioned inside the Hummer as devotees danced along to the music blaring through mobile loudspeakers.  The periodic showers of confetti and gulaal (red colored powder), seemed as if from the heavens and excited the crowds into random dancing, even garba!

GM 1in

Masala Event Managers danced and kept the event organized headed by Sandhya Thakkar and Munira Vejlani, along with a tireless team of staff and volunteers including Devangi, Rinku, Ruchir, Rohit, Shah and Chris.

GM 5in GM 4in

A mini-cultural program began when the procession returned to the Mandir.  Young performers in traditional costumes from Sunandas Performing Arts paid tribute to Lord Ganesh in dance form.  Then members of Infused Performing Arts, dressed in snazzy outfits, performed a vibrant and skillful dance to Lord Ganesha from the film ABCD.  Local singer and Masala RJ, Malika Ghei sang the current track Radha Nachegi. Upon the return to the Mandir, Devotees  were refreshed with a variety of Ganpathi themed Prasad included Guava, Mango and Lychee juice cartons from Umang Mehta (Deep Foods), Fried Rice and Aloo Chholey from Kaiser (Himalaya Restaurant), Dabelis from Abhay (Shiv Sagar Restaurant), Halwa from Rajdeep (Bombay Sweets), Idlis/Sambhar/Chutney from Sathish Rao (Udipi Cafe), Motichoor Laddoos from Faisal (Aga’s Juice), Samosas from Nirman Shah (Chowpatty Chaat-Hillcroft), fresh Nimbu Paani from Chandrika Masala, Samosa from Bhagwan Taparia (Maharaja Bhog) and water bottles from Animesh Patel (Subh Laxmi Grocers) and Khurram Virani (Tara Energy).

GM 3in

GM 7in

Once the cultural program was complete, the ten-foot statue was returned to the Mandir while the beautiful Symoblic Visarjan moortis were transported to Madras Pavilion (MP), Sugar Land.  Alpa and Mahesh Shah, and Rajan Radhakrishnan of MP, welcomed devotees and distributed amazing Chana and Sheera Prasad.Virat Maharaj once again led the audience in a final prayer, seeking blessings from Lord Ganesh and forgiveness for any transgressions.  As devotees carried the statues to the adjacent lake’s banks, Sunil T, Dilip and Ninad braved the rock-filled lake, carefully immersing each statue three times as per tradition.  amidst chants of “Ganpati Bappa Morya” and with all the pomp and circumstance befitting a true king, the Fifth Annual Ganesh Utsav culminated ten days of celebrations of our very own Houston Cha Raja.  “Pudhchya Varshi Lavkar Yaa” or “Come Early Next Year” devotees urged Lord Ganesh.