A week before the festival was to be celebrated, I was on my way to the annual pilgrimage to Ganga Talao…
I’ve already covered the festival over the last 2 years. So, if you’re looking for a more comprehensive account of the pilgrimage, the links have been posted at the end of this post.
Because I went a week early, the total number of pilgrims that were marching on the roads was… zero.
Instead, we found ourselves amongst the great minds who had similar ideas of avoiding the peak-time crowd. There wasn’t much of a crowd to be honest, mainly due to the intermittent heavy rain.
& what a rain it was. Sometimes you had the lake engulfed by a mist.
Followed a few moments later by sunshine chasing it away.
It went on & off.
Well, you get the idea…
That however didn’t stop some people from braving the rain.
Or from venturing out knee-deep into the lake.
As it has been the case for many years, the lake was literally over-flowing…
… with fishes. I don’t know if it’s normal behaviour for the fishes to surface to breathe or that overpopulation has exhausted nearly all the oxygen in the water.
At least, it made someone very happy. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any of the gigantic eels.
Since there was a queue at the temple down here, we decided to walk over to the upper one.
This part of the lake was nearly deserted due to the water having overflown up to the pavement.
In the upper temple, I found out that the electricity supply had been cut off.
Because works were still being done in installing the street lighting & various spotlights.
Preparations were still on-going to accommodate the 400,000 people that would be coming to Grand Bassin. I do pity the people having to work in these conditions.
Up the hill, the mist didn’t discourage anyone from taking photos.
As the rain paused for a while, I went down to the lake.
Here also, people were offering their prayers.
The Fire services were pumping out the water while the NCG had a lifeboat ready to go onto the island & the police had put tape to prevent anyone from drowning themselves.
With the prayers nearly done, there was only one thing left do… climb the hill. :)
It was very windy up here.
If you compare it with this photo from 1986/1987, it’s apparent how much it has changed in 27 years.
A lot of new structures have been constructed. Like this temple. The area around the lake is much safer now.
You could even say there are too many buildings now. I bet the parking wasn’t bursting like this at that time…
& of course, instead of a wind turbine, we now have the Mangal Mahadev & the new statue.
The isle in the middle of the lake now has three more “arbres du voyageur.” The once crystal clear blue lake has turned into a murky brown swamp. Perhaps they should invest more into cleaning the lake than erecting new statues…
& the temple on the hill as well has been renovated.
Obviously, the rain came & I couldn’t resist the opportunity to brave the adverse conditions to take this shot.
As soon as the weather cleared out, I went down to the lake again.
The crowd numbers had swelled now that they had been joined by tourists.
There were still two things to do before we set off for home. One of which was visiting the Somnath Spiritual Park, near the parking.
Inside the massive building, still under construction, were 108 Shivlings.
Surrounded by the effigies of the avatars of Vishnu, including that of Narasimha.
I didn’t count it, but I suppose there were less than 108 bells.
Why the number 108? Well, I have no idea, except from what I’ve read on Wikipedia…
The distance of the Sun from the Earth divided by the diameter of the Sun and the distance of the Moon from the Earth divided by the diameter of the Moon is approximately equal to 108.
For example, Google Search provides the "distance between Sun and Earth" as 149,600,000 km and the "diameter of Sun" as 1,391,000 kilometers. So, we get the ratio as: 107.548526240115, which can be approximated to 108 by rounding above. Also, Google Search provides the "distance between Moon and Earth" as 384,400 km and the "diameter of Moon" as 3 474.8 kilometers. So, we get the ratio as: 110.6250719465869, which when approximated to 111 is near 108 by 3.
It is claimed that the great sires of Vedanta knew this relationship and thus 108 is a very important number in Vedantic chantings.
One last thing…
The 108 ft statue of Durga that is currently being built.
& here’s what it’ll look like.
The Mangal Mahadev, which as you already know, is also 108 ft tall.
There is an enormous amount of iconography associated with Shiva. Here’s a few of them:
- The blue throat (Neelkanth) when Shiva drank poison & held it in this throat to prevent it from spreading in the universe.
- The serpent as a garland, symbol of wisdom & eternity.
- The crescent moon, sign of the cycle of creation.
- The 3rd eye, burning lust to ashes.
- The Ganges in the hair (they hadn’t turned on the tap), representing the flow of immortality.
- iPad as a camera, symbol of human stupidity.
I’ve had seen enough for the day.
In Plaine Champagne, sightings of Chinese guavas in the bushes forced us to stop. Unfortunately, most of them weren’t ripe yet, but I still managed to taste one. ;)
The next stop was at Mare aux Vacoas.
Which was nearly deserted apart from some fishermen. Since we were already in the region of Henrietta, I wanted to visit one place where my zoom lens would be handy…
The Tamarind Falls.
More commonly known as Sept Cascades.
I’m pretty sure these are not all of the 7 waterfalls. Only one way to find out…
There was also another waterfall opposite to the viewpoint.
A passing farmer suggested us to go further ahead near a CEB station for a better view of the area.
By the time we reached that spot, it already started raining & there was nothing much to be seen.
Apart from another waterfall which came from Henrietta!
& that was the end of our trip to Ganga Talao, with a short stop at Henrietta to recon the area for a future trip… ;)
(I should probably ask for a free trip in exchange of an epic
I didn’t get any opportunity to shoot the pilgrims, except on the day before Maha Shivratri, where I caught up with a handful of them returning to Triolet.
People queuing up to distribute refreshments.
& that is why there should be a maximum height for kanwars.
Celebrating the festival at the Maheswarnath Mandir.
We reached the temple early enough when the queues hadn’t been formed yet.
Inside the main temple & the decorative tiger that is still worshipped.
Clearly a lot of people have a weak grasp of English…
(& it’s called incense sticks FYI.)
Doing the aarti of the gatekeeper.
The only place where there was a queue was at the Hanuman temple.
An e-pilgrim. A lot of pilgrims rest overnight at the temple. Obviously, they need some form of entertainment.
With prayers over, I turned my mind towards more pressing concerns, i.e. shooting the beautiful kanwars.
If you look though the 2011/2012 posts, you will see a lot of kanwars that look familiar. That’s because they are recycled every year. The statues and structures are kept & fitted with new decorations. Surely, they can do better than that…
That doesn’t mean there aren’t any new ones. Here are a few of them.
Another thing I noticed was that the names of the groups do sound similar…
Some of the more traditional ones… :)
Hey, I know this one!
& here’s the most extravagant one – Nandi, the bull, pulling a chariot.
What I liked the most about the kanwars was the attention to details.
Well, not here…
But rather in the decorations.
Look at those details!
Nothing to see here.
& then amongst all those amazing things, this was the one that got me. Please stop this.
That was my cue to leave. But before that I went to get some free refreshments.
It was nearly 9 am & the crowd had swelled up, causing the MBC to appear out of nowhere. Even more reason to leave.
That was my account of the festival of Maha Shivratri. I’m a bit disappointed that I went too early to Ganga Talao & didn’t to capture any of the actual pilgrimage. Now that I have a camera (with the proper lens), I’m considering a night trip next year. That should be fantastic, judging by these photos… :)