India celebrates annual Hindu festival amid religious tensions

New Delhi, Aug 31 (EFE).- India on Wednesday celebrated the beginning of the festivities marking the birth of popular Hindu god Ganesh – depicted as having the head of an elephant – amid inter-religious tensions with the minority Muslim community,

Tensions between the majority Hindus and Muslims mounted in the southern state of Karnataka – where Ganesh is widely revered – after courts intervened in several disputes over celebrating the festival close to mosques.

In the case of regional capital Bengaluru, the Indian Supreme Court banned holding the celebration on a ground in front of a mosque, where Hindu devotees had planned to temporarily install and worship massive statues of Ganesh in tents, as per tradition.

The decision was based on the ownership of the land, which was allegedly held by the mosque, although the same argument was used in another area to allow the Hindu community to install the Ganesh effigies on a mosque’s grounds, held to be public property.

Authorities deployed heavy security measures at these venues in light of a series of religious clashes over the past year, along with a controversy over the hijab or Islamic veil being banned in Karnataka schools.

Beyond the tensions, the rest of the country widely celebrated the Ganesh Chaturthi, or the arrival of the Hindu deity on earth, with massive figures of the elephant god on display both in public spaces as well as inside houses.

“Ganesh is a sun and the god of opulence. So, every time we make a good deal, we pray first to him and later to the other gods. It is mandatory,” Shrawan Kumar Sharma told EFE while celebrating the occasion at a house in south Delhi.

After the 10-day festival, the Ganesh statues are immersed in rivers, reservoirs and the sea across the country.

The god, whose father was supposed to have decapitated him after a quarrel and later replaced his head with that of an elephant, is revered more or less across the entire country.

“Best wishes on Ganesh Chaturthi. May the blessings of Lord Ganesh always remain upon us,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted along with a photo of himself praying to a decorated Ganesh statue. EFE


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