Ganesha Festival 2011: An annual Indian celebration in Paris

Photo credit: Stephane

Imagine the sight of women wearing vivid red, turquoise and saffron colored saris, the cloyingly sweet smell of jasmine combined with the slightly rancid smell of coconut oil and the rhythmic sounds of Indian flutes and drums and you'll have an idea of how it felt to be at the Ganesha Festival yesterday. Absolutely amazing!  Even though I've lived in a couple of countries where people observe Indian holidays, like Diwali and Holi, this was the first time that I've had the opportunity to see the festival celebrating the birth of Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed god. Ganesha, the son of the goddess Parvati and the great Lord Shiva, is worshipped by Hindus in India and much of Asia. His elephant head symbolizes the macrocosm or the divine, while his human body represents the microcosm or the individual human.

According to the description of the event on the Paris website, the annual procession attracts 25,000 people, both the faithful and the curious. The parade is lead by a group of pipers, drummers and frenzied dancers, who whirl and twirl to the music. Coconuts are broken along the route. The shell of the coconut symbolizes the illusion of the world, the flesh represents the Karma of an individual, and the coconut water is the human ego. By breaking the shell of a coconut, one offers their heart to Lord Ganesha.

Since this was a big event with lots of photo opportunities, I'm posting more pictures than normal. Scroll through, enjoy and click on the ones that you would like to enlarge. Even better, find some Indian music on YouTube and listen to it while looking at the photos so that you'll feel like you're in India. That's exactly how I felt yesterday!

Many thanks to Kerouac2 for telling me about the Ganesha Festival and for encouraging me "to go wild" and post lots of photos.


  1. I love that you got the photo of the cleanup. Classic.

    Where was the parade? Which arrondissemont?

  2. The French cleanup crew was impressive. I've never seen anything like it...not even in Switzerland. I'm not sure if it's because it was a Sunday afternoon and they wanted to go home, but the streets were clean in no time.

    The festival was in the area around the Gare du Nord in the 10th arrondissement that it known as little India. It went down the rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis, Marx Dormay, Blvd Barbes, etc. It's a really fun part of Paris and a great place to go for Indian food (obviously!). We had some delicious Briyani yesterday that I can't stop thinking about today!

  3. Wow, the 10th--that's almost the hinterlands, yes? My friend Richard took me to an Indian restaurant in Paris, but so long ago I don't recall where it was.

  4. That's a dangerous question, Joseph. I'm beginning to understand that people are very protective of their arrondissements. Even though I don't love the 16th, I do get a bit annoyed when someone else calls it boring and dead. So even though it takes me about 30 minutes to get to Gare du Nord/Little India, I can't say that it's the hinterlands because it's the center of someone else's universe. There's a funny map of Paris that gives a good idea of what Parisians typically think of the different areas of Paris. I'll do a post about it this week - thanks for giving me the idea!

    I remember having some great Indian food in Chicago. If I remember correctly, there's a street with lots of restaurants, shops, etc.

  5. I also loved the photos of the cleanup - a reminder you are in France after all. Great photos, by the way.

  6. Yes, Mary Kay, that would be Clark and Devon--but I've never ventured there. My neighborhood has a terrific Indian restaurant, so I find my satisfaction there.

    I'll look forward to the map.

  7. The accidental Parisienne, Thanks! :-)

    Joseph, Yes, that's it! I remember having a great mango lassi at one of the restaurants in that area. You're so lucky to have a terrific Indian restaurant nearby.

  8. Great photos! Even though I poured over the Ganesha photos on Any Port, yours are still interesting and fresh. I don't think I can ever get tired of the vibrant colors and spectacle.


  9. Thanks, nycgirl. I really enjoyed looking at FMT's and Kerouac's photos, too. It was interesting to see what captured their attention versus what caught mine. I didn't realize how many shots I took of individuals rather than the crowds until I got home. What was also amazing is how friendly everyone was and how proud they were when I asked if I could take a photo of their children. It was really a great atmosphere. You should try to go next year, although I'm sure that NYC must have lots of great festivals.


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