Pune: Claire and Mark Edwards from Britain, Kevin Haritmonds from Indonesia could not hide their happiness when they participated in the ‘Ganesh Walk’ here on Sunday. Pune’s Ganesh festival, which is a matter of pride for the entire country, also has many admirers from foreign countries who can be seen enjoying the festivities with a similar fervour and enthusiasm.
For last six years, Lexagent Expat Relocation and Pune Expat Club help and take the foreigners who migrate to the city and are associated with them on a Ganesh Walk, where they take a tour of the city’s most popular Ganesh Mandals. Along with the five ‘Manache (Revered) Ganpati’ and other famous ones like Dagdusheth Halwai Ganpati, Mandai Ganpati, the tour also covers Pune’s markets and important monuments like Shaniwarwada, which are more colourful than ever during the festive times.
“This year we took a group of 70 foreign nationals coming from 18 countries like the United Kingdom, France, United States of America and Canada. We have been organising the tour for past six years. The tour not only helps these foreigners connect with each other, but also to know the local region, its culture and people better,” said Preeti Roongta of Pune Expat Club.
While the group walks around the city taking darshan of the revered Bappas, a guide walks it through the stories, legends related to the festival, and cultural significance of the places. Claire and Mark Edwards, who are here from Great Britain, said they have been living in Pune for over 2.5 years, but have never seen the festival.
“We are so glad that Lexagent and Pune Expat Club invited us to be a part of this absolutely fantastic experience. The walk was well designed and we learnt a lot about the historical importance of this festival,” they said.“The Ganesh festival could be called a beginning of the series of festivities that follow, like Navratri, Dussehra, Diwali and Christmas,” Roongta said.
“Thus, it becomes the best time to introduce them to the culture of the city at this moment itself. As an Indian and a proud Puneite, through this tour, we are able to show them the beauty of the festival and the city first hand. Many of them had already seen all of this online. But in this tour, they get to experience the spirit of the festival, participate in the aartis and meet the local devotees themselves. They are also very interested in knowing more about everything, and ask questions curiously,” Roongta added.
The walk and other such activities helps them look at the place with positivity and connects them to the culture of the place where they will be living for at least three to five years. Ganeshotsav is such a festival that transcends the boundaries of religion and communities and even these foreign nationals enjoy it absolutely. “These people have never seen so many people together. Many come from countries that are scarcely populated, she said.
“The idea of so many people coming together to celebrate a festival is new and amusing to them. It’s a unique opportunity for them to see something that does not exist anywhere else in the world,” she addfurther ed.
Kevin Haritmonds from Indonesia, who was a part of the walk, said, “I have known Lexagent and Pune Expat Club for many years and attend all their events. The Ganesh Walk is the most loved event and I love the whole feel, the spirituality, the colourful vibe, the Sanskrit shlokas, the dedication of all the devotees. It feels magical. I love this walk.”
Talking happily about the tour, American nationals James and Ana Herbison said, “This is our first Ganesh Walk and we are super happy and excited to be a part of this. Pune Expat Club organises some amazing curated events for Expats in Pune and we are delighted to be a part of such an active club.” Lexagent Expat Relocation is an organisation that helps the people from other countries move to India by supporting them in finding homes, schools and getting language and cultural training.