Photo Diaries - Festivals of India: Ganesh Chaturthi by Zeynep Kanra

Ganesh Chaturthi is a one of the many festivals of India. It is a Hindu celebration of the birth of elephant-headed God, Ganesh. Photographer Zeynep Kanra beautifully captured this celebration in Mumbai, India. Ganesh Chaturthi is one of Mumbai’s most popular celebrations, and one with an emotional story for Zeynep. Click through the images and read Zeynep’s story below.

All images copyright © 2019 Zeynep Kanra. All rights reserved.

Zeynep Kanra is a Turkish photographer who lived in India for 5 years. The Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations portrayed in Zeynep’s stunning images (above) was a particularly special moment for her; Ganesh means a lot to Zeynep, and the final day of celebrations fell on her birthday.

Zeynep is deeply in love with India and with the festivals of India, in particular with the elephant-headed God, Ganesh. This is clear in the detailing and passion that comes through in her images. Below, in quite the remarkable story, Zeynep tells us what Ganesh means to her.

Zeynep Kanra

Zeynep Kanra

Zeynep’s Ganesh Chaturthi story:

My story starts 12 years ago - I was travelling between Tibet, Bhutan and Nepal, and we had to stop at Indian the border for a while.

I’d never been to India before and I remember those unexpected hours at the Indian border well. I was mesmerised, I was hypnotised. It felt like everyone passing by was touching my soul and leaving flowers in me. I fell in love with India (yes - at the border). It was as if someone had put me in a dream, in a fairy tale full of magic, colour and scents.

I wasn’t someone who believed in 'magical' stories, but for the first time in my life, I felt like I was being pulled in a world which I could not even dream of before.

That was the day when I promised India Ma that I would come back.

Then my many visits to India began. I would spend all my annual leave travelling in India; north, east, west, south - everywhere. It was interesting to realise how comfortable and how safe I felt. It was hard to leave India every time.

In March 2011 I came back from Rajasthan and decided to have a tattoo of Lord Ganesha on my arm. Having learnt about Lord Ganesha; how loved and respected he is, how he is the remover of obstacles, and yes how he loves to eat sweets (!), I wanted him with me all the time.

I had Ganesha tattooed in Istanbul.

Life in Istanbul continued. I had a good job at a company I’d been with for 13 years, but the pull to be in India never left. It felt like an impossible dream - I didn’t know anyone in India, I had never lived anywhere other than Turkey, I was not brave enough to leave everything I knew; my family, my friends, a well paying job, a good life ... 

What happened next was incredible.

Within 2 months of having Ganesha on my arm, my boss decided to change the structure of the company I was working for - and after 13 years with them, I was made redundant.

Within 2 months of having Ganesha on my arm, I received a very good offer from a global company for a position in Sydney. I refused the position and asked if they had a position in their India office. They said no.

Then, two days later, the call came.

‘Someone has resigned in India and we have a position’. They asked if I’d take it. Of course my answer was yes! Everyone was surprised, everyone was watching the wheel of life taking me to my dream.

It was the magic of India Ma. 

This is when life whispered to me: ‘if you want something deep in your heart, if you place your wish in your heart, all doors will open - just believe’.

And with Ganesha on my arm, I moved to India.

The year I took these photos in Mumbai, Lord Ganesha's birthday fell on the same day as mine. So I was there with him, during the celebrations.

I was there. Happy, safe and in love.

'Ganpati Bappa Morya! '

Ganesh Chaturthi 2019

Ganesh Chaturthi 2019 Festival dates

Ganesh Chaturthi 2019 will begin on Monday 2nd September 2019. Ganesh Chaturthi is an 11 day festival, so in 2019 the last - and most spectacular day - will happen on Thursday 12th September.

Ganesh Chaturthi 2019 Mumbai- where to watch

In India, Ganesh Chaturthi is most widely celebrated in the Indian state of Maharashtra. If you are in Mumbai, you can visit many local temples with Ganesh idols (statues) placed inside them anytime during the 11 day celebration. The final day of Ganesh Chaturthi 2019 will fall on Thursday 12th September. To witness the spectacular celebrations head to the beach - on the last day of celebrations all of the Ganesh idols are taken to be immersed in water.

Stay Safe

If you decide to visit the final day of Ganesh Chaturthi, do so with caution. As you can see in the above images the beaches in Mumbai become crowded, and this spreads back to the roads and streets behind them. Crowds at celebrations such as this in India can be overwhelming, and due to the sheer number of people you may find that local police block certain routes - even for pedestrians. Ganesh Chaturthi is a wonderful celebration, but be sure you are prepared before immersing yourself into it.

All images copyright © 2019 Zeynep Kanra. All rights reserved.