A Hindu 'Ganesh Chaturthi' celebration being planned for Westmeath is believed to be the first of its kind ever held in Ireland.
The event honours the god Ganesha, which is represented as having an elephant head and is considered by Hindu adherents to be the lord of learning and letters
Vinnie (Vinaye) Mangal, a native of Mauritius, and his extended family are arranging the festival, which will start at his home at Kinnegad, before moving to the main location, Derrymore Water Adventure Centre in Killucan.
“It is a religious festival, but open to everbody,” says Vinny.
Events start on August 25, “Murthi Sthapana”, but the next day “Ganesh Visarjan” is the main celebration.
“We will leave the house and walk and dance to Derrymore,” he says.
With them, they will bring a clay statue of the Hindu god Ganesha that will be doused in the waters of Derrymore.
“We have made the statue in my house; we just have to paint it,” says Vinnie, explaining that part of the tradition is that homes have these clay statues in them for the start of the festival.
The art of making these statues is one that young Mauritians learn growing up, althogh Vinny says that most of the work on his has been done by a friend who is talented at this.
The religious ritual known as “Puja” will be performed by the religious official Pandit Hari Krishna, who is coming down from Northern Ireland for the occasion.
In preparation for the festival, which marks the deity's birthday, the community will be fasting, with total abstention from meat, fish, poultry, eggs and alcohol required. They are also required to abstain from intimate relations with their spouses.
“We think there will be 100-200 people,” says Vinny speaking of the parade from Kinnegad to Killucan.
Responsibility for feeding all of those will fall to Vinny and his wife Pamela and their extended family.
Participants so disposed will make donations which will be passed on to the family of a child in Mauritius born with severe health challenges, says Vinny.