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SAN MARTIN, California — Festival season is well underway this year and the Hindu community is celebrating as they are finally able to gather together in prayer, worship and joy. One of the most beloved events of the festival season is Ganesha Chathurthi.

Every temple seems to have a different date, as Chathurthi falls between August and September, per the Hindu calendar, whenever there is a new moon. 

Leela Jaladanki stands next to a table of Ganesha idols. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.
Women volunteers light the puja fire. Puja fires are traditionally started by women. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.
Puja items used by the priest for Ganesha Chathurthi. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.

This year at the Vaidica Vidhya Ganapathi Center in San Martin, California, it was Sept. 11 when devotees gathered to worship the deity who is often hailed as the remover of all obstacles.

Volunteers in the temple kitchen make kozhukattai, a sweet or savory dumpling, most often made for Ganesha Chathurthi. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.
Pandit Sivasankar Hemmanur pours a ceremonial rice mixture into the puja fire. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.
Anita Sharma takes a selfie with her family holding a large Ganesha statue. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.
Devotees chant in unison as they walk towards the immersions pools for Ganesha Chathurthi. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.
Pandit Sivasankar Hemmanur helps a devotee immerse his Ganesha idol. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.
Sunil Tripirineni attends his first Ganesha Chathurthi with son Devansh, age 3. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.

Despite the lower turnout, the gathering was vibrant with chanting and joy. Longstanding temple goers and new participants enjoyed the immersion of Ganesha, like Sunil Tripirineni and his son Devansh, age 3.

“It’s his first time,” said Tripirineni.

This story was produced in partnership with CatchLight as part of the CatchLight Local Visual Storytelling Initiative. To learn more about this collaborative model for local visual journalism, sign up for CatchLight’s newsletter.

Sree Sripathy

Sree Sripathy is a writer, photographer and disability advocate based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a 2022 CatchLight Local Fellow and part of the California Local Visual Desk program. Sree also...