HUNDREDS of people joined in Oxford’s first Ganesh Utsav festival.

People of different cultures embraced the Hindu celebration in Botley on Saturday which boasted a colourful mix of traditional dress, dancing, singing and street food.

The festival,which celebrated the elephant-headed god Ganesh’s birthday, ended with a procession of around 100 people from the Matthew Arnold School to the River Thames to submerge an idol of Ganesh in the water, as per tradition.

The whole thing was organised and paid for by husband and wife Sesh and Jyoti Parimi, who said they wanted to give something back to the community which had welcomed them so warmly following their move to Oxford two years ago.

Mrs Parimi said: “We had around 400 people come in and out throughout the day, there were a lot of people there from all backgrounds who were interested to know more, to look to see what was going on and to join in.

“For the parade there were around 100 people.

“People were stopping in the cars to have a look, people were coming out of their houses, dancing with us, it was so lovely.

“There was a really good atmosphere.

“We had some amazing dancers, the caterers provided a wonderful lunch for everyone.

“It’s fantastic how people responded.

“We’ve never done anything like this before and we’re so happy it went well, it is great to be able to give something back to the community as they’ve welcomed us and looked after us.”

The celebrations began at 9am at the school in Arnold’s Way with ‘Pran-Pratishtha’, which is the process of bringing in life in the idol by enchanting mantras, while after lunch, there was traditional dancing and singing of religious songs, or Bhajans.

As well as a desire to give something back to the local community, Mrs Parimi said Oxford seemed a very fitting place to hold the festival.

She said: “Ganesh is the lord of intelligence and prosperity and we feel Oxford is a hub of education and intelligence, so we thought we wanted Ganesh’s blessings.”

Ganesh Utsav is traditionally a ten-day celebration which typically falls in August or September and is widely celebrated across India and many other parts of the world.

The festival is marked with the installation of a Ganesh clay idol. while worshippers pray and chant Vedic hymns and Hindu texts, such as the Ganapati Upanishad.

Offerings are then distributed, including Indian food delicacies and sweets such as modak.

After a procession with music and chanting, the festival ends with immersion of the god into water.

Mr and Mrs Parimi say they now want to turn the festival into an annual celebration in Oxford.

She said: “A lot of people were asking to contribute for next year and so we’ve set up a not for profit company and just registered a website

“If people would like to help sponsor or donate then we would love for them to get in touch.”

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