Decorated idol of lord Ganesha, chanting of ‘Ganpati Bappa Morya’, singing of traditional aarti, and women playing garba may give an impression that one is at a Ganesh pandal in Ahmedabad or Surat. But such is the scene in Antwerp, Belgium, too.
Gujaratis settled in Antwerp have kept the local traditions alive by celebrating Ganesh chaturthi with great fervour. The festival in the city, known as the diamond capital of the world, is organised by BAPS Sanstha vzw for the past many years. This year too, the organisation has brought a beautiful idol of Lord Ganesha at Stadspark, the heart of Antwerp.
Although the festival was only a two-day affair in Antwerp — the idol was brought on September 18 and immersed the next day — it was celebrated with much enthusiasm by the Gujarati community there. And like every year, the idol was specially brought from Mumbai for the occasion.
Dr J Bhagwati, the Indian ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg & EU who opened the festival with a pooja, said, “That the Gujarati community is keeping its religious tradition alive even while residing in a foreign country is remarkable. I can’t think of any other community that has been able to do the same. This also shows how closely knit the Indian community is in Antwerp.”
A cultural programme was also organised as part of the Ganesh chaturthi celebrations. Devotees were served laddoos and other traditional food items as prasad.
Shyam Patel, trustee of BAPS Sanstha and one of the key persons behind the celebration in Antwerp, said, “We celebrate the festival in a traditional manner every year. All Indians, be it Gujaratis, Rajasthanis or South Indians, take part in the festival. In fact, even the Belgians have come forward in impressive numbers to take part in the festivities.” The Sanstha maintains a Swaminarayan Temple in Antwerp, where daily prayers are offered. The Gujarati community in Antwerp also celebrates other major Hindu
festivals, such as Navratri and Diwali.