In 2012, I took somewhat spontaneous trip to Mumbai, it coincided with the Hindu ceremony of Visarjan.
So Ganesh Chaturthi is a ceremony which celebrates the god Ganesha, who is the son of Lord Shiva and Parvati. It is believed on that day that Shiva declared Ganesha to be superior to all the other gods in the Hindu Parthenon (except for Vishnu, Lakshmi, Shiva and Parvati) – source: http://bit.ly/1dOF5ug
In preparation to the festival, people across India purchase or mold an idol of Ganesha out of clay. During the prayers, they ask him to embody the idol and thus, bestow wisdom, prosperity and good fortune. However, it’s equally important to release Ganesha from the idol he’s embodied, hence the ceremony of Visarjan occurs.
In order to properly release Ganesha, the idol must be completely immersed and must return completely to nature, i.e. break down into the base clay. Hence, on this day, beaches, lakes and rivers are thronged to with devotees bidding farewell and releasing Ganesha.
Mumbai’s Chowpatty is perhaps one of the busiest and most visited beaches, especially during this ceremony. That’s where I was.
A disappointing sight was the amount of idols that hadn’t been properly immersed.
Whether it was the tide, or the paints that covered them. The beach was awash with discarded idols, serene and static in their appearance, but at the same time, it was horrifying.
If Ganesha was to be released, the un-immersed idol meant he was still trapped inside that clay shell.