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Hindu festival celebrates birth of Lord Ganesh

This week, Hindus around the world celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi, honoring the religion's most memorable god.

The festival commemorates the birth of Ganesh, "the patron of arts and sciences (and) the deity of intellect and wisdom — identified by his elephant head," The Huffington Post reported. Participants perform special prayers and chants over a 10-day period.

"On the 11th day, devotees carry (a) Ganesh statue through the streets in a procession accompanied with dancing, singing and fanfare to be immersed in a river or the sea," The Huffington Post explained.

The story stated the celebration this year begins Friday and ends Sept. 8.

The New York Times reported on the Hindu Temple Society of North America's celebration that began Aug. 22 in Flushing, Queens, noting that more than 10,000 American Hindus are expected to attend the event that ends Sunday.

"More than 400 gallons of milk, 100 boxes of apples, 50 crates of bananas and five kilograms of sandalwood paste will be used," the Times reported. "And each day, dozens of liters of ghee, clarified butter, will be ladled into the fire pit for the homam, or fire ritual, which is believed to carry offerings to the lord."

A slideshow of festival photos attached to The Huffington Post's article illustrates how bright outfits and decorations enhance the celebratory atmosphere.

The New York festivities highlight the importance of holidays like Ganesh Chaturthi in the lives of the Hindus who practice outside of India, Hinduism's country of origin. "Like Easter for Christians or the High Holy Days for Jews," the festival instills a sense of community that is sometimes missing, the Times reported.

In a new report on the spread of the world's biggest religions, Pew Research Center reported that Hinduism is notable for its concentration in India.

"No major religion is more concentrated in one country than Hinduism, which has remained close to its geographic origins. More than nine in 10 (94 percent) of the world's 1 billion Hindus live in India," Pew noted.

In an earlier examination of the global religious landscape, Pew reported that of the estimated 1 billion Hindus in the world, 2.25 million reside in North America.

Email: kdallas@deseretnews.com Twitter: @kelsey_dallas