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17 recovered after being swept away during Hindu religious festival

Published: Friday, Sept. 20 2013 6:35 p.m. MDT

In this Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013 photo, Indian devotees swim in the River Yamuna after the immersion of the idols of elephant-headed Hindu God Ganesha during Ganesh Chaturthi festival celebrations in New Delhi, India. Rescuers say they have found 17 bodies of Hindu devotees who were swept away in the Yamuna River at the end of the 10-day religious festival in the Indian capital.

Altaf Qadri, Associated Press

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The bodies of Seventeen Hindu devotees who drowned in the Yamuna River after they were pulled away during festival celebrations were recovered, according to the Associated Press.

The devotees were at the end of a 10-day festival in New Delhi and drowned during a ceremony in which they immersed clay statues of the elephant-headed Hindu deity Ganesha into the river, the Associated Press reported.

Fire official S.L. Sharma told the AP that bodies were first recovered on Thursday, “a day after thousands of devotees thronged the river banks” to celebrate the birth of Ganesha, which is the god of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune, according to the AP.

The immersion was at the tail end of a full celebration of the deity, who is widely worshipped throughout India.

“Millions of Hindus install Ganesha statues in colorfully decorated homes and specially erected temporary structures across India and worship them before immersing them in lakes, rivers and the sea,” the AP reported.

AFP reported on the drowning Thursday and said devotees drowned for submerging Ganesha idols into the river, which is the largest tributary of the Ganges, and when bringing statues of Lord Vishwakarma, the god of craftsmen and architects, into the river.

Many in Mumbai needed medical attention, as about 76 were stung by stingrays while in the sea, according to AFP.

The Huffington Post offered a slide show of the festival celebrations. Photos show worshippers and the Ganesha idols they built. The slide show also offers a look at some devotees in the water and sending off their idols.

The festival is also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi and marks the birthday of Ganesh. In addition to being the deity of wisdom, Ganesh is also a patron of arts and sciences, according to The Stewardship Report, which also offered photos and more information on the festival.

"Special prayers, devotional chanting and singing are performed for all 10 days,” wrote The Stewardship Report. “Delicious sweets are prepared and distributed on this joyous occasion. On the 11th day, the Ganesh statue is taken through the streets in a procession accompanied with dancing, singing and fanfare to be immersed in a river or the sea.”

And The Stewardship Report said the festival is observed in the Hindu calendar month of Bhaadrapada, which usually falls between Aug. 20-Sept. 15.

One Page News posted a video of this year’s celebrations. The video runs for about two minutes and shows “a sea of humanity” in the “streets and thoroughfares” across India that gathered for the celebration.

Email: hscribner@deseretnews.com

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