India Consul General Singh at the Gandhi Birthday Celebration

Frivolous predictions that the “Blood Moon” of Sunday, Sept. 27, would have apocalyptic consequences proved tragically true on the south beach of Tybee Island when an unusually high tide that evening swept three Hindu worshippers to their deaths.

Nagesh Singh, the consul general of India based in Atlanta, mourned their loss at a ceremony on Friday, Oct. 2, organized by the Friends of the Gandhi Foundation of USA near the statue of Mahatma Gandhi at the King Center on Auburn Avenue.

Darshil Patel and Nimesh Patel at the King Center
Darshil Patel and Nimesh Patel at the King Center

A ceremony to honor Gandhi’s birthday on Oct. 2, 1869, already had been planned. But the deaths of Sriram Raju, 41; Anup Kshirsagar, 36 and Abhijit Alhat, 39, who drowned during the Hindu celebration of Ganesha, the elephant-headed Hindu god, became central to the ceremony.

Some 50 members of the Atlanta Indian communities participated in the joint ceremony, which was attended by Nimesh Patel, 19, and Darshil Patel, 17, of Warner Robins.

Mr. Singh praised the teenagers for their bravery in rescuing others who had been swept up by the high tide. The Ganesh ceremony attracted more than 2,200 participants to Tybee and was in its final stage as they took the clay statues into the ocean water.

Paul Patel, who lives near Locust Grove and serves as president of the Shree Sai Parivar USA Inc., a nonprofit Hindu organization, told Global Atlanta that he had been working for at least three years on organizing the ceremony at Tybee.

The teenagers were packing up around 5:30 p.m. the disc jockey equipment, which had been used on the beach during the celebration, when they noticed that the families originally from Mumbai were frantically calling for help as the ocean tide rushed in and trapped quite a few worshippers who couldn’t swim.

Although they told Global Atlanta that they weren’t accomplished swimmers, they were able to rescue several people who may have been swept out by the tide.

Mr. Patel, who like the teenagers’ families is originally from the Indian state of Gujarat, was in a boat and managed to rescue several survivors.

Two bodies were collected fairly quickly, but it took several days for divers from the area to find the third.

The Ganesha ceremony generally lasts for more than a week as families pray for health and prosperity and to cleanse their negative thoughts. The ceremony concludes in the “clay-to-clay” process as the worshippers wash away the statues as an outward manifestation of an inner cleansing.

While the mourning was an important part of the ceremony, the celebration of Gandhi’s birth was not forgotten and a birthday cake was unveiled.

The attendees also walked to the King memorial to honor the crypt of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta, in the middle of a reflecting pool where they laid bouquets of flowers on the pool’s edge.

Subash Razdan, the chairman of the Gandhi Foundation, encouraged the guests to visit the Gandhi room at the center.