umbai’s Ganesh festival is a major celebration in the city. It’s a massive street party with a special spiritual meaning. History indicates that the famed Maratha ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaja introduced Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations to the state to promote culture and nationalism. However, it was the freedom fighter Lokmanya Tilak that transformed it into an organised public event in 1893. His reasons for doing so were to bridge the gap between the castes and build unity against the British colonial rule. When Lokmanya Tilak was in a great distress and worried about our country’s freedom, he used to sit at the bank of Girgaum Chowpatty and wondered how to collect people. While sitting on the bank of the seashore, he used to make idols and people used to stop by to see it. Such collective movements were not restricted by the British. So from there, he got an idea to celebrate sarvajanik Ganesh Utsav. He started the tradition of Sarvajanik Ganesha Utsav by making clay idols. Tilak was the first person to install large public images of Ganesha in pavilions and he was the one who established the practice of submerging all the public images on the 10th day of the festival. Ganesh Chaturthi soon started seeing community participation and involvement, in the form of cultural events. It also served as a meeting point for common people of all castes and communities, at a time when social and political gatherings were forbidden by the British Rule.
Later on, this became an important festival during the Peshwa rule in Maharashtra. It acquired a more organised form all over India during the Swaraj movement, when Lord Ganesha was chosen as a rallying point for the protest against the British rule, because of his wide appeal as “the God for Everyman”. The strongest movement to evoke nationalism, through religious passions, was the organisation of Ganesh Chaturthi in Maharashtra, which inspired feelings of Hindu unity in the state. Once India became Independent, it had no such use anymore. Although it endured as a tradition but only in its run as an annual event. It has, of course, a political content, but rather the perverse one. Lord Ganesh, as the much-loved remover of obstacles and God for everybody, served this purpose. The tradition has carried on, and nowadays, there’s a great competition among local communities to put on the biggest and the best display. If you’re in Mumbai three months prior to the festival, you can also see the Ganesh statues being made.
Now it’s time that Mumbai is all set to receive Ganesh in their pandals, first images of ‘Lalbaugcha Raja’, the city’s famed Lord Ganesha idol were out. Lakhs of devotees throng the central Mumbai’s Lalbaug area every year to get a glimpse of the gigantic idol kept for display to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi. This is an overhyped Ganesha where most of the celebrities go and seek blessings. He is one Ganesha who remains in news for all the right and wrong reasons. Too much of manhandling by volunteers, disrespect to people and at times police cases as well. Hope the Ganesha is watching all these! His existence is everywhere, but when it’s believed that Raja is right there then the simplicity is expected by his managers. Well, Mumbai city has many Ganeshas around with its own uniqueness. Mumbaicha Raja, in Ganesh Galli (Lane), is located only a couple of lanes away from the Lalbaugcha Raja and is also very popular. It lost its gleam to the Lalbaugcha Raja in the late 1990s but still pulls in the crowds. The award-winning Khetwadi Ganraj is considered to be one of the most spectacular Ganesha idols in Mumbai. The mandal was established in 1959 but found fame in 2000, when it made the highest Ganesha idol in the Indian history, standing 40-feet-tall. The idol is decked out in real gold jewellery and adorned with diamonds. An added attraction when visiting the Khetwadi Ganraj is that there’s a Ganesha idol in almost every lane in the area — so you’ll have plenty to see! The GSB Seva Ganesh mandal is affectionately known as Mumbai’s gold Ganesh. Yes, that’s pure gold, it’s adorned with — more than 60 kilograms of it. There is another mandal, often stated to be the richest in the city, was founded by the Gowd Saraswat Brahmin community from Karnataka in 1954. They’ve prospered in Mumbai, and as a mark of respect to the city, they conduct various social programs along with a grand celebration of the Ganesh festival. The idol is always an eco-friendly one, made out of clay. The mandal is also distinctive because there’s none of the usual recorded music there. Instead, the traditional Indian musical instruments used in south Indian temples are played. A convenient aspect of this mandal is that it has an elevated walkway set up to aid viewing of the idol. The mandal is well-known for its lavish new themes every year, often a replica of a famous place in India. It was formed for the benefit of the mill workers in 1928, making it the oldest one in the area. Importantly, the use of Plaster of Paris has been reduced this year to prevent pollution.
The Andhericha Raja is to the Mumbai suburbs what the Lalbaugcha Raja is to south Mumbai. The mandal was established in 1966 by the workers of the Tobacco Company, Tata Special Steel, and Excel Industries Ltd, who moved from Lalbaug to be closer to their factories. Compared to many other famous mandals in Mumbai, the idol isn’t as towering or imposing. However, it has a reputation for fulfilling wishes. The mandal also usually has a novel theme and other attractions, which have in the past included sand sculpture and a mela (carnival). The spectacular festival of Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the most celebrated festivals in Mumbai and India. In the honour of Lord Ganesha – the lovable Elephant-headed God is feted all over India. Many Hindu families across India and abroad celebrate this festival with much grandeur in their homes. The festival is celebrated on the fourth day of the Bhadrapada month according to the Hindu calendar, which falls in the late August or early September. Mumbai Magic runs a range of tours daily during the festival. These include visits to the idol workshops to see people buy and take home statues, visits to the public displays of the statues, and sampling of sweets. At some places, Ganesha arrives and quits next day, some keep him for three days, some for five days and finally, he leaves on the 11th day chanting “Ganpati Bappa Moriya, Pudcha varshi loukar ya” – Hail Lord Ganpati, come soon again next year!
(This is the first part of the editorial and the remaining part will continue on Friday.)
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