Ganesh Chaturthi is probably the only time when the commercial capital of India, Mumbai, takes a break. As cries of Ganpati Bappa Morya rent the air, people seek the blessings of the elephant-headed god through devotional offerings and fanfare. In 2018, Ganesh Chaturthi is on September 13.
Although the birthday of the elephant-headed god, Ganesha, also known as Vinayak Chaturthi, is celebrated across India, few can equal the glamour of Mumbai’s Ganeshotsav (Ganesh festival). While the oldest ‘sarvajnaik mandal’ (neighbourhood organisation) still worships a modest idol in traditional style, others race for the biggest idol, costly adornments and trendy marquees. Most community organisers observe the entire 10-day festival but households often follow a truncated version (one and a half days, three days, five days and seven day). While catching a glimpse of the most famous idol, Lalbaug Raja, is a test of patience, you may go for a Ganpati tour in areas such as Parel, Dadar, Fort, Chembur, etc. The immersion procession taken out by the different mandal has to be seen to be believed. A large crowd consisting of the organisers, local people, musicians, etc. accompany the towering idols that are taken to the Arabian Sea for immersion. Girgaon and Juhu Chowpatty are two of the well-known immersion points.
Famous as the Navascha Ganpati or the wish-fulfilling Ganpati, he is the biggest crowd puller among all the Ganesha idols worshipped in Mumbai. Located in Parel in central Mumbai, an area that was once home to many famous textile mills, the ‘mandal’ was founded in 1934 by a group of grateful shopkeepers to fulfil their promise after their desire for a permanent place to set up shops was granted by a landlord. Organised by the Lalbaugcharaja Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal, the towering Ganpati is housed in a resplendent designer marquee. People patiently stand in queues for hours, anything between four hours for ‘mukhadarshan’ (where you can catch a glimpse of the face of the idol from a distance) and 24 hours for ‘navas’ (where you get to touch the feet of the idol for the fulfilment of any wish). Along with the devout, there is also a large crowd who patiently bide their time to catch a glimpse of the VIPs who come to offer their prayers, especially Bollywood actors. Traffic in the area can be chaotic.
Keshavji Naik Chawl
Believed to be the oldest Ganpati mandal of Mumbai, the Girgaum-based Shree Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Sanstha dates back to 1893. In 1901, Indian freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak visited this chawl during Ganeshotsav, which he had chosen as a platform to spread awareness about patriotism and opposing the colonial rule. The mandal has opted to continue with the traditional look with its 2.5 feet high idol and a simple marquee.
If you are not willing to stand in a long queue but enjoy the ambience of Mumbai Ganpati festival, go for the Lalbaug Sarvajanik Utsav Mandal. Located in the vicinity of Lalbaug Raja, this is popularly known as the Ganesh Galli mandal and predates its more famous neighbour. This mandal was founded in 1928. This is the area where many of the workshops making the idols are located. You may also explore the area on foot to see some of the other neighbourhood celebrations.
Organised by the Azad Nagar Sarvajanik Utsav Samiti, Andhericha Raja is another huge crowd puller, though only in its 53nd year in 2018. One of the striking features of the idol is its gold crown said to be more than three kilogram by weight. Interestingly, while all the mandal hold the immersion ceremony on Anant Chaturdashi, this idol is taken out for immersion five days later, on the day of Sankasthi Chaturthi.
Khetwadi’s Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal is entering into its 60th year in 2018. This mandal has won many awards for its marquee decoration and idol. One of the attractions of the idol, popularly known as Khetwadi Ganraj, is its diamond adornments. In 2000, the mandal presented the tallest Ganesh idol in India, measuring 40 feet.