It’s the Ganpati festival season now in Mumbai and as they say this city is the place to be during Ganpati time. Last Wednesday (the eve of Ganesh Chaturthi) as I was riding back home from the airport late evening, I could still see feverish activity in the lanes and by lanes of Mumbai – people thronging the market for last-minute purchases of Ganesh idols, lights, lamps, decoration items,…,… The cabbie mentioned that the markets will be open throughout the night. Well, the “Ganpati economy” is huge and thriving. And over the years it has only been ballooning. What Lokmanya Tilak started probably as a movement In Pune to get people together during the Independence movement in the name of Sarvajanik Ganpati Utsavs are on different trips these days. Ofcourse so are Durga Pujo in Kolkatta or Navratri in Gujarat. The interesting aspect over the years I have noticed is all these festivals and expressions around them are immune to economic recession,..,… Irrespective of how the economy is, these festivals are observed with fervor only to better the previous year effort and budget.
As I watch the Ganpati festival unravelling around me now, I couldn’t help walking down the Ganapathi lane when I was in school. Vinayaga Chaturthi in Tamil Nadu was indeed celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm. Trichy being the place of the Uchi Pillayar (Rock fort temple) was not an exception. With Vinayaga temples of different sizes and scales in every nook and corner of Trichy, the day of Vinayaga Chaturthi is extremely noisy with loudspeakers blaring Seerkazhi Govindarajan’s ‘Vinayagane Vinai Theerpavane’,.. on the loop. Once the songs were done, it was the time for playing the sound track of popular Ganesh movies, top on the list being Shivaji Ganesan’s Thiruvilayadal. If I can reel out even today the fiery exchange between Shivaji Ganesan (playing the role of Lord Shiva – one of his career best) and A.P.Nagarajan (as Nakeeran) and the antics of Baliah from that film, it is thanks to the over exposure on Vinayaga Chaturthi days.
After the Pooja at home and polishing off few Kozhakattais (Modaks) – sweet and salty made at home and savoring the ones made by neighbourhood mamis – it was time to literally walk down the many lanes to check out on Ganapathis. One of the favourite competition among friends was to check who sees the maximum number of Ganapathis on Ganesh Chaturthi day. And ofcourse tasting the different Sundals offered as prasad at each temple. My personal record was 65 I remember vividly – from Thillai nagar where I stayed till Main Guard Gate area in Trichy. In Trichy, all these Ganapathis were mostly in temples and not in pandals as we see in Mumbai today. I understand that the Mumbai style of huge Ganesh idols being kept for public viewing and worship for 10 days and immersing the same in the sea/River on the 10th day have become popular in other cities like Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore and even in Trichy today.
In Mumbai, from the 1st time I was witness to the mass Ganpati Visarjan at Chowpatty from the terrace of our college hostel and now, Ganpati Utsav has come a long way. Corporates and sundry companies pour in big money. So don’t be surprised to see “Ganpati being sponsored by Baba Elaichi Pan Masala” at one place and Kailash Kher exhorting people to use Torex cough syrup from ugly hoardings in another place.
“Eco friendly” is the buzz word. From the idols to decorative items to the prasad bags – pandals try to be environment friendly. The latest innovation in this Eco friendly business is the campaign I heard today on Radio. “Red FM’ Visarjan squad” – where they urge people to carry out immersion in artificial tanks instead of spoiling the waterfronts. Supported by corporates, in this campaign – you give a call and a Visarjan squad comes to your place with a mobile artificial tank and carry out the immersion. Cool isn’t it???
When we talk of cool and innovation can “apps” be far behind? Literally Ganpati Bappa this year has become Ganpati bAPPa!!! So you have a “Times BAPPA” app where you can decorate your Ganesha idol in the most creative way and then share it with your friends!!! Most liked and shared entries get points and get featured in Times Of India it seems. Ganpati bAPPa morya!!!
And for pandal hopping celebrities, the latest craze is ofcourse “Selfie with Ganpati“☺️ And so is a pandal showing Lord Ganesha taking a selfie with his parents☺️
or a muscular six-pack Ganpati as Baahubali carrying a massive Linga Idol ☺️☺. In these days of health and fitness can Ganesha be left behind. Is Ganesha’s tummy size reducing by the year????
The civic administration of Mumbai I would say comes out at its best during Ganpati I would say. From filling up pot holes in a hurry to controlling crowds to handling traffic to managing the immersion at different spots in the city – things happen efficiently. Few years ago I was travelling on the next day of the Mega Visarjan. Much to my pleasant surprise, even early in the morning as I was riding to the airport, the Powai Lake road near IIT which is a major Immersion point was swept clean with hardly any signs of the crowds and revelry of the previous night. I was told that many volunteers of NGOs and Sansthas work with the civic administration for the massive cleanup.
In addition, there is the other “Terrorism attack” menace to be handled. So most pandals bear signboards goading people to call the Police if they spot unattended/suspected things!!!
After so many years 30 to be precise, I would like to again walk the Ganapathi lane in Trichy to see the changes in the Uchi Pillayar town during Vinayagar Chaturthi. Trichy being in the Govt.’s “Smart city project” list, who knows may be Ganapathi pandals will be free wireless zones to enable easy sharing of the “Selfie with Ganapathi” over WA ofcourse 🙂 🙂