Ganesha Celebrations – Then and Now

A 121 year old tradition

a 121 year old tradition

Lord Ganesh, Remover of all Obstacles  and Purveyor of Happiness has been worshipped by Hindus at the start of every “Pooja” or prayer service to mark any important occasion. This pot bellied, elephant headed God is much loved by all because of his cheery countenance and love of food. While we have been welcoming him into our homes for ever and ever, it is only in the last 121 years that he has been brought into a neighbourhood or community for a celebration that combines faith and culture. The oldest Community Ganpati in Bombay is to be found in one of the chawls or tenements off Khadilkar Road, a small road off Girgaon‘s main road known specialising in printing cards for weddings and other occasions.

Ganeshas in Competition

Started originally by Lokmanya Tilak to circumvent the British law that prohibited mass gatherings in public, this little act of defiance has struck a chord in Mumbaikars and several other cities in Maharashtra and for ten days, the clay idol of Ganesh is installed in a community amid much celebration and worship. Over the years the idols have grown as have the festivities till today it is recognised as a competition which is sponsored by the Old Lady of Boribunder aka the leading English Newspaper in Mumbai  “The Times of India“.

Fort cha Raja

IcchaPurti Murti
The “Cavelike” entrance to
 the Fort cha Raja

Each locality dubs the idol as the X cha Raja, or Darling of X X being the area or road where the Ganesha can be found. Thus we have Lalbaug cha Raja ( the most famous of them all) and Fort cha Raja ( the largest Ganpati in the Fort Area) . When my children were young, I would often take them round to the pandals in our area and seek His Blessings. However, as life got busier for all of us, I would only visit those pandals which literally came in my way such as the one at Bhaji Gully, the one round the corner at Gowalia Tank or even the one down the Sophia College Lane.

Chandeliers at the Palace

Today I made a special trip to the Icchapurti Ganesha at the junction opposite the GPO because this is one of the finalists of the competition. Moreover, today this traffic junction is going to be renamed IcchaPurti Ganesh Chowk as this particular idol is known to grant all your wishes!

Recreating the grandeur of
the Mysore Palace

I had a beautiful darshan of this tall majestic idol who was kept in a pandal that was supposed to be the Mysore palace. The policemen outside told me to visit the Fort cha Raja since it was the biggest. Since I had car parking I took their advice and saw the huge Ganesha hidden inside a cave.

On the way home I popped into the first ever Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav which remains true to its original intent – to bring the people of Keshavji Naik chawl together to celebrate the presence of  Lord with cultural programs. This tiny little idol with the simplest of decorations and absolutely no fan fare quietly presided over His devotees who were still sleeping after a night of celebration

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Author: Unishta

A granny who always sees the humour in life and tries to do things differently. When others make cupcakes, this granny makes banana fritters. When she’s not busy chasing her grandchildren who love making her run around, she indulges in her passions of reading, writing, meeting friends and watching movies. And somewhere between all this she enjoys travelling and cooking!

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