Deva Shree Ganesha
A take on one of the most awaited festival of the city
By Niyati Agrawal
The month of July and August bring a new wave of enthusiasm to Mumbaikars. With a list of festivals lined up, they gear up for Raksha Bandhan, Janamashtmi, Friendship’s Day, Parsi New Year, Eid, to name a few. But with all this there is something else that excites them – the blue plastic tents with the plain mud-white unfinished Ganesh idols peeping out. The moment one sees those tents, they know Ganesh Chaturthi is round the corner.
The first time when this festival was celebrated is not known but the first time it was celebrated as an organized public event was in 1893. This act was initiated by Lokmanya Tilak with the idea of bringing together people from different communities. He also facilitated poetry recitals, performance of plays, musical concerts etc. that were spread over 10 days of celebration.
Even today, after 119 years this festival is celebrated with the same intention. Haters complain that this festival has been commercialized. They complain to the police if the bhajans on loud speakers are on in the afternoon or if the prasad that is served in the form of dinner goes on beyond 10 in the night and they cannot stand the clattering of utensils.
But is the festival really commercialized?
This festival is a huge event in the suburbs. Housing societies bring huge idols and organize a range of events for the members of the society to enjoy. These functions range from games to mata ki chowki to organizing competitions and even getting underprivileged kids or women and organizing lunch or workshops for them which would help them.
It is been noted over a lot of societies that Ganesh Chaturthi has the highest number of attendance compared to any other events or festival they organize. People attending aarti do not only comprise of ladies or old people. The kids also have an equal participation in it. Some societies have the youth organizing the entire celebration with minimal help from their parents and other people from the society and they end up doing a very good job.
It is a very good sight to see when someone who doesn’t know a word of Marathi offering the entire prayer in it, and understanding the meaning of what he or she is saying. This festival has also taught the younger generation the Marathi traditional folk dance – Lezim. It is not only the maharashtrians who perform it. Sure they perform it well but people from other religion also join in on the fun. Traditional food of different states is also offered as prasad in some societies.
Not only societies but several other non-profit organizations organize Ganapati pandals all over the suburbs. No road you walk on is without a Ganesh pandal. These are open the whole day. Anyone can go in and offer prayers. The organizers or care takers of these pandals will welcome you with a very warm smile. Religion, caste, gender, class are the words forgotten during the 10 days of this festival.
Competitions are organized these days for the Best Pandal or Best Idol. Most of these titles are given on the basis of how eco friendly the organization has been while celebrating this festival. So if these competitions are promoting eco-friendly messages and driving people to celebrate the festival in a way that it is enjoyable for all then there really isn’t a problem with it.
The city is alive for these 10 days. Colorful pandals, bhajans and music everywhere, people coming home early from work to take part in the festivities, the dancing on the road during the visarjan or while getting the idol home, staying with your friends and family till late hours in the night are just a few things to name that people do. The joys, the exhilaration, the excitement, the enthusiasm, the feeling of oneness, the celebration are just a few feelings that people experience over the festival. And once the visarjan is done, the city goes dull again. People have to go back to their regular routines, the only music is that of the car honking and colors are of the politician banners or cars.
The festival still brings together people of all age groups and religion. It promotes the age old culture of the country while adapting to the future. Depending on the organization, it is promoting eco friendly practices and helping the underprivileged.
So do you still think that this festival is commercialized? I think not.