In Focus

Bappas Of Bombay’s Bylanes!

A Draft Correspondent | Mumbai

Bappa came and conquered, in all 1.84 crore hearts of revellers in Mumbai, a city that breaks into ripples of celebration each time He arrives. The festival is synonymous with celebrations, feasts and revelry.

And, even while the mainstream media often features the ‘famous’ Ganpati mandals of Mumbai such as Lalbaugcha Raja, Mumbaicha Raja, Tejukayacha Raja, Chichpokli Chintamani, GSB, Andheri cha Raja, mainly because these are known for being ‘Icchapurti,’ and those thronged by the Hindi film industry celebrities, there are – in equal fervour, if not more, celebrations held at thousands of homes across the city held for years. Here, The Draft features some such not-so-well-known Ganpati Mandals which uphold the spirit of Ganeshutsav in its true sense.

You could easily have given this Ganpati pandal a miss even if you were looking for one. Stashed in a warm, little corner at the end of an alley in Colaba lay a unique Ganpati idol. An artistic idol of Lord Ganesha in the form of the Serpent God Shesh Nag, the Colaba Bus Station Ganeshutsav Mandal’s Ganpati has a dedicated following of his own that has grown over the decades.

Colaba Bus Station Ganeshutsav Mandal established in 1972

The story behind it is as unique as the idol itself. In 1972, despite warnings from his family against it, a 12-year-old Ganesh Patel bought to his 80 sq feet home, a Ganpati idol for a princely Rs 3.25. The act soon turned into an annual tradition to bring home Lord Ganesha. Soon after, the family grew and so did the size of the idol till He became too big to be kept ‘in’ the house. This led to installation of Ganpati idol outside the house, and the beginning of Sarvajanik Ganpati in the area.

Pooja (left) and Sunita Patel with their newest family member, two-year-old Shreya Patel

Since then Ganesh, his brother Vinod, their wives Sunita and Pooja respectively, their five children in total and the family’s two pet rabbits have been celebrating their beloved Bappa’s arrival with the community. This year there was an addition, a two-year-old Shreya Patel adopted by the family after her mother died a few months back. “We are grateful to Bappa for everything in life. Why, He has even brought Shreya to our lives,” says Sunita. Pooja nods in agreement.

Lord Ganesha adopts myriad forms – Vighnakarta, Malhari, Vir Ganpati, Lakshmi Ganpati, etc. However, Mumbai’s Shashi Jadhav thought of putting the occasion to the use of a noble cause and put the onus saving the earth complete with wildlife, water resources and trees on Bappa. He brings Ganpati ‘home’ but the revelries over the years have been as good as a Sarvajanik Ganpati as the entire neighbourhood pays a visit to his modest house even goes together to immerse Bappa on the final day.

“I wanted something different for my Ganpati this year and also wanted to make it educational so I chose this theme,” says an excited Shashi. 

Despite a one-room house, Shashi fondly decorated one corner of his house like ‘a jungle’ and placed his Ganpati there. The small home-made pandal has all the animals of the animal kingdom, a plastic tiger, zebra, bear, etc., even an automated ‘waterfall’ emerging from Lord Shiva’s jatt and a green cover of plastic ‘grass’ complete with ‘trees’ to form a ‘jungle’. He welcomes all to his house that is thronged by a constant flow of children enthralled by the ‘animal show’ where he spreads the message of saving the earth and its resources.

Shashi Jadhav (extreme right) with his family

There are thousands of people who either bring home Ganpati or worship the Sarvajanik ones in their locality. They all may not be as famous or revered with the craze of say a Lalbaugcha Raja or a GSB Ganpati but each has a thousand stories to tell and a million devotees doing their best, in sincere obeisance, for their own Bappas, during the 11 days and all along His last journey!

Sarvajaniks, Them All!

Every year, Vinayak Chaturthi or Ganesh Chaturthi – a Hindu festival celebrating the birth of Lord Ganesha, marks the beginning of Ganeshutsav. While the former has been celebrated for ages by Hindus, the latter i.e. public celebrations of Lord Ganesha or sarvajanik Ganpati celebrations is a more recent phenomenon and transcends caste, linguistic and often communal boundaries.

The public celebrations can be traced back to the early stages of Indian independence movement when Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak conceived the idea of mass gatherings for celebrating the festival of Lord Ganesha, worshipped by people of all castes, to synergise harmony, brotherhood and bridge caste gaps. Since then, every year at Ganesh Chaturthi giant idols of Lord Ganesha are installed in public places called Sarvajanik Ganpati pandals (elaborate and beautifully adorned stages).

For ten full days, there are social gatherings, celebrations, feasts, pooja and cultural functions that bring everyone together. On the eleventh day, the idols are prepared for Visarjan, carried by large crowds and immersed in a water body, often an emotional moment for the devotees. Here go a few Sarvajanik Ganesh Pandals of Mumbai featured:

Shree Siddhi Saikrupa Mandal established in 1990 with President Bhagwanji Shah (Inset)

New Lucky Star Mitra Mandal with President Anil Bandre and his family (Inset)

Shiv Shakti Mitra Mandal

Bal Gopal Sarvajanik Ganeshutsav Mandal established in 1973

Sassoon Dock Sarvajanik Ganeshutsav Mandal completed 56 years

Shiv Sena Mitra Mandal established 38 years ago with President Suresh Jain (Inset)

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