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Celebrating Ganesh Jayanti With A Palki, Visarjan Finally

Manu Shrivastava | Mumbai

In the months-long lockdown, many things changed but not the devotion commanded by the God of Prosperity - Lord Ganesha. So, despite enduring loss of life, health and revenue, devotees left no stone unturned in celebrating their beloved Bappa’s birth anniversary during the Maghi Ganeshutsav, this week. And, even families who couldn’t observe Ganesh Chaturthi in August last owing to the lockdown joined in the Maghi Ganesh Jayanti celebrations with renewed fervour. This year, 15 February 2021 marked the celebration of the auspicious Hindu festival of Ganesh Jayanti.

LEGEND SAYS: Ganesh Temple at Divar Island in Goa, considered to be the birth-place of Lord Ganesha
“We were waiting for the Maghi Ganeshustav for so long! My mother’s faith in Lord Ganesha rubbed off on all of us as we battled the lockdown together as a family,” says Thane-based school teacher Shraddha Borkar, whose septuagenarian mother has been observing Maghi Ganesh Jayanti for more than five decades now. As a single mother, Shraddha faced severe financial difficulty during the lockdown, especially raising her teenage daughter and ailing mother. “But when we finally came out of it, my mother told me…Bappa saved us all…and I have implicit faith in her belief!”

In Maharashtra, several families came out to celebrate Maghi Ganeshutsav where the sarvajanik mandals installed idols with diverse themes, many even playing up the ongoing COVID crisis such as Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaja Mandal which depicted the ongoing vaccination drive in an intricately created pandal. In Navi Mumbai’s Khargar area, a 15-feet-tall eco-friendly idol of ‘Khargar ka Raja’, installed on 15 February 2021, enamoured the devotees.

“We have been coming to see ‘Kandivalicha Shree’ for the past nine years, since its inception,” says 58-year-old homemaker and Dadar-resident Neeta Joshi. This year, the ten-day celebrations began on 15 February 2021. The mandal has a four feet tall idol of Lord Ganesha, as per the guidelines issued by local civic body. "This year, most sarvajanik ganpati idols were smaller that their usual sizes owing to the government guidelines."

PIOUS: Devotees have been coming to see Kandivalicha Shree since the celebrations began on 15 February 2021
Intriguingly, apart from those who traditionally observe Ganeshutsav only during the month of Magha, this year around, several households and mandals celebrated Ganeshutsav this time around, a deviation from their usual celebrations in the Hindu month of Bhadrapada in August-September. Why, even the GSB Mandal of Ram Mandir, Wadala celebrated Ganeshutsav in Magha. 

The one thing that kept Maya Balwally going during the arduous lockdown months was her unflinching faith in her Ganesha. So, last year on Ganesh Chaturthi observed on 22 August 2020, though she couldn’t celebrate Ganeshutsav owing to the worsening COVID-19 situation in the country and ensuing restrictions on movement and social gatherings, the banking professional compensated by showered all her devotion and love to Lord Ganesha by celebrating the festival in February 2021, during the Hindu month of Magha.

The “now more than 100-year-old family tradition,” is being carried forward by Bengaluru-based Amey Balwally and wife Maya from this generation of Chitrapur Saraswats. “When I realised celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi won’t be possible during the lockdown last year, I spoke to the family matriarch who lives in Mumbai. She suggested it was okay to postpone the festivities and instead hold them in the Magha month to come. This is the first time in the family’s history we did something like this,” says Ms Balwally.

TRADITION: The Balwally family performing puja at their home in Bengaluru
“Every year, we would have very elaborate Ganeshutsav celebrations at home when we would bring the idol at home,” offers digital marketing specialist Amey. “Last year, obviously, things were different but we’re fortunate to be able to celebrate during this year’s Magha month. We immersed the idol after one and half day on 16 February and performed all the vidhis as per scriptures.”

The celebrations included preparation of special dishes made only during the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations. “As part of the offerings to God i.e. ‘Naivedya’ we prepared chaklis, nevri (karanjya), modak, special dessert madgane made of rice, jaggery and coconut milk and khotte i.e., idlis steamed in jackfruit leaves,” says Maya. The celebrations were restricted to family members, this time around, as opposed to the 30-odd invitees who would be invited for the Ganesh Chaturthi festivities.

OFFERING TO GOD: Special dishes are made during the Ganeshutsav celebrations
Mumbai’s Anushakti Nagar-based Shenoy family also observed Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations in the Magha month as they couldn’t organise the same during the Hindu month of Bhadrapada last. In 2020, Ganesh Chaturthi fell on 22 August, when COVID-19 cases peaked in several cities across Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka, the region where the festival is mostly observed, leading to most festivities being deferred.

TOGETHER: The Shenoy family in Mumbai gathered to observe Ganesh Chaturthi in the month of Magha
“Several members of our extended family gathered at the Walkeshwar Kashi Math on 15 February 2021 for a long day of festivities for the deferred Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations. We started with a puja in the morning and concluded with Visarjan of the idol at the adjacent Banganga water-tank in the night,” maintains businessman Sharad Shenoy.

RITUALS: The Shenoy family performed all the rituals as they did during the regular Bhadrapada Ganesh Chaturthi
“With relatives scattered across the city, we come together to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi at the Kashi Math at Banganga during August-September. This year around, like always, all the rituals were performed, prasad distributed to family members, aarti and bhajans sung and finally the idol was immersed but all on Maghi Ganesh Jayanti.”

IN REVERENCE: Aarti being performed by a family member
For the Shenoy clan this year, the attendance was lesser by “about fifty per cent” from the usual 90-100 members who would gather every year for the festivities during Ganesh Chaturthi. Mr Shenoy’s wife and senior BARC scientist Niyoti Shenoy and other members of the family ensured nothing was left unattended and stayed identical to the regular celebrations. “We got the idol made by a murtikar at a workshop in Prabhadevi and took the idol to the Kashi Math at Banganga directly where the members gathered to perform the rituals.”

CEREMONIAL: Offerings on the occasion
Walkeshwar Kashi Math Secretary, Hemprakash Shenai says, “For generations, it’s been a tradition that if, for any unforeseen reason such as a death in the family, Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations cannot be observed during the Bhadrapada, the same can be held on Ashwin Shuddh Chaturthi during the Navratri. This time around, even for Navratri in October 2020, the lockdown was not lifted completely leading to a further deferment of the festivities. Hence, the celebrations were held during the month of Magha, in February 2021.”

Kashi Math Managing Committee member and Sharad Shenoy’s brother Vilas Shenoy offered, “We are a big family living in different parts of Mumbai such as Prabhadevi, Jogeshwari, Chembur, Mulund, etc., and all came together for the auspicious celebrations.”

FAMILY: Hemprakash Shenai (left) and Vilas Shenoy at the Walkeshwar Kashi Math
Traditionally, Ganesh Chaturthi or Vinayaka Chaturthi is observed in the Hindu month of Bhadrapada (August/September) followed by the popular 10-day-long Ganeshutsav before culminating in the final visarjan. Maghi Ganesh Jayanti, Ganesh Jayanti or Varad Chaturthi is celebrated in the Magha month (January/February). Even before the lockdown, Maghi Ganesh Jayanti was celebrated by select few communities in Maharashtra mostly across the Konkan belt as Lord Ganesha’s birth anniversary.

IMMERSED: Visarjan was done at Banganga water-tank at Walkeshwar in Mumbai
While most feel that Ganesh Chaturthi is the Lord’s birthday, it actually is celebrated to commemorate the arrival of Lord Ganesha and his mother Parvati from their heavenly abode in Mount Kailash to Earth and Maghi Ganesh Jayanti is the birth anniversary of Lord Ganesha. Yet, according to some, Ganesh Chaturthi is considered the birthday of Lord Ganesha.

THE ORIGIN: The Ganesh Temple at Divar Island in Goa rich with history
Interestingly, in Goa’s Divar Island, the main church dedicated to Our Lady of Piety (Piedade) at a hill top is believed to be a chapel first that was constructed on the site of Lord Ganesha’s temple. According to legend, this place is believed to be the birth-place of Lord Ganesha. The idol was later shifted to Khandola to prevent destruction. Today, a beautiful Ganesh temple, in typical bright colours of the region, stands at a few metres distance from this church. Every year, during Maghi Ganeshutsav, a Ganesh Palki is carried by the devotees starting from the temple that goes around the island, even to the adjacent Vanxim Island.

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