For a God who is so popular, Lord Ganesh is naturally welcomed with a lot of pomp and grandeur. Most cities and towns across the country have idols from less than a foot to a foot or two in height for worship in households to the ones in sizeable pandals measuring about 10 or 12 feet in height.
In cities like Mumbai, Hyderabad, Surat, Vadodara etc., the Pandal Ganapathi is a totally different concept, a radical departure from a moderate size to mammoth dimensions. Or in the words of a devotee, it is ‘Bhakti’ magnified.
It may be at a few venues that have come to be identified by their ‘Ganeshas’ of special qualities, but the number is increasing over time to indicate the changing culture of the people’s tastes. Small Ganapathis in individual colonies and neighbourhoods, where managing the construction of pandal, the collection of funds in the locality, the handling of day-to-day-aartis, the distribution of Prasad, the small events and prizes and finally the closure of the event and immersion of the idol, are handled by a small steering committee managing the volunteers of the place to carry out the needed tasks with everyone chipping in.
But when it comes to these ‘Mega Ganapathis’ which are typically identified with some feature that pulls the crowd towards them, it is an entire garrison of several steering committees with individual committees taking up the task of what individuals do in a single locality. Each committee takes up tasks re-distributes to several volunteers who again have hordes of helpers or junior volunteers under them to see that the task at hand is well completed within the stipulated period. A master steering committee is in charge or monitors the entire lot of steering committees to see that nothing is left incomplete due to want of funds or any other hurdles. Generally senior members of local governing bodies, industrialists, individual magnates, politicians and other important personalities also associate themselves with the main steering committee to see that the planning and organizing does not face hitches of any sort. In other words the key word is “successful event”.
The city of huge pandals and mammoth Ganapathis - Mumbai
If there is one city in India that is always in the news for its Ganapathi idols it is Mumbai. Tradition bound and fervor-soaked festivities that have been going on since a very long time, it is nothing new to the Mumabaikars, but their enthusiasm and celebration-fever remains undimmed till date. Over a period with certain beliefs and sentiments getting associated with a certain Ganapathi of a venue, there has come to be almost like a preference of which Ganapathi to visit first and which later from the ten and odd Ganapathis which stand out amongst the huge multitude of big and small idols across the city.Let us have a brief idea of five of these Ganapathis that are more than just popular.
1.Lalbaugcha Raja – is a Ganesh idol at Lalbaug, Mumbai that could not be considered anywhere close to mammoth. At 12 ft. and maybe a few additional ft. over time it is purely on the basis of a belief that those who visit this Ganesha would have their wishes fulfilled, that it is hugely popular with the devotees of the Lord.
History has it that in 1932, the prime market area in the Peru Chawl of Lalbaug was shut down by the government. The fishermen and vendors dependent upon this temporary but prime market for their livelihood, it seems did a collective prayer to Lord Ganapathi to save them from this calamity. The Lord answered their prayers with the few councilors of the area making efforts and getting a new market constructed in its place.
This ‘miracle’ brought it the epithet of ‘life-saving’ Ganapathi and has been so till date. No wonder then that since 1934 the ten-day festival always sees thousands of visitors flocking daily over here. In 2013, the 12 ft. Ganapathi cost Rs.60000/- but the additional arrangements cost Rs.17 lakhs. The making of the idol is a family affair of Santosh Kambli and his kin and they with true devotion have stood true to their task of constructing a Ganapathi that has always been popular with the crowds that visit.
An estimated 1 crore visitors make it to this place and are accommodated within an area of 3 lakh sq.ft. The collections surpass all estimates, and there are days when they mark 1 crore, making it the richest Pandal Ganapthi in the whole of Maharashtra.
The collections are also an offering from the Lord to fund worthwhile causes like the Sane Guruji Abhyasika (a place for children to study), Swatantryaveer Savarkar Library, Sant Dnyaneshwar Reference Book Bank, Swami Vivekanand Scholarship (Scholarships for poor and deserving students) and Competitive examination counselling centre (to prepare students for IAS and IPS exams) under the initiative titled Lalbaugcha Raja Prabhodini.
2.Girgaoncha Raja – is an eco-friendly Ganapathi that stands tallest in clay at about 21 ft. in Girgaum, Mumbai. Historically the treasurer Ramchandra Tendulkar of the Mandal in 1928 started this Ganesh Utsav with clay Ganapathi. Made of the special Shadu clay from which the Durga idols are made in Bengal, the tradition of making this idol has been with the Patkar family since the last 85 years. The idea of making these clay Ganapathis has been to spread the message to others in the state to help protect the environment through these easily dissolving clay idols which do not pollute the waters in which they dissolve like the slowly eroding POP that contaminates additionally the waters in which the idols are put.
3.Khetwadicha Ganraj – at Khetwadi, Mumbai is supposed to be the tallest ever Ganesh idol in Maharashtra. Khetwadi Mandal was formed in 1959 and started their Ganesh Utsav humbly. In 1984 they had a mass collection of Re.1 per person to achieve their dream of having the tallest Ganapathi idol in the state.at 28 feet. Every year the height kept increasing by a foot or two till they reached 35 feet. In 2000 they surpassed their own expectations with a 40 ft. high Ganapathi in Parashuram Avatar that is claimed as the tallest idol ever made in Indian history. The year before it was the Mumbai Hare Rama Hare Krishna Temple. The theme keeps changing and is ever unique to the visitors who flock to see the wonders in POP decorated with jewels and accessories of pure gold.
4.GSB Samaj Ganeshotsav – at the Ram Mandir at Wadala Mumbai, has a Ganesh idol in 22 karat gold-plated throne and other precious jewels. It is the richest Ganesha idol in the city. It was started by the Goud Saraswat Brahmin community in 1955 with the aim of uniting the members of their community in Mumbai. It has also attracted people from other communities as well for the prayers of lakhs of people being answered. This has made the benefactors respond in cash, kind and other means to make it the richest in the city.The idol is marvellous to look at despite being only 8 ft in height covered in gold and jewellery.The pujas conducted for devotees are at subsidized rates.The idol is marvellous to look at despite being only 8 ft in height covered in gold and jewellery.The pujas conducted for devotees are at subsidized rates.
5.Bhandarkarcha Raja at Bhandarkar Road in Matunga East, Mumbai is known for the numbers that are provided food during the course of the festival. It goes beyond 20,000. Story goes back that in 1962, a few residents of Bhandarkar Road came together for a social cause to provide food for the needy during the festival. a peculiar fact associated with this Pandal is that all the money for the festivities from the Pandal, adornments and jewellery and other associated expenditure is from individuals who donate for the event. The decorations and jewellery are taken back and brought back the following year. There has never been door-to-door collection for the purpose. The 11 ft. idol standing in the busy street of Matunga attracts thousands of visitors and children. Every evening of the 10 day festival after the 8 P.M. aarti, 20000 people including slum children are fed food. surrounding buildings are utilized to seat comfortably to have the meal peacefully.
Other Ganapathi Pandals famous in Mumbai
Mumbaicha Raja – a one-time most famous Ganesh Pandal till the 90s when the Lalbaugcha Raja, a few lanes away from it, overtook it. it is still known for its thematic representations within the Ganesh pandal.
Andheri Cha Raja – the best in the suburbs of Mumbai and flocked by celebrities of Bollywood and Marathi cinema. In 1966, the workers of a tobacco company, Tata Special Steel and Excel Industries Ltd, started this Pandal.
Other names that come to mind are:
- Mahalaxmi Balsangh Ganesha, Mahalaxmi
- Akhil Mugbhat Ganesh Mandal, Girgaon
- Sahyadri Krida Mandal, Tilak Nagar, Chembur
- Chinchpokli Cha Chintamani, Chinchpokli
- Sarvajanik Shree Ganeshotsav Mandal, Khetwadi, Charni Road
- Narvir Tanaji Mitra Mandal, Thane
Pandal Ganapathis and Insurance
With the huge Ganapathis installed and decked with real gold and diamond jewellery small wonder that insurance figures prominently for the event. That means the cover could include varied items like the idol, pandal, jewellery, personal accident to devotees and the costly and vulnerable items if any.
2014 figures for some of the insurance policies for the Pandals
-Lalbaugcha Raja was insured for Rs 51 crore by New India Assurance, in a cover that included Rs 3.5 crore for the pandal, Rs 10 crore for risks which include food poisoning from prasad, a Rs 7.5 crore cover to insure the idol's jewellery and Rs 30 crore cover that insured security officials, volunteers and local residents.
-The Ganesh idol at GSB Seva Mandal Ganapati pandal was decked with at least 50 kg of gold, the largest component of the insurance cover being Rs 22 crore cover for 80 kg of gold and 450 kg of silver. Additionally as a larger cover insurance was taken for a one kilometre radius from the pandal that included cover for all devotees and the deity’s ornaments against terror attacks, accidents, flooding or external damage.
Besides, as always, the Mumbai Police was on 24-hour duty with the support of other state security agencies, supplemented by private security arrangements at various mandals, modern gadgets and dog squads, random checks and an army of over 200,000 volunteers, during the 11 days of the festival.
Lord Ganesha’s benevolent presence
Ganesha Chathurthi marks the first day when Lord Ganesha enters our troubled lives, hears what we have to say, partakes his favourite sweetmeat, the Boondi Laddoo kept before him, visually, and after the thirteenth day bids us adieu. People generally keep for even number of days and immerse after an odd number of days. So immersions of the clay idols could take place on the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 11th or 13th day.
During his durbar of thirteen days he listens patiently to the multitudes pouring their woes into his ears either in his tiny presence in the privacy of their homes or the majestic and towering form in public gaze but silently. Ears for all, his calming presence gives hope and courage to all who bow before him, assuring a solution that they would not have imagined.
For, is he not the Vighnaharta or Remover of Obstacles whose blessings we seek, year after year, knowing that he will find out a way for us in the darkest of situations?
courtesy – a variety of sources