The monsoon season had brought relief from the sweltering heat of Mumbai but there was no respite from the raging fire in a 37 year old’s mind. Sitting at Girgaon Chowpaty every day he would wonder how can he make people rise above the shackles of caste, class and religion; and unite them? If ‘divide and rule’ could hand over the reins of sone ki chhidiya to the British then there has to be some idea which can motivate them to reclaim their swarajya from the clutches of ‘non-paying’ guests. Ideas and self-doubts kept flowing in and out of his mind while he kept making clay idols at Girgaon Chowpaty. Meanwhile the spectators would stand there for hours admiring his idols.
Eureka! His idea was right in front of him. Unlike political rallies the collective movement for religious purpose was not banned by the British. And thus the idea of Sarvajanik Ganesh Utsav was born in 1893 – from a private affair to a public movement. The man who gave birth to the biggest festival of Mumbai, Ganesh Chaturthi, was none other than Bal Gangadhar Tilak. A masterstroke by Tilak to use Ganesha Chaturthi as a platform to unite Indians without breaking the law. The Police (under British rule) couldn’t see the larger picture and unknowingly aided the nationalistic movement for Freedom. A clay idol of Ganesha would be installed at key public places in Mumbai, 11 days of festivities would become a breeding ground for nationalism, leaders of all castes and cadres would deliver patriotic speeches during cultural programs and finally the Lord Ganesha idols would be immersed in the Arabian Sea. This festival fostered the feeling of unity and togetherness in Indians that helped in revival of their patriotic spirit. Rest is history.
Today even after 183 years, the cosmopolitan Mumbai becomes one during its favorite God’s celebration. Good vibes can be felt all around. Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Parsi, Sikh and everyone else forgoes their religious biases and bring home the Ganesha idols as per their individual preferences – 3 days, 5 days, 7 days or 10 days. Mumbaikars have a firm belief in their vighnaharta as Darshan Joshi says, “Jab tak Ganpati hai na Mumbai mei, tab tak Mumbai ko kuch nahi hoga”.
If you are planning a visit to Mumbai then what better time than Ganesh Chaturthi. However, keep in mind, ‘NO PAIN NO GAIN’. So brace yourself up to get stuck in hours long traffic jams and sometimes rowdy crowd. I have personally experienced the pain and the gain of this mega festival of Mumbai. But trust me the happy atmosphere makes up pretty well for that little inconvenience.
Here are the best 5 places to enjoy Ganesh Chaturthi in Mumbai:
THE LALBAUGCHA RAJA
The King of Lalbaug, is undoubtedly the most famous and iconic Ganesh Utsav pandal in Mumbai, where more than 1.5 million devotees wait from 3 hrs to more than 24 hours to get a glimpse of their beloved God. I remember how insanely difficult it was for me (a person who can’t stand crowd) to convince myself to see the glory of Lalbaugcha Raja. With "Ganapati Bappa Morya! Mangalmoorti Morya!" reverberating all around me it was an atmosphere which could send goosebumps to anyone in the world. The feeling is unexplainable in words. It can only be felt by the heart and the eyes.
There were 2 Darshan lines - Navas Darshan, wherein after waiting up to 24 hours you can touch the feet of the Lord, and the Mukh Darshan, where you wait for 2-6 hours to see the Lord but can’t touch him. One thing that struck me the most was the spark in the eyes of Bappa. Seems like a 3D vision was communicating with you, wherever you might be in the pandal. Besides Bappa’s darshan, don’t forget to attend the most revered Ganpati Visarjan ceremony in the town. The less than 10 kms journey that starts at 2 pm ends after 5 am the next day.
Nearest Railway Station: Lower Parel, Curry Road, Chinchpokli
THE GANESH GALI MUMBAICHA RAJA
Mumbaicha Raja in Ganesh Gali is one of the oldest pandals in Mumbai. Over the years, with its lavish Pandals replicating some of the most famous places of India like the Tirupathi temple has become a big crowd puller. This year it is going to be 22 feet tall and will be a replica of an ancient temple.
Nearest Railway Station: Chinchpokli, Curry Road, and Lower Parel
THE KHETWADICHA GANRAJ
If there was an award for the most creative Ganesha Pandal then it would have gone to the Khetawadicha Ganraj in South Mumbai. Its major claim to fame was in 2000 when it created the highest Ganpati idol ever – 40 feet tall. Just like we love to adorn gold jewelry during important functions, similarly The Khetawadi Ganraj is bejeweled with real gold jewelry studded with diamonds during Ganesh Chaturthi. What makes this experience truly unique is that there are Ganesha idols in every lane.
Nearest Railway Station: Charni road and Sandhurst Road
THE GSB SEVA GANESH MANDAL KING’S CIRCLE
If there was an award for the most eco-friendly and traditional Ganesha idol then it would go to The GSB Seva Ganesh mandal, which is also known as Mumbai's gold Ganesh. Yes, just like Khetawadicha Ganjar it is too adorned with pure gold. The idol is always made out of eco-friendly clay and instead of blaring recorded music traditional Indian musical instruments are played. Isn't that cool?
Nearest Railway Station: Kings Circle on the Harbour Line and Matunga on the Central Line.
THE ANDHERICHA RAJA
What Lalbaghcha Raja is to South and Central Mumbai Andhericha Raja is to suburbs of Mumbai. The youngest amongst the most famous Ganesha idols in Mumbai, this idol is often visited by celebrities. On its golden Jubilee in 2015, its clothes were designed by an internationally acclaimed fashion designer, mukut was of whopping of 1.25 crores value and it was the biggest Pandal in the city.
Nearest Railway Station: Andheri
Besides the above 5 most famous Ganpatis on Mumbai, there are lot of other Ganpati Pandals that are worth visiting like Chinchpoklicha Chintamani, Kamatipuracha Chintamani, Tulsiwadicha Raja, Dongricha Raja, Chandanwari Ganapati among others.
Ganpati Visarjan (Immersion): Immersion is the most important ceremony during Ganesh Chaturthi. If you want to see the largest and most famous Ganesha statues, go to Girgaon Chowpaty on Marine Drive. Other options are Juhu Beach and Versova beach.
- Get a pair of good sneakers. Walking is way faster than any other form of transportation
- Don’t despise the crowd. Enjoy the revelry with them. Go with your friends
- Feast on modaks unabashedly and carry lots of water as you might get dehydrated standing in long queues
- Always carry a deo along. I am sure you wouldn’t want to smell like someone’s armpit
- Stay in the heart of the city, get used to noise and crowd. However, if you can’t do that then better stay at places like Royal Garden Resort
In a world where religion is routinely used to divide people Ganesh Chaturthi is a festival that unites people. So when are you going to attend the Ganesh Chaturthi in Mumbai? How about 2016?
I would love to hear your stories.
PS: Thanks Darshan Joshi for all your help 🙂