Which city strikes your mind when someone mentions Ganesh Chaturthi and the pompous celebrations? I am sure it is Mumbai and I think the city does it best with passion and in style. Lord Ganesha’s birthday is a propitious occasion and it happens to be one of the biggest spectacle in the city of Mumbai in Maharashtra. It is said that if you are in the city, you must catch up the celebrations at Lalbaugcha Raja at Lalbaug.
The festive season has just begun in India and the celebrations are not going to stop until our biggest festival, Diwali in November. The Janamastami festivities have just wrapped up and we are already geared up for Ganesh Chathurthi. Based on the movement of the moon, it is a ten day long Hindu festival and the last day, Anant Chaturdasi is a big day. It is on the 13th of September this year. The clay models of Lord Ganesha have already been created, painted and decked up. The process of taking them home and installing them at public places have already begun. I couldn’t extend my stay in Mumbai till the d-day but I had the opportunity to witness the preparations which usually begin 2-3 months in advance. Make-shift sheds and workshops had cropped up in my neighborhood and I couldn’t stop myself from walking into one.
I had heard a lot about the making of these idols and I was really keen to see it all myself. How could I miss the opportunity this year? Last week, while returning from a friend’s place, I stopped at LBS road and checked out some of these temporary sheds around Ghatkopar. One of them was really huge and showed signs of people working inside. It was covered from all sides except a small door which was showing some glimpses of idols under bright lights. I walked in and asked if I could talk to them and take pictures. First, they were reluctant but when I told them that I lived in Delhi and all this was new for me, they welcomed me warmly.
Life-like clay models of Lord Ganesha
As I walked in, I found myself in the world of clay idols, colors, paint brushes and artists. I was surrounded by nearly 500 life-like idols of Lord Ganesha in all shapes and sizes. Some of them were extremely huge and loomed over me. Some were colourful while others were still in soil color. The bigger ones, which were complete had been packed in transparent sheets to prevent them from getting dirty from dust and grime. Some were still being painted. Five artists were inside the shop and were working at that wee hour. A brief interaction with the artisans made me learn that most of them had been involved in this activity for decades. The younger ones had mastered this art from their elders in the family. The face, the smile, the alive eyes, the trunk, the body, the curves, the plates of the dhoti of the Lord, everything had been carved to perfection in each of the structure. It was definitely a result of precision and practice. It was no child’s play and was evident that the handcrafting skills had been passed from one generation to another.
I wanted to know more but since every one was busy in their work and I was left awestruck by this lovely idols, I silently walked around the shop, clicked some pictures and returned back home. I felt extremely happy to have celebrated the festival in my unique way. These are the best pictures that I have brought back from my trip to Mumbai. All of these idols were made from clay but I am not sure if only eco-friendly material was used in the making. Honestly, I forgot to ask the artists.
The main attraction or the most important practice associated with the festival is the placement and visarjan (immersion) of life-like clay models of Lord Ganesha, who is considered the God of beginnings. During the festival colorful pandals are created and Ganesha is worshiped. People also install Ganesha idol in their homes for certain number of days and invite people for prayers and celebrations. They also plan the immersion of the idols. The bigger pandals have activities and entertainment programs planned for ten days. On the final day, a huge procession bids goodbye to the Lord in a grand way till the idol is drowned in the nearest water body. It is believed that he takes away all the woes of the living beings until next year. Devotees walk long distances and join the processions on the streets. Despite the traffic snarls, dancing and singing takes place on the go. It is a celebration to watch for on the Mumbai streets.
Photo-walk inside the makeshift workshop on the LBS road
Happy Ganesha Chathurti