September 4, 2009

Ganeshotsav : Mumbai's favourite festival

It's the morning after, and Mumbai's all danced out.
Yesterday was 'Anant Chaturdashi', the culmination of the 10-day long festival in honour of Ganesha, the elephant-headed , pot-bellied god. And Mumbai's favourite !
For Ganpati or Vinayaka , as he is also known, is the Remover of Obstacles, the Lord of Wisdom and Prosperity. A very powerful combination indeed.

Idols of Ganesha, made of clay or Plaster of Paris and exquisitely decorated, are installed and worshipped in homes with a lot of pujas and celebration .
Modaks, the favourite of Ganesha (and of everyone with a sweet-tooth), are almost always associated with this festival.
It's not just individual homes, whole localities pool in their resources and instal their Ganesha idol for the whole community. These idols are usually massive, and are installed in temporary structures called mandaps, which are ideally located at junctions and other vantage points.

The community mandaps are truly a sight to marvel at . Each one has a theme and is lavishly decorated.

After 10 days of worship, the idols are taken to a natural water-body, such as a river or sea, for immersion. This is a jubilant procession, filled with music and dancing. Loud, thumping drum-beats and cymbals give dancing feet to even the most lethargic.

They take the idols in the back of cars

or even on carts, but the sentiment and jubilation is the same.

Then there are the community idols... ! Huge, ponderous and awe-inspiring , these are carried on beautifully decorated trucks, accompanied by loud music and hundreds of worshippers dancing as if their feet will never tire!

Crowds of joyful celebrants dance for miles all the way to the immersion site.

Even heavy rain doesn't dim their enthusiasm one little bit! They only seem to dance even more energetically as they shout "pudchya varsha lavkar ya!" (which translates into "come early next year" ) to their beloved Ganpati Bappa.
Ganeshotsav may be celebrated all over India but nowhere with as much fervour as in Mumbai. It is Mumbai's own festival!

Take a look at this collection of photos from Times of India .


  1. Very cool, Sunita! But why does Mumbai celebrate it so? What association do Mumbai-ites have with Ganesh?


    Lisa...who has more of a sweet tooth than she ought

  2. The procession while taking the idol for immersion is such a fun time, Lisa! Apart from the religious facet of it, people really throw themselves into the celebrations heart and soul. Maybe its the drumbeats, or maybe its the sheer joie de vivre of the people dancing on the roads, even a casual onlooker feels their body thrumming and vibrating to the beat! And its not just the youngsters who're dancing .... there are small children and even senior citizens too! I guess faith really keeps everyone going.

    As for Mumbai's association with this festival, I'm not clear about the history but from I've read, it was a popular festival in Maharashtra (Mumbai is the capital of the state of Maharashtra )for centuries. Then, in 1893, Bal Gangadhar Tilak (one of our most respected freedom fighters) started the trend for community celebrations of Ganesh Chaturthi by installing an idol for the whole community in a locality in Mumbai. His idea was to use this as a unifying force for Indians who were divided by various factors like religion, caste, locality, etc. And another part of it was to use this festival as an excuse for the Indians to gather publicly which was prohibited by the British rulers at that time.
    Well, that seems to have become his most popular legacy. The trend continues and keeps growing bigger and bigger.
    But quite apart from this, Mumbai seems to have some kind of cosmic coonnection with Ganesha. I've never seen him worshipped with so much adoration anywhere else in India.

  3. Yay, what a fantastic discovery, this blog of yours! Found it while idly clicking around, and of course, I expected the best from you and was not disappointed! Please don't give this up as a lost cause!

  4. Hi Kamini! Great seeing you over here :)
    Okay, if you say so I won't wash my hands off this blog just yet. I wish I had a bit more time to lavish on it. I have so many ideas and so many photos queuing up but not enough time to post them.
    Do you think if I hop on a plane and keep flying westwards I'll squeeze in a few extra hours to the day?

  5. Hello Sunita, I´m very interested in Indian traditions and religion so I will be following your posts to know about the celebrations and gatherings you have.. and yes, India is not only Taj Mahal. I went once to Goa and spent 11 wonderful days at Palolem beach.
    see you soon
    marĂ­a cecilia, from Chile, southamerica

  6. Hi Maria Cecilia! Its great to see another India-fan here :)
    Goa is beautiful, isn't it? The kind of place which makes you feel like returning again and again.
    I hope you'll keep a watch out for new posts here. I have some great ones coming up.

  7. These photos have made my day! My home office seems so colorless and lifeless some days, so I thought the festival photos were wonderful. I keep a little Ganesha in my bedroom to remind me that all obstacles can be overcome in one way or another but I've always wanted to see what the festivals looked like. So much color and life, and the couple pics of the crowd that were a little blurry were my favorite - frenetic!

  8. Hi Pam! :)
    The Ganesh festival is definitely one of the most colourful in our calendar. Maybe you could visit Mumbai around this time to really absorb the spirit of the festival. Its great fun!
    I like those crowd pics too. I debated over whether I should include them in my post but then realised that they were some of my favourites.