Yes, my favourite dude of a God and one of my favourite festivals is the Ganesh Utsav.There are innumerable fond memories attached ,which keep getting added every year.Having been born and brought up in Poona in the 80 s and 90 s ,it is but natural to absorb the culture and be transformed by the magic of the place .
It was in Pune, the then capital of Shivaji Maharaja’s Kingdom , that the birth of Ganapathi festival took place as it was the Royal family Deity. Much later Lokmanya Tilak popularised the festival by installing a Ganapathi idol in his newspaper Office,”Kesari”. This was done to decrease the gap between the powerful Brahmin class and the other classes to stand united in the face of British Colonial rule and kindle Nationalist feelings. It brought about a marked change as the festival was celebrated in the community bringing all classes of people on to a common platform for a period of ten days .This enabled a revival of the rich Maharashtrian cultural traditions of dance, music, drama and poetry.
As a child , the excitement of the arrival of Ganapathi would begin with the collection of funds from each family. Separate committees would be formed for collection of funds, for preparation and installation of the Pandal, for the arrangement of cultural programmes and finally the final procession and immersion programme on the last day.
The action would begin in the evenings after the elders returned from work and the kids from the schools. Every day a different programme would be held, it was during these periods that I have been exposed to live orchestras , then there were magical shows which took my breath away and reoccured in slow motion in my dreams, then there were the open air movies , screened on a large screen in the middle of the Ground and the kids would settle down , least bothered about their clothes, these movies held a thrill of their own and continued into late nights.
Competitions would be held in all areas for all the age groups which provided a great platform for talent to be displayed in Dance, Music, Drawing and Painting, Rangoli, Cookery and Games as well. The ten days would soon come to an end and the preparations for the final send off would take place.
I remember watching the procession of Ganpathis in Poona during one year at Laxmi Road, and it was so thrilling for me to experience the shower of flowers from the helicopters on the huge Ganapathis sailing majestically towards the river. Another vivid memory that comes to mind is the Muharram procession which was also on the same day .The contrast in scenes is something which will remain embedded in my mind.The Muharram procession is known for its mood of mourning where the men strike at their bodies with sharp daggers with a lot of self beating and the Ganapathi procession has a lot of drum beating and dancing with an air of merry making.Today when I look back , I am simply amazed by the deft handling of both the processions by the Pune Police and that is the true spirit of our country.
I have fond memories of the Ganapathi festival in my first job at Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, Wardha,the decade during which national integrity was the buzzword.It was greatly propagated and practised with a true spirit.The Ganesh Idol would be installed in the Mess, and duties were alloted to the houses to conduct the morning and evening artis and various inter house competitions would be held . As a housemistress of a house , it was my duty to conduct the morning arthi before the breakfast session. I thoroughly enjoyed and did it with great devotion and enthusiasm. It was also a part of my duty to accompany the students on the sendoff journey which again was great fun.
As a teacher trainee in 1988 in Hyderabad, I and my friends walked almost 15 kms alongwith our colony Ganesh on the immersion day, which started by morning 10 am taking almost twelve hours to reach Hussain Sagar the lake. The dancing on the roads to the beat of drums , the play of colours, the packets of lunch , the screamings, it was a wild wild day only once in a lifetime experience for me
Even as recent as in 2014, our group of thirteen friends visited the tallest Ganesh Idol in Hyderabad exactly at midnight and I must say the spectacle of seeing such a huge idol was simply mindblowing with a giant size laddu in his hands.The midnight outing with stops at an icecream parlour and having cream stone icecreams in various combinations added to the adventure and remains a fond Ganapathi memory.
Every year in my town , I am a witness to the process of making Idols by a large group of migrant population from the North .They reside in temporary tents on the outskirts of the town and begin the process of making idols nearly four to five months in advance.Every time I pass by them , I tend to get distracted from my driving to watch them work. It is sad to note the conditions in which these people live, those crucial days are when they earn money for the whole year after which they have no employment or source of income.I wonder about their future as the propoganda for eco friendly Ganeshas is picking up.
Yes Ganapathi, Ganesh, Vinayakudu, remains a dude for me, as I have grown up hearing the tales and adventures of young Ganesh. What I love most about him is his attitude , turning setbacks into his favour by using his intelligence, his loyalty , his cheerful disposition and his most lovable attribute being his affinity for laddus, and comes across as an easy going dude with absolutely no egoistic issues at all.
Every year the number of idols is on the increase, every street, every apartment has an idol of its own and the whole purpose of celebrating Ganesh Utsav as a community festival has been lost somewhere along the line.The spirit of peaceful co existence needs to be reinforced once again.
Looking forward to “HIS” visit again.
Ganapathi Bappa Mourya….