Ganesh Chaturthi – A Megafestival

Lord Ganesh figurine on white sand near people during daytime

Mumbai as a city enters into a weeklong party mode during the Ganpati Festival every year. It is by far the biggest celebration in the city that brings together people from every nook and cranny of this massive metropolis on to the streets. Even celebrities and film stars walk amongst the massive crowds. During this festival, everyone is celebrating the God of Knowledge, remover of obstacles and the God for everyone. 

Why it all started?

One can’t talk about the Ganpati festival without talking about how it came about. It started off in Pune city where Bal Gangadhar Tilak decided that since the British were not letting people gather in groups, the people needed a God who would unite people from all classes and castes. As Mumbai grew by accepting people from all over the country, the people, in turn, adopted the god that would accept them all. 

Ganpati festival grew in size as the city grew alongside it. Every chawl has its own rules and methods of praying to Ganpati. The crowding of the city has not had any effect on the festival whatsoever. Every chawl and Mandal compete to make their Ganpati larger and grander than their neighbours. It is an unspoken pilgrimage; a lot of people undertake to witness and offer prayers to as many Ganpatis as they can view.


Ganpati can visit homes for 1.5, 3, 5, 7 or 11 days, but the city celebrates them all across the city. Up to 3 months before the festival, the city starts the preparations. People start making a list of things to buy, kids start making plans excitedly with their friends and people start practising dhol tashas in secluded areas. Even between the heavy rains lashing the city, the construction of the giant idols keeps moving at a steady pace.

As the festival approaches closer, the first signs start cropping up around the city of the oncoming festival. Huge pandals start going up around the city. Kids run around from house to house asking for donations. Stalls selling idols start cropping up all over the place. Music systems and DJs get booked for multiple locations around the city. The entire city is bracing itself for the party of the year.

The Festival

The festival kicks off on Ganesh Chaturthi that falls on the 2nd of September this year. People bring Ganpati idols to their homes while the idols face is covered with a white handkerchief so that the idol is first unveiled inside the home with a puja. The idol is then prayed to every morning and evening. Modaks and Karanjis are the special dishes made during this time and offered as naivedya. 
Singing, theatre, dances, orchestras and other activities serve as ways for the community to come together and bond. Communities also make generous donations to the poor as a part of the festivities. 

Considering the fact that the public celebration of this festival has only come about roughly 200 years ago, the people have set upon their own traditions and ways to pray to Ganpati. It is fitting that he has become a God of the people, and for the people.

The Closing Ceremony

The festival draws to a close after 11 days. The idol is ceremoniously submerged into a water body where the clay idol dissolves and Ganpati returns to his heavenly abode. Most households submerge their idols after 5 or 7 days, however, the mandals all submerge after 11 days. This is marked by a huge procession of people dancing and singing all day long as the gigantic idols are taken towards the sea for visarjan or submerging. The city streets are filled with people dancing and singing covered in pink gulaal chanting “Ganpati Bappa Morya Pudhcya Vashi Lavkar Ya” (Hail Lord Ganpati. Come again next year!)

The mandals have a hierarchy of their own with regards to which Mandal goes in which order for visarjan. This is planned well beforehand by the BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation). Slowly the mandals inch towards the sea with huge processions of their own. Some notable and must-visit Ganpatis are Lalbagcha Raja, Siddhivinayak, Mumbaicha Raja, Andhericha Raja, Fort Ganeshotsav Mandal. Some mandals take more than 50 hours to reach the sea. 

Eco-friendly Idols

In recent years, more and more awareness has spread about eco-friendly idols and celebratory practices. The local governments also organize submersion tanks for easy collection of the waste generated. People have actively taken to these practices and have brought these changes as well into their traditions. 
As per a Weather Channel report a total of 2,138 Bengalurians— most of whom were children and youngsters— came together to make eco-friendly Ganesh idols. With this event at National College grounds, Bengaluru etched its name in Guinness World Records for the highest number of people gathered for sculpting with the model clay.

The Celebration

Every year cities soaked in the spirit of festivity and devotion come to life and every beat of the drums ring across the cities as the people celebrate with joy. Every year it inspires a spiritual feeling witnessing so many people come together in a celebration which is truly larger than life.
So, if you get a chance, come down to Mumbai and witness this epic celebration of diversity, faith, music, food, and creative expression as the city of dreams devotes the festival to the Elephant headed god of knowledge.

- Written by Nachiket Bhushan Kondhalkar
- Edited by Maitreyi Mehndiratta

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Ganesh Chaturthi – A Megafestival Ganesh Chaturthi – A Megafestival Reviewed by EMN on September 02, 2019 Rating: 5

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