Mumbai: With coronavirus-induced restrictions out of the way, devotees are flocking to Ganesh pandals across Mumbai in large numbers as the festival of the elephant-headed god began two days ago. People are doing `pandal-hopping’ with gusto, especially in central Mumbai areas of Lalbaug, Parel, and Girgaon where some famous Ganesh Mandals or groups install the idols.
The `Lalbaugcha Raja’ Ganpati draws lakhs of people every year from Mumbai as well as the surrounding satellite cities, though in the last two years coronavirus played spoilsport. The Mandal which has been celebrating the festival since 1934 had not put up its pandal in the first year of the pandemic while in 2021 entry into the pandal was restricted.
But this year Lalbaugcha Raja is once again attracting huge crowds which are expected to swell further from the weekend onward.
The pandal this time is modelled on the Ram temple being constructed in Ayodhya. Scorching heat coupled with humidity and intermittent spells of rain has not deterred devotees. Jitesh Kaden, an office-bearer of Hiramani Super Market Ganpati Mandal, told PTI that the Lalbaug area has been witnessing more crowds this year after the lifting of Covid restrictions.
“Very few people are wearing masks, the majority are enjoying the festival without the fear of the pandemic,” he said. There are two queues at the pandal. One is “Navsachi Rang” where devotees are allowed to touch the feet of the idol while the other is “Mukh Darshan Rang” where one can only have `darshan’ (sight) from a distance. Payal Shah, a Matunga resident who visits Lalbaugcha Raja every year, said she landed around 7 on Thursday morning to avoid serpentine queues and had darshan of the idol within 20 minutes. Ganesh Galli Ganpati is another famous pandal in the same area.
“This year our pandal theme is the Kashi Vishweshwar temple. The Ganesh idol is in the form of `Vishwakarma Avatar,’” said Kiran Kalekar, an office-bearer of the Mumbaicha Raja’ Lalbaug Sarvajanik Ustav Mandal of Ganesh Galli. They have paid special attention to the safety of devotees and 100-150 volunteers have been deployed to manage the crowds, he said.
The Mandal has also installed 60 CCTV cameras, metal detectors and hired private security guards. Chinchpokali’s Chintamani, Bal Ganesh Mandal’s Ballaleshwar, Rangari Badak Chawl’s Lambodar, Kalachowki Ustav Mandal’s Mahaganapati and Ganapati Tejukaya building’s Ganesh are other famous pandals in Lalbaug. Located near Kings Circle station, the Goud Saraswat Brahmin Samaj Ganapati also attracts huge crowds.
The Mandal is considered among the richest in Mumbai. Its Ganesh idol is adorned with gold jewellery and a 22-carat gold crown. Girgaon area in South Mumbai also attracts pandal-hoppers. It has famous pandals like Khetwadi Ganraj, Akhil Mugbhat Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal, Keshavji Naik Chawl Ganpati and Khetwadicha Mahaganapati.
Established way back in 1893, Keshavji Naik Chawl Ganpati is known to be the oldest Ganesh Mandal in Mumbai.
The Khetwadicha Mahaganpati is famous for its tall idols, and this year the Mandal has installed a 35-feet idol. Bala Ahirkar, president of Akhil Mugbhat Sarvanajik Ganeshotsav Mandal, told PTI that in the 91st year of the Mandal they have installed a 22-feet tall Ganapati idol of `shadu’ clay, weighing about six tons.
The design of its pandal is inspired by the Hindu temples of Cambodia. Andhericha Raja is one of the famous Ganapatis in the western suburbs. Uday Salian of Azad Nagar Sarvajanik Utsav Samiti which installs this Ganesh said this is the 57th year of the Mandal and this time they have created a replica of the Laxmi Vilas Palace of Vadodara.
“It is spread over 4,000 square feet. Art director Dhamesh Shah and his team of 32 people was working for two months to make it,” Salian said. Milind Kolvankar, general secretary of Magathane-based Ekta Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal whose Ganesh is known as “Upnagaracha Raja” told PTI that their idol is the tallest in the suburbs and seven to eight lakh devotees visit the pandal every year.
Bandra West Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal has created a 52-feet replica of the famous Pashupatinath temple of Kathmandu. This Mandal is famous for recreating prominent temples every year.