Ganpati celebrations and Community

I am all for a bunch of people celebrating a festival. Don’t get me wrong. However, amidst these celebrations (and some of these are at massive scale), is the main point lost?

The Past

Lokmanya Balgangadhar Tilak had initiated the idea behind community driven Ganesh celebrations. Primarily to facilitate the freedom fighters to come together and plot against the British Raj.

The secondary benefit of getting people to celebrate Lord Ganesha’s achievements was also welcome. The communities came together and looked past petty differences and celebrated as a single, large family.

The Society benefits

Somewhere in the celebrations, the people came together and were able oppose the injustice done against them.

विग्नाहर्ता, the name is so apt in this context.

I strongly feel that this was the primary reason behind community driven Ganpati mandaps.

The Present

In the past 2 weeks, due to the large idols that have to be carted around the city, the main roads are always clogged with traffic. Office goers are scared of staying back on key days (the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th and the 10th), the roads get all the more jam packed on these days.

Somehow, the community feels that they have to celebrate with big ass loudspeakers blaring the latest hits (hindi and marathi songs). I don’t know what they are thinking – that in some weird way the decibel levels of the speakers are directly correlated to their faith in the lord.

Every evening, these mandaps are facilitated with DJ nights where some local DJ Madhav starts mixing the tunes at as high a volume as possible.

होऊ दे खर्च.

The amount of public resources being spent is mind boggling. With some of the mandaps proudly sharing their budgets (which run to the order of a crore rupees), I begin to wonder could these resources have been put to a good use? On these key days, the police staff is also deployed to take care of crowd control. They work selflessly throughout the day herding followers along ensuring that people celebrate in an orderly fashion.

What started off as a means to bring the community together (and perhaps this is still happening, however for what good of joy I dont know), is now a huge facade of immense waste.

In a city such as Mumbai, where different communities are packed next to each other, when two mandaps compete for blasting their music as loudly as possible, who really benefits? What about the third community who simply want silence?

So, watcha gonna do?

As a household which has been celebrating (and hosting) Ganpati for more than 500 years, I would continue this tradition. However, we have started taking steps to change the tradition in order to meet the need of the hour.

Instead of using the plaster of paris idols, this year we shifted to a permanent idol (which we would not discard in the ocean). This year, we strayed away from adding to the traffic as well – by doing an immersion ceremony within the house itself (dipped the idol in a bucket full of water).

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