The festival of Ganesh Chaturthi transforms the city of Pune, giving it a big makeover. The numerous Ganesh mandals vie with each other for better stages, innovative ideas, and spectacular effects. And while some residents love the fervor and look forward to visiting the various mandals during the festivities, others are wary of the noise issues and the large crowds during the ten-day celebration.
In 2012, we had planned a trip to Pune to witness this festival in all its glory. It was an unforgettable experience! (see the posts here and here). This year, as residents of Pune, we needed no tickets.
The Hindu God, Ganesha, is considered to be the Lord of new beginnings and the remover of obstacles. The elephant-headed deity, accompanied by a little mouse, is revered and loved by many. Lokmanya Tilak revived the celebration of this festival as a community event. Today, the celebration extends from the first day of Ganesh Chaturthi, when the idol of Ganesha is installed, to the tenth day of Ananth Chaturdhashi, when the idol is immersed in a body of water.
Efforts have been made to curb the loud noise and jarring music that disturbs residents during the public celebrations. Various restrictions have been imposed, and, this year, I noticed a significant reduction in the noise levels compared to our visit in 2012.
In our 3 days of mandal-hopping this year, we enjoyed watching several short plays that were staged outdoors in the evenings. These were a welcome substitute to ear-shattering music. A few mandals played devotional tunes at a reasonable volume. Junior loved watching the enactment of historical tales and social issues. He was eager to continue mandal-hopping even when it was way past his bedtime!
Here are some glimpses into our experience at this year’s Ganesh Chaturthi festivities in Pune.
Towering Idols of the Elephant-Headed God:
This eco-friendly Ganesha rose to 51 ft, and was a popular attraction in the city. The idol was inspired from the “Jai Malhar” series on television.
Short Plays on Social Issues:
In the Deccan area, we watched a play in which Lord Ganesha and Mooshika (the mouse) discussed social issues such as the lack of infrastructure and problems with public transport.
At some places, glitzy lights added special effects to the scene. We liked this stage where an entire temple was created by using colorful lighting.
A few mandals preferred to use simple, elegant decor and mild music. These were beautiful, too.
Famous Mandals such as Hatti Ganpati Mandal:
The famous mandals of the city attracted a great crowd. The popular Hatti Ganpati Mandal had designed an elaborate stage with moving statues. We halted here to witness a beautiful story.
Frenzied Passion and Energy of the Dhol Tasha Performances:
As we passed from one stage to another, the heart of the city was abuzz with the vigor and energy of the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations. The rhythm of the Dhol Tasha and other performances filled our hearts and minds with the festive spirit.
Ornate Sets and Designs:
We moved on to witness one of the most elaborate and grand sets of this year. A replica of the Tulja Bhavani temple in Tuljapur had been created in the Sadashiv Peth area. The attention to detail and the scale of the set were fascinating.
Tales from History:
Junior’s favorite play was the popular tale of the conquest of Kondana Fort (Sinhagad) by Shivaji’s loyal commander, Tanaji Malusare.
Bidding Farewell to our Favorite God:
As the festivities drew to an end, it was time to bid goodbye to our favorite God. And so, we said Ganpati Bappa Morya, Pudhchya Varshi Lavkar Ya!
Until next year…