By Ridham Gambhir
New Delhi: When the streets of Mumbai are flooded with people and not rain and hues of red and yellow fill the welkin, we know the birthday of our beloved elephant-headed god is here! Ganesh Chaturthi, also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi, is a 10-day long festival that is celebrated with much zeal in Maharashtra and Karnataka. However, the celebration is not limited to just these two states in India, as migration has taken the festival to other places as well.
Historically, Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations were initiated in Maharashtra by Chatrapati Shivaji and has continued ever since. Bal Gangadhar Tilak, also known by the name of Lokmanya Tilak, is attributed with making the festival popular during the freedom struggle, and later giving it the festival a, somewhat, national identity.
This grand birthday commences with artistic idols, in various hues and colours, ranging from 6 inches to 70 feets (even higher), being made and erected at public places. These huge structures, often decorated with flowers, leaves, coloured paper and LED bulbs, are known as pandals. Modak, a round shaped sweet made from khoaa (prepared by continuously boiling the milk) and dry fruits, remains the most widely prepared and distributed sweet dish, hymns from the Rig Veda, the Ganapati Atharvashirsa and Upanishads, are continuously chanted.
The contemporary celebrations include installations of clay or plastic idols of the deity in public (or even private spaces) wherein the idol is worshipped for a span of 10 days. On day 11, the idol is immersed in a water body to observe Ganesh’s farewell. The ritual is known as Ganesh Visarjan. The process witnesses multitude of people swinging and gyrating to dhol beats.
This 10-day merry making is not simply a festival. It is an economic activity on which depends the livelihood of many artistes and businessmen. In accordance with the local civic body, a total of 1, 91,000 idols were installed across the city in 2014; out of which, 10,350 were at Sarvajanik Ganesh Mandals and 1,80,650 belonged to locals.
The magnanimity of this event is experienced the most at Lalbaugcha Raja, which is the most famous Sarvajanik Ganapati. The idol placed here meets maximum devotees during this 10-day period.
However, if we cast the festival revelry aside, the environment is damaged to quite an extent. The idols, which are made of non-biodegradable materials such as PoP (Plaster of Paris), when immersed hit the marine life adversely and cause a great deal of harm to the water quality, aquatic life and bodies.
While ‘To Make a Difference’ (TMAD), a Bengaluru-based organisation, delivers eco-friendly Ganesha idols at your doorstep, another Mumbai-based NGO has launched the #GodSaveTheOcean campaign. The organization manufactures 9-inch Ganesha idols that are ocean-friendly.
Ganesh Chaturthi is a festival of vigor and enthusiasm and much awaited too. So, celebrate the days wholeheartedly and in an eco-friendly manner!