Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Ganpati Visarjan 2014

Every year since I’ve lived in Mumbai, I’ve had grand plans of going to experience the Ganesh visarjan (immersion) on the last day of the Ganesh festival. And, every year, I’ve found some excuse not to go — monsoon illness, the rain, the heat, the crowd.

But this year I finally headed on the road to witness and feel the energy that surrounds the Ganpati Visarjan. My office allowed us to leave at early around 4 pm to avoid the traffic on the occasion of visarjan. I was home by 5 pm and was on the road along with my camera by 6 pm along with my husband Nikhil and sister Nikita.

We headed to Versova beach which is a 20 mins walk from home.

Ganpati Visarjan is a day when almost all of Mumbai is on the road. The road was jam packed with people, so many people selling ice cream, kulfi, toys for kids, devil horns, whistles etc.  

Once on the road we could see Ganpati idols of all shapes and sizes on carts and in trucks, drumming, crackers and hoards of people flooding the roads.  

There is a lot of drumming, dancing, fireworks and smearing of gulal (or Holi colour). People have adorned the chariots with flowers, lights, balloons, coconut leaves and other decoration. It was one huge and crazy street party!
The atmosphere reverberates with chants of “Ganapati bappa moriya, pudcha varshi lavkarya”  – Hail Lord Ganpati, come soon again next year.
Yet, what did surprise me was that it was nowhere as chaotic as what I feared. The processions followed set routes, the police did an outstanding job of maintaining order, and the streets away from the action were almost deserted.

When we arrived, people filled the beach as far back as the eye could see. There were so many ganpatis ready to be immersed in water, the followers making their last prayers, singing the last bhajan, doing the last arti. 

Everywhere there were people bowing their head to Ganpati and receiving the blessings from the Elephant head God. You can hear the aarti at different stages, synchronized claps, the sound of the pooja bells all mixed together with the roar of the waves and the sound of the wind in the background.

In order to do the last arti, people had dug out the sand and kept a lamp in the small pit created so that the lamp is not affected by the strong sea breeze. An interesting and practical solution. 

When it started drizzling, people took out their umbrella to cover the Bappa, the rain did not deter their enthusiasm.
Amongst the crowd, large idols waited to be taken out on boats and immersed in the sea.

On the road there were numerous stalls distributing water, chaas and vada pav for free. The beauty of Mumbai is that for freebies also we make a queue. There was a group of sardars distributing poha. We took loads of snaps and everyone was immensely supportive to allow us to take pictures of the idol. We gobbled loads and loads of finger licking ‘Prasaad’.

Stall distributing Water and Vada Pav
 As the sun set, more and more people began to pour in from all directions, and the idols kept coming. Tired, sweaty, satisfied, and concerned about not being able to make our way home easily, I decided to call it quits and depart. For most people though, the celebration was just beginning.

After attending the Ganpati Visarjan, we realized that it is not an event to be missed especially if you are in Mumbai. So we have decided to be a part of this event every year and enjoy the energy, enthusiasm and craziness it brings.
At night I realized that, once in water, the idol dissolves out slowly reminding us of the perishable nature of things in life. In a way, the festival inspires us to not get attached to the material things in life. It also reiterates the fact that though the form dissolves, blessing remains. Through the mood is somber but the energy is uplifting.  
Ek do teen chaar ganpati ki jai jai kaar
Paach che saat aath ganpati hai sabke saath!!!

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