It’s that time of the year again when the traditional side of me overpowers the practical modernist Indian woman. And that’s for the entire duration for the celebration of Mushakraj’s birth. Me residing in Delhi at this time does not take anything away from the fact that I am still a hardcore Mumbaikar at heart. The birth of Lord Ganesha is not only spiritually significant for the Marathi community but also a way of paying divine respect to elephant God.

I still remember when I was young and had read a very fascinating account of the adventures of Ganesha. One such was the instance when the little son of Shiva and Parvati is invited by King Kuber for lunch to show off his riches and power. What happened next was something that not even the God of Wealth could have contemplated. Filled with hunger, Ganesha does not stop eating till everything in Kuber’s kitchen has been consumed. And even after that, the little kid is starving. Afraid of what might happen next, Kuber rushes to Lord Shiva and asks for forgiveness and promises to get rid of his false prestige and vanities. It is then when Maa Parvati gives a home-made sweet to Ganesha to put an end to his hunger.

And the purpose of the Ganesh Chaturthi is quite rightly highlighted in the miscreant ways of Lord Ganesh who taught the wrong-doers a lesson with his kiddish fervor. The actual festival itself is a very colorful affair for which the preparations kick off almost three months in advance. Skilled artisans from all over India gather and prepare clay and POP deity figures of the Elephant God for resurrecting in the various Pandals through Mumbai. Devotees turn up in thousands to pay their respects to the spiritual God of success. The speciality of the Chaturthi is the modak sweet (made much in the same way as momos or wontons but with rice flour, jaggery and dry fruits) The celebrations with the added fanfare close on the final day with the immersion of Ganesha’s sculptures (also known as Ganesh Visarjan) to leave for their holy abode in Kailash mountains. The 10-day gala affair complete with fireworks gets a hefty amount of TV and media coverage these days. Due to the ever increasing population rush during the festival, organizers have made it a point to get big TV screens and projectors involved in and around the areas of festivity so that the worshippers do not miss the proceedings.

I for one have to say that the Lokhandwala area has one of the best crowd and receptions for the Ganesh Chaturthi. But even a festival as beautiful as this has a few negatives. One of the major ones is the immersion of sculptures during the final day which is incessantly increasing water pollution. The other one is the modern dressing element where in scantily clad people during the last few years has caused quite an outrage amongst the devotees. The trend has no doubt been spearheaded by the glamorous film fraternity faces.

Ganesh Chaturthi holds a special place in our hearts much like the Durga Puja in the Bengali community. The essence of both the festivals is also strikingly similar with Ganesha and Durga being sculptured and then immersed and believed to take away all the troubles of their devotees every year. But if the festival can become a bit more environment-friendly and devoid of free culture attire issues then the prodigiousness of the festival would get vastly elevated.

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