Saturday, September 26, 2015

A Photographic Journey to the Incredibly Famous Mumbai Ganesha Pandal - Lalbaugcha Raja

Have you heard about Lalbaugcha Raja?

Famous Lalbaugcha raja Pandal, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, Mumbai

I am sure, most of you have. Lalbaugcha Raja, is indisputably the most iconic Ganesha in Mumbai aptly titled The King. Founded in 1934 and situated in the Lalbaug market area of lower parel, Lalbaugcha Ganesha is a massive 15 foot idol who sits royally under the umbrella of an enormous tent erected according to His stature.

Every year, during the 11 days of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival, over millions of devotees throng the place just to get a glimpse of the deity and to pay their respects. The frenzy and the hype surrounding this particular Ganesha at this particular place is overwhelmingly chaotic as it is devotional during the entire course of the festival.

Among the devotees, are people from all age groups and belonging to different stratus of society – the common man is here, so are the filmi superstars and so are people belonging to the media industry. He is the apple of everyone's eye. Apart from His human-like form, what attracts the devotees to Him is the strong belief that He shall hear their prayers and fulfil all their wishes.

There are two main lines to see the idol - you can either choose to stand in the Mukhdarshan or general line and satisfy yourself by seeing the Ganesha from a distance of about 15 feet or alternatively, you can take the line meant for making a vow to get your wish fulfilled (navas) called the navas line where you can actually get closer to Bappa and touch His gigantic feet.

I have had the fortune of visiting Lalbaugcha Raja twice in my entire life, once in 2011 and one this year, in 2015. Both the times I have stood in Mukhdarshanachi line and the waiting times have been tremendously low. Last time, it took me around 45 minutes to reach the main dais and this year, it took me only 15 minutes!! I was really happy to get such a quick easy access to this Superstar, and sharing below are some photographs I clicked during my journey...

A Photographic Essay on the LIVE Superstar God Lalbaugcha Raja, 2015, Lower Parel - Come Along!

It's 10th day of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival,
the day is Saturday, date is 26th September and the time is early morning, 7 Am:

 The morning sun is peeping fiercely from the light blue window of the skies
when I step out onto the streets from the Lower Parel Station -
My walk to the Lalbaugcha Raja Ganesh Pandal 2015 begins!

Way to Lalbaugcha raja, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, Mumbai

Lalbaugcha Raja is up and awake round the clock, but for many others,
the day here has just begun:

The toy seller just starting his day,

Shopkeeper opening his wares Lalbaugcha raja, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, Mumbai

The kelewalah is on his way:

A shopkeeper on the way to Lalbaugcha raja, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, Mumbai

There are kids who sell,

Small kids sell pictures, Lalbaugcha raja Pandal, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, Mumbai

And kids who buy,

Selling toys on the way to Lalbaugcha raja, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, Mumbai

Hope glances through from behind rimmed glasses,
eyes that look forward to an economically bright day ahead,

A man selling coconuts at Lalbaugcha raja, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, Mumbai

Sleep prances through behind weary eyelashes,
- perhaps, yesterday was a hectic day!

A shopkeeper catches sleep on the way to Lalbaugcha raja, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, Mumbai

Life moves on ...

Toy seller on the way to Lalbaugcha raja, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, Mumbai

So do I... the cow turns her head to acknowledge my presence!

A cow looks on, Way to Lalbaugcha raja, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, Mumbai

Food: Soon, the wafting smell of food makes its way to my nose.

Stalls selling breakfast like dosas, idli, poha and Mumbai's quintessential vada pav are open for the day and brimming with customers.

Food stalls on the way to Lalbaugcha raja, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, MumbaiMumbai pav on the way to Lalbaugcha raja, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, Mumbai

For a moment, I slightly shift my gaze from the streets upwards -
there is Bappa, looking at me from the billboards!

He is busy selling stuff - urging people to eat in a restaurant,
tune in to a popular radio station
and taste the new jelly chocolate in the market.

Billboard ads on the way to Lalbaugcha raja, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, Mumbai
Ganesha billboards on the way to Lalbaugcha raja, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, Mumbai
Ganeshji Ads on the way to Lalbaugcha raja, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, Mumbai

The billboards are amusing in their own way. At least one of them does ring a bell,
Social messages on the way to Lalbaugcha raja, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, Mumbai
Don't trust rumours.
There are policemen deployed at various spots:
I see them reading newspapers, chit-chatting,
browsing through their mobile phones, or just taking a break,

Mumbai police on the way to Lalbaugcha raja, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, Mumbai

Some of them are perched on building tops, taking security guard for the day,

Policeman on duty, Lalbaugcha raja Pandal, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, Mumbai

Devoted sevaks do their job well, selling coconuts, 
lowers and green blades of grass 'durva'
to the devotees as offerings for the Lord:

They are immersed in making flower garlands for the Lord,

Flowers for Bappa, Lalbaugcha raja, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, Mumbai

And then putting them out for sale,

Red flower and durva on the way to Lalbaugcha raja, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, Mumbai

If you are wealthy, you can opt for this one too,
A garland of rupee notes:

Money garland for Bappa, Lalbaugcha raja, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, Mumbai

Joining the crowd: After around 15 minutes of walking from the Lower Parel station, I reach the main arena where the queues begin. This is my first interaction with the throng of crowds eager to get in line; I squeeze myself into the 'Mukhdarshanachi' line; am just meters away from the Raja.

A canopied tent on His head while a rainbow of colours on mine!

Crowds at Lalbaugcha raja, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, Mumbai

A few steps into the line and Ganesha is in full view.
So are the cameras - everyone wants a piece of Bappa in their lens.

Cameras focused at Lalbaugcha raja, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, Mumbai
Bappa looks on, Lalbaugcha raja, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, Mumbai

Each step gets me closer and I can feel the excitement, His presence even more,

Bappa amid devotees at Lalbaugcha raja, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, Mumbai

Devotion is in the air,

Prayers for Bappa, Lalbaugcha raja, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, Mumbai
Praying to Bappa, Lalbaugcha raja Pandal, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, Mumbai

ONLY 15 minutes into the Mukhdarshanachi line and guess what?!

I am at The Lalbaugcha Raja Ganesha, 2015:

The madness, the devotional chaos is incredible and so is the artwork!
Glittery is my first look of Bappa’s house!

This years theme is a Bollywood set based on the classic Bollywood movie Mughal-e-azam directed by K. Asif with a giant sheesh mahal (crystal palace) involving a lot of eye-catching mirror and motif work all around. The sun adds to the magic!

Bappa at Lalbaugcha raja Pandal, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, Mumbai

The artwork is the creative work of skilled artisans from Udaipur, Jaipur and Agra who have together carved the 620-foot set using Belgian glass using concave and convex mirrors for reflection. The mirrors are placed tactfully, at a specific angle so as to reflect the Raja's image, at the same time also throwing forth the light of the elegant chandeliers hung overhead.

This incredible play of lights creates a stunning effect not only on Bappa
but also on all of Bappa's fans passing through His giant-sized figure.

Closeup image of Bappa, Lalbaugcha raja Pandal, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, MumbaiCloseup of Bappa, Lalbaugcha raja Pandal, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, Mumbai

So now after moving out after the darshan, what do we take back as a souvenir?

The mark of Bappa, red vermillion powder or kumkum on your forehead,

Red kumkum on forehead at Lalbaugcha raja Pandal, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, Mumbai

Or, a sacred protective thread on your wrist,

Red sacred threads at Lalbaugcha raja Pandal, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, Mumbai

One of His pictures,

Souvenir of Bappa, Lalbaugcha raja Pandal, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, Mumbai

How about a selfie?

Selfie at Lalbaugcha raja Pandal, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, Mumbai

... Or ...

You can simply offer your heart
and, accept His love,

Red flowers at Lalbaugcha raja Pandal, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, Mumbai

He is Lalbaugcha Raja,
The King of the garden where love blooms.

Traveler Tips, FAQ's and Other Information related to Lalbaugcha Raja:

  • Location of Lalbaugcha Raja: Lalbaug market, GD Ambedkar Road, Lalbaug (central Mumbai).
  • Nearest Railway Station to visit Lalbaugcha Raja: Around 20 minutes walking distance from Lower Parel, Curry Road, and Chinchpolki stations.
  • Which mandal organizes Lalbaugcha Raja? Lalbaug Sarvajanik Ganeshostav mandal since 1934.
  • How long in the darshan line for Lalbaugcha Raja? The navas line is generally the more crowded and time taken to reach the deity whilst standing here, according to the locals, can sometimes go up as high as 15 hours. The Mukhdarshanachi general line is relatively more relaxed and easy-going with waiting-time ticking up to 5 hours. Apparently, navas line takes around as long as 20 hours. I stood in the general line and it took me only 15 minutes to reach the main platform of the Ganesha, that too on a weekend.
  • When to Visit Lalbaugcha Raja? It's open around the clock, for all 11 days of the festival. However, the busiest time are weekends, in the evening until midnight and early mornings.
  • When will Lalbaugcha Raja 2015 start its Visarjan journey and what is the route? The procession for the immersion (visarjan) will start out at 10 AM tomorrow i.e. 27th September, the final day of the festival, from the Lalbaug market taking the following route: Lalbaug, Bharat Mata Theatre, Lalbaug, Sane Guruji Marg, Byculla Railway Station, Clare Road, Nagpada, Dunkan Road, Don Taki, Sant Sena Maharaj Marg (Kumbharwada), Suthar Gully, Madhav Baug, C.P. Tank, V.P. Road, Opera House, Girgaon Chowpatti.



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16 comments:

  1. I am reading this post in the morning and feeling like being in Mumbai. Amazing pictures and journey dear Arti. :-) Love the enthusiasm of Mumbaikars.

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  2. Wonderful post, thanks a ton Arti for sharing the darshan of Lalbaugcha through your lens. Indeed blessed are those who get to see him.

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  3. Arti, Great to read about Lalbaugcha Raja , Awesome photos.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Ganpati Bappa Morya

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  4. Excellent captures and glimpses of the in and around the Ganesh Pandal – first time hearing about this Lalbaugcha Raja and from your post I know now how popular he is there. Magnificent setting for the larger idol and the glass work and reflections are impressive!

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  5. I so miss Mumbai in the festive season. And I'm so thankful to you for giving me this darshan through your post :-)
    Very well written Arti!

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  6. Wow, so many interesting photos of Mumbai! I enjoyed traveling the city with you! Lalbaugcha Ganesha looks powerful I especially like the eighth and tenth photos.

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  7. Nice pics and very well written, reminds us of our time at Mumbai.

    http://thetalesofatraveler.com/2015/09/28/squid-jigging-festival-2015-terengganu/

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  8. Lalbaugcha Raja sounds like a celebrity of the season. Thank you for taking us to see him.
    Very nice photo-feature, Arti. :)

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  9. Glass art work looks amazing. Ganesha Looks beautiful. 15 min Darshan of such a famous Ganesha sounds great but 20Hrs Nava line ??? :(

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  10. You know what? I've never been to Lalbaugcha Raja, it was great to visit it thru your eyes.
    Thanks for sharing.

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  11. there's total madness and chaos out there, yet it is so serene, isn't it? :-)
    Your post reminded me of my Lalbaug darshan two years back...
    this is such a lovely post Arti... thanks for sharing :-)

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  12. Amazing Shots.Feeling bless.:)

    Cheers,
    Sriram & Krithiga

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  13. Lovely pictures Arti. Thanks for the virtual visit to Lalbaugcha Raja.

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  14. Hi Arti,

    Super Impressed by this article of yours. I was at Lalbaug ka raja .. I have bad experience in night where it was immense crowd. I m wondering how did you manage to get such cool experience. Did you have VIP Pass, when did you go & who you went with ?

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    1. Hey Rutavi, sorry to hear about your unsatisfactory experience. I did not have any VIP pass, I visited on the 10th day of the festival and took the coveted darshan standing in the common man's 'Mukhdarshanachi' line!

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