I will whisper secrets in your ears,
just nod yes and be silent ~ Rumi
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Sarvajanik Fortcha Icchapurti Raja (Wish-fulfilling Ganesha situated in Fort area, Mumbai):
The other day, I was reading an article titled 'The Top Ganpati Pandals in Mumbai' on the web. As I browsed through the entries, I found the regulars featured in the list: Lalbaugcha Raja, Ganesh Galli, GSB Mandal Ganpati, etc. but the one that caught my eye also inspired me to hop over and meet not one, not two but 42 Ganeshas not only from India but from all over the world!
Fortcha Icchapurti Ganesh at Fort had summoned me in!
Entering in, the artwork was extravagant right from the word go. On the side walls of the pandal gate are stories from the puranas related to various Gods and Goddesses in the Hindu mythology. You can see musical instruments like the veena and the tabla along with Lord Natraja at the top signifying the spirit of melody and music that is so close to Ganesha's heart.
The Fortcha Ganesha Mandal is not only one of the top mandals in Mumbai but also one that has a long legacy attached to it. The inception of the mandal dates back to the pre-independence era, when Lokmanya Tilak had initiated the festival to unite people under the pretext of bhakti, devotion, decoration and music. Since then, the mandal has come a long way - this year stepping into its 60th, it pays homage to the great personalities of Lokmanya Tilak and Shivaji Maharaj at the entrance.
The queue to meet the King of Fort, Fortcha Raja is huge and I am in a dilemma.
Should I stand, should I leave?
A voice within eggs me on and I am in. It takes me around 2 hours waiting in the queue on a weekday but for the sights and the sounds I witnessed all along, it unravels to be a time well spent.
I am saying hello to 42 Ganeshas from various temples, some known, some unknown, some seen, many unseen, housed in one place... it is like a a little fantasy land, like stepping into the unknown world I have always visualized in my dreams.
I get a glimpse of ancient Ganesha temples from the interiors of Maharashtra like Fadke Wadi Ganpati, Girgaun and Dolya Ganpati - names never heard of. There is Mysore, Madurai, Orissa as also Ganeshas from China, Japan, Rome and Cambodia - all vying for my curious attention. The intricate motifs add to the splendiferous beauty strewn all around.
You pass the 8 important Ganesha deities of Maharashtra - The Ashtvinayaks, lined up on both sides of the stairs leading you to the main palatial hall housing the Fortcha Ganesha.
Along the way, is a bhajan mandali, a group of artistes and musicians that sing melodious songs to up the devotional tempo of the air.
The main hall of the pandal housing the Fortcha Ganesha is where a beautiful thematic 9 feet idol of wish-fulfilling Ganesha sits like a maharaja lovingly attending to His subjects.
They say, He is the Icchapurti Ganpati... He shall fulfil all your wishes,
But the thing is, when I finally stand in front of Him,
... I forget everything ...
Stop the words now.
Open the window in the center of your chest,
and let the spirits fly in and out.
Traveller tips, FAQ's and other information:
Location of Fortcha Raja: Ballard Estate, Near Fort GPO, Fort, Mumbai.
Nearest Railway Station: Churchgate (Western line) and CST (Central line).
Best time to visit Fortcha Raj: During the day. As it tends to get crowded in the evenings and the weekends.