Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Ganesh Visarjan: Ganpati Bappa Morya, Pudchya Varshi Lavkarya!

Big idol of Ganesha off for Ganesh Visarjan, Mumbai

There are no goodbyes for us.
Wherever you are, you will always be in my heart.
 ~ Mahatma Gandhi 

27th September, Ganesh Visarjan: Ananth Chaturdashi (last day of the 11 day Ganesh Chaturthi festival) >>

The sun is fast dipping in the ocean of the sky; the enthusiasm fast rising among the sea of people. 

Our beloved Ganesha is on His journey Home. He will soon be immersed in a body of water which will take Him back to the place from where He arrives. The immersion is just the climax, there is more to the picture. Before the immersion is the farewell... a farewell that is grand, the best His fans can do for this larger-than-life deity that they adore.

Dhols and music during Ganesh Visarjan ceremony, Mumbai

The drums are beating loud, the dances are ecstatic and the songs are hovering between the religious and the filmi. The festival tempo is high, the jaws - drooped.

A Balloon seller at the festival of Ganesh Visarjan, Mumbai

Exactly 11 days back, the same streets were draped in enthusiasm too, but of a slightly different kind. Then, there was an elated joy of Ganesha being welcomed in (Ganesh Sthapana). Today: there is melancholia mixed, that of Ganesha moving out colouring the mood. It is not very easy to say goodbye, to see someone close - go.

A small kid in a melancholic mood during the festival of Ganesh Visarjan, Mumbai

Today: He is not only a God descended from the heavens, not just a larger than life figure of the legends and lore... but today, He is the common man, the aam aadmi, one among the crowds - out on the streets, in the open, waving His celestial wand of goodwill, blessings and benevolence to all.

Divine Ganesha taken for Ganesh immersion in Mumbai

After residing comfortably for 11 days under temporary tented canopies or pandalstoday, He chooses the sky as His only cover. The water as His Ultimate solace. He doesn't mind a pollution-free ride on a hand-drawn cart to the site of His immersion. He loves being created in an eco-friendly way. He is a devoted son. He loves adorning the natural gifts existent in this wonderful creation, those that transcend all social boundaries, those are His most likeable props.

A red colored Ganesha off for immersion in a hand drawn cart during the festival of Ganesh Visarjan, Mumbai
Ganesha riding in hand drawn cart.
Last capture of Ganesha off for immersion during the festival of Ganesh Visarjan, Mumbai
The Watermelon Ganesha!

As the black of the night gets deeper, the swarm on the streets gets stronger. People from all walks of life are walking together. In this unity, the diverse social boundaries that exist go out of focus... merge. Peace envelops this diversity.

Last capture of Ganesha off for immersion during the festival of Ganesh Visarjan, Mumbai

What is in focus, today? Only Bappa.

Most of the people are crazy to get a picture of their superstar. Pictures are their memories of the happy celebrations with the birthday boy Ganesha - of the sweet melody of the arti or prayer, of gulping down extremely delicious modaks or the sweets or of pampering Him with flowers, incense sticks, coconuts and garlands - wisps of devotion freezed in their hearts.

Clicking Ganesha during the festival of Ganesh Visarjan, Mumbai

If crowds are too thick to penetrate, there are facilities of E-darshan too: big TV screens on the streets so that everyone is taken care of and no one looses His sight in the chaos.

A TV display of Ganesha during the festival of Ganesh Visarjan, Mumbai
Swayumbhu Siddhivinayak Ganesha temple in Borivli, the temple that also houses an artificial lake.
Darshan of E-Ganesha on the street during Ganesh Visarjan, Mumbai
Take the blessings of E-Bappa!

Beneath the twilight sky, all inhibitions are dropped so that the conversations can flow free... He is looked lovingly in the eye and spoken to, softly within the fields of the heart.

Listen to the many things He's got to say...

A huge idol of Ganesha off for immersion during the festival of Ganesh Visarjan, Mumbai

Have the soul of a warrior: fierce and strong -

Eco friendly watermelon Ganesha off for immersion during the festival of Ganesh Visarjan, Mumbai

Yet, be like a little child: wonderfully curious and actually free!

Child form Ganesha off for immersion during the festival of Ganesh Visarjan, Mumbai

Care for Mother Nature: Be friendly with the eco-system, save water.

Save water campaign spread during the festival of Ganesh Visarjan, Mumbai
Save water message spread during the festival of Ganesh Visarjan, Mumbai

Water is His bridge to the Heavens. He takes a couple of dips in the gently flowing water. As if pointing towards the transient nature of the flowing life. And finally, the moment, He departs. Saying a goodbye that is a bit painful but not forever:

|| Ganpati Bappa Morya,
Pudchya Varshi Lavkarya ||

A Ganesha immersed in an artificial pond during the festival of Ganesh Visarjan, Mumbai

Be well,
my Friend Ganesha -
Come soon, and keep in touch :)

You may also check out more pictures and information on Ganesh Visarjan from my posts in previous years:


Sunday, September 27, 2015

Mumbai Ganpati Pandal - Sarvajanik Fortcha Icchapurti Ganesha

Through the mouse ears, Fortcha Icchapurti Ganesha, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, Mumbai

I will whisper secrets in your ears,
just nod yes and be silent ~ Rumi

------------------- *** -------------------

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!

Famous Fortcha Icchapurti Ganesha, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, Mumbai

 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.

Magnificient palace of Fortcha Icchapurti Ganesha, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, Mumbai

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.

Ganeshas from different countries at Fortcha Icchapurti Ganesha, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, Mumbai


Different Ganeshas at Fortcha Icchapurti Ganesha, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, MumbaiVivid Ganeshas installed at Fortcha Icchapurti Ganesha, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, Mumbai


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.

Bhajan Mandli at Fortcha Icchapurti Ganesha, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, Mumbai

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.

Stunning spplendour of palatial Fortcha Icchapurti Ganesha, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, Mumbai

It's a huge fort-cum-castle erected lavishly conceptualised by Ravi Surve, one of the organisers and an ardent devotee Himself. What is impressive is that the everything is constructed out of eco-friendly materials, one that glitters in dazzling chandeliers hanging from the aesthetically pleasing ceiling, the alluring 9 foot tall Icchapurti Ganesha adorned in 60 kgs pure gold and an assembly of 42 differently styled Ganeshas from the world over.

Crowds at Fortcha Icchapurti Ganesha, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, Mumbai

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,

Grand idol of Fortcha Icchapurti Ganesha, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, Mumbai

... I forget everything ...

Beautifully decorated Fortcha Icchapurti Ganesha, Ganesh Pandal Hopping, Mumbai

Stop the words now.
Open the window in the center of your chest,
and let the spirits fly in and out.
~ Rumi.

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.

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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