Ganesh Chaturthi: The Light, The Lamp, The Darkness

By Garima Jayaswal

When I shifted from Kolkata to Mumbai, as fate would have it, I found myself in an apartment in Ganeshnagar, Lalbaug. Like most outstation people Lalbaug had no special significance to me, and little did I know that it is Lalbaug that hosted the city’s biggest and the most opulent Ganesh Chaturthi. Every day on my way to college I saw certain developments from the enclosure, until a few days before the festival, I stood there dumbfounded staring at a 40 feet idol draped in cloth. The security was airtight the iron bars stood firm to the ground; the red carpets rolled out, and the humongous loudspeakers ready to roar; building’s submerged in rice lights, the whole area in and around the enclosure embellished with flowers and dazzling lights; and the growing excitement on the faces of people eager to pompously celebrate their God’s homecoming.

And it hasn’t even started yet!


It is as royal as the name suggests, maybe more not less. I woke up that morning to the sound of shankhs, dhol and lazem beats heralding the homecoming of Ganesha the remover of obstacles – Vighneshwara or Vignaraja. I peeked a glance from my window, bewildered to see a sea of devotees queued up to get `darshan.’ It is said that about 10-12 lakh people come and visit the pandals every day! Here I thought Durga Puja was as crazy as you could get!

Earlier Ganesh Chaturthi was a very private affair celebrated individually in homes. It was Bal Gangadhar Tilak who first started the tradition of celebrating it publically and together, hence giving rise to Sarvajanik Ganeshustav. So today there are two types: celebrating publically in pandals and privately at homes. The tradition is to bring home the idol on the day of Ganesh Chaturthi or to the pandal, and then the idol is worshipped and offered gold, modak, flowers, milk, clothes and various other offerings. The idol is to be immersed into the sea on the first, third, fifth, seventh or the twenty first day of the festival. While the idol is in the house, friends, family, neighbours are invited and given the ‘prasadam’ and food. With welled up eyes and heavy hearts the idol is then immersed into the sea. “Ganapati bappa maurya, pudchya varshi laukayarya!” Which means hail the lord Ganesh and may he come soon next year. Thus the visarjan ceremony puts an end to the year’s celebration.

My experience however does not end here, as much as having enjoyed the festivities in the week, what happens after that had a more long-lasting effect on me. As the saying goes – “beneath every luminescent lamp, there is darkness cast by its own shadow.”

After seven days of the speakers blasting Bollywood chartbusters, it finally stopped much to my relief. I stepped out of my house expecting normalcy, what I saw was beyond normalcy. It was as if we were hit by a hurricane! The enclosure was dilapidated, flowers that once adorned the pandal were strewn all around, rotting in heaps and the remains of the burnt leftover firecrackers covering the once plush red carpet. I saw a beggar ushering into the broken remains and searching the area for food while heaps of extra prasad rotted in the dustbin. Ironically in a podium close by there was an auction of the jewellery donated, the figures quoted were in lakhs, not even thousands.

We are so mesmerised by the grandeur and splendour that we forget the spirit and the significance behind it, wasn’t this festival revived to bring about social harmony? Or is it is just about celebration and show of wealth? That very evening I went to the beach, I saw those glorious idols disintegrated and mutilated, lying on the beach covered in mud and sand, clearly even the sea got repulsed and threw it ashore.

God made us.

We made God.

The God we made turns into dust, and the God that made us turns us into dust.

Divine justice, won’t you say?

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