AT A time when Ganesh mandals are competing for extravagant themes, bigger idols, colourful decor and more publicity, Mumbai’s first Ganpati sits in one quiet corner, surrounded by 150 tenants of the Keshavji Naik Chawl in Girgaum. Established in 1893, the Shree Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Sanstha brings a similar-looking two and half feet idol every year during Ganesh Chaturthi.
The Sanstha claims that theirs is the first ‘sarvajanik’ or local Ganesh mandal in the city. It also boasts of having played host to freedom fighter Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, who began Ganeshotsav celebrations in Maharashtra, in the year 1901.
Bhalchandra Gharat, president of the Sanstha, said, “Till date, we celebrate the festival in a very traditional manner. There are no loudspeakers, no dhol-tasha, no expensive lights, decor or themes that we incorporate. Tilak’s idea behind introducing Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav was to get people together, discuss political and social conditions. We seem to be forgetting all of this and concentrating only on spending more.”
Interestingly, the Sanstha has also been ordering its idol from the same sculptor family for the last four generations. The 122-year-old, small Ganesh idol is placed amid fresh flowers within a temple-like structure made out of thermocol. In front of the idol, the residents have put-up a small stage where children perform musical plays and dance-dramas during the 10-day festival.
“We hold song and dance competitions. These are the things that even Tilak had emphasised on when he began the festival,” Gharat added.
The 10-day Ganesh festival began on September 17. The Sanstha immerses the idol only on the last day of the festival. The Sanstha had also established a website in the year 2000. The website — 1stganeshfestival.com — provides users with information about the significance of Ganesh Chaturthi, the history of the organisation and its activities.