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One of the biggest festivals celebrated in India, Ganesh Chaturthi marks the birth anniversary of the elephant-headed god Ganesh. According to Hindu mythology, Ganesh is revered as the “remover of obstacles”, the lord of wisdom and intellect, and it is customary to begin every religious ceremony and new endeavour with a tribute to him. The word ‘chaturthi’ means ‘fourth day’ as the festival is celebrated on the fourth day of the first fortnight (Shukla Chaturthi) in the month of Bhadrapada of the Hindu lunar calendar.
This year, Ganesh Chaturthi has fallen on September 5 (coinciding with Teachers’ Day celebrations), and preparations began almost a month in advance. The pace picks up over the last week, with people usually welcoming Ganesh idols into their homes and temples on the day before Ganesh Chaturthi.
This festival acquires a lot more significance across Maharashtra, and particularly Mumbai. Massive pandals are built across the city to give public Ganesh darshans (sightings) to devotees. The idols themselves are beautifully crafted – often with an innovative twist – splashed with vibrant colours and intricate detailing, almost as if the God Ganesh would come to life. The air is charged with excitement and the constant chant of Ganpati Bappa Maurya rings through. Of the series of community pujas organised across Mumbai, the Lalbaugcha Raja has acquired a particular significance. It is the most famous Sarvajanik Ganpati in the city, and people throng to pay their respects to the Lalbaugcha Raja not only from across Mumbai, but the state as well.
This year, the extensive festivities and pujas organised at Lalbaugcha is being streamed live for devotees across the world.
At lalbaugcha Raja, aartis are conducted according to the auspicious mauhurat in the morning and evenings, and prasad is distributed among attendees. This year’s idol – which was unveiled to the public on September 2 – sits regally on an owl throne. The stage is dramatically set up and lit in blue, while the life-like idol seemingly pops out in all its magnificence and grandeur.
At the end of the Ganesh festival, idol will be bid goodbye and immersed into the sea.