Long queues wait patiently outside magnificent pandals, for a glimpse of Bappa. As the day ends, the line gets longer, the pandals get brighter and the mood gets more celebratory. For the maximum city, no time is too late to worship its favourite god.
“We stay open 24/7 for darshan, but most devotees throng the pandal between 6 pm and 6 am. The crowds only get larger during weekends,” says Aniket Singh, chief volunteer, Lalbaug Sarvajanik Utsav Mandal, Ganesh Galli.
A kilometre-long queue gathers before the pandal for the darshan and the organisers have quite a task at hand to maintain order. “We ask people to queue up behind the barricades and form two queues. But even then, both the lines go up to a kilometre. Around 400-500 volunteers are deployed to manage the crowd just during the night,” says Singh.
Brightly lit and beautifully decorated, the pandals are a treat to the eyes. While the Ganesh Galli pandal has been made as a replica of Vellore’s Sripuram Golden Temple with a 22-feet idol, the Azad Nagar Sarvajanik Utsav Samiti pandal in Andheri is a replica of Pali’s Ballaleshwar Temple. The Goud Saraswat Brahmin (GSB) Seva Mandal in Wadala, said to be one of the richest pandals in the city, has a 14-feet idol with its hands, legs and hips made of gold and decorated with diamonds.
While the GSB Mandal closes by midnight, it has a flurry of activities conducted during the night. In the evenings after 7.30, they conduct ‘Rang Puja’ and ‘Pushpa Puja’, where individuals can come forward to conduct the ritual. This is followed by dinner, where they serve food for up to 3,000 people. After the final ‘Ratri Puja’ at 10.30 pm, an hour of cultural programmes is organised, where people volunteer to sing bhajans on the stage set up before the idol.
“People continue to come for darshan till midnight. But here, we stress on the pujas. Those who find it difficult to conduct pujas at home can do so here at nominal amounts. They cost anywhere between Rs 100 to Rs 5,000,” said Subhash Pai, convenor of the pandal.
Andhericharaja, in the suburbs, also draws massive crowds at night. Apart from the lighting and decoration, the pandal also has a mela with food and games. “Ninety percent of the devotees come to the pandal at night. After a hard day’s work, people like to come here and enjoy with their children. Our giant wheel is a major attraction for kids,” said Uday Salyan, spokesperson for the pandal.
“For working class people like us, it is only possible to go for darshan at night. It is a different experience, going together with the full family. It is our idea of a night-out. However, the rush has its negatives — pick-pocketing, long queues and eve-teasing,” said Chandrakant Deshpande, a bank employee from Andheri.