In the city where Lokmanya Tilak started the Ganpati festival in 1893 mainly to forge unity and serve society,celebrations have turned flamboyant over the years but many Ganesh mandals still adhere to the original spirit.
They look at the 10-day festivity as a platform to offer something good for society. From providing underprivileged children a reason to cheer to allowing sex workers and eunuchs to perform the Ganesh arti,the mandals are involved in social work during the festival and throughout the year by conducting various activities like blood donation camps and felicitation of civic workers.
This year,we will donate foodgrain to orphanages by weighing bags of foodgrain against senior citizens,whom we regard as our gurus. Like last year,we will plant 10 saplings. Though this number is small,we take care that the saplings grow into trees. We purchase through auction,bicycles the city police confiscate from time to time. We donate the bicycles among needy children. We fix water leakages in our areas during the festival. Last year,we had selected residential places,this year,we have chosen a government hospital,where water leakages would be fixed, Shirish Mohite,president of Seva Mitra Mandal in Shukrawar Peth.
Living up to its name Seva,which means service,this mandal has carried out activities like picnic in the rain for visually challenged girls,on-the-spot felicitation of woman newspaper vendors,sending rakhis to jawans,Diwali celebrations with orphans so on and so forth.
The Ganesh festival provides reason for the youth in our locality to come together and do their bit for society. This gives us immense pleasure, Mohite said. Parag Thakur,office-bearer of the Mehunpura Mitra Mandal in Shaniwar Peth,said,Generally,members of one Ganesh mandal do not have friendly relations with those of other mandals. But we do not believe in such rivalry. In fact,we invite office-bearers of other mandals and felicitate them.
This year,we will felicitate people who remain behind the scenes,like those who create the idols,colour them also those who make sweets, he added.
Piyush Shah of Sainath Mandal Trust in Budhwar Peth said,During the festival,we invite prostitutes and eunuchs to perform arti. Throughout the year,we take up activities like paying school fees of needy children in about six Marathi schools in the city. We celebrate New Year with orphaned children. Last year,we had taken 165 children for a circus on the eve of New Year.
Mandals with a message
Even though most Ganesh mandals present tableaux based on mythology or history,over the years,there has been a trend to do something related to day-to-day happenings. The Metro rail project that has been generating a debate in the city will be the tableau at the Mehunpura Mitra Mandal. We will keep a box in the pandal,so that people can give their suggestions ( on the metro project) and objections,which we will convey to the civic body, Parag Thakur said.
The Sainath Mandal Trust will have rainwater harvesting as the pandal theme to encourage people to tap rainwater. Twashta Kasar Mitra Mandal in Kasba Peth will going have a tableau on the Belgaum border dispute,whereas the Seva Mitra Mandal will have a live show on the traditional guru-shishya tradition and todays education.