The Shrimant Dagadusheth Halwai Ganpati Temple,the most popular among thousands of Ganesh mandals in the city,is celebrating its 121th year. In keeping with its tradition,the trust this year will install the Ganesh idol in a replica of Chamundeshwari Temple of Mysore. Ashok Godse,chairman of the trust,speaks to Atikh Rashid on continuing the great tradition of the temple and at the same time coping with the security challenge.
In view of the threat perception,what steps has your mandal taken to ensure a safe festival?
The terror threat to Dagadusheth Temple is something which is continuously hovering over the temple and festival for the last few years. We need to ensure that all the necessary security steps,as suggested by the police,are taken to secure the pandal and premise. We also need to see that the faith and devotion with which the devotees visit Bappa is not hurt while following the security norms.
The police tell us that the bomber could even come posing as a devotee. They tell us that we should scan each and every sweet box and coconut that comes inside the temple because explosives could be hidden inside. We are co-operating with the police as much as we could. We also dont want to densanctify a devotees offerings that he or she brings with so much devotion and love due to the security procedure. We are trying to sensitise devotees to contribute for some construction work instead of spending on sweets and other such offerings.
The Ganesh festival in the state has changed considerably. Is it for better or worse?
The festival has changed with each generation. Several bad practices have come into the festivals. During the 10 sacred days instead of indulging in prayers and good work,people engage in drunken obscene dances and gambling right inside the pandals. However,it would be wrong to colour all the mandals with the same brush. I would say that as many as 70 per cent mandals are good with their workers staying away from bad things.
There is a positive change too. More and more women are participating in the festival. About 35-40 years ago,not a single woman would have been part of the immersion procession. Today women participate in the festivities,bhajan gatherings and processions. There are many womens only dhol tasha pathaks.
How is Dagadusheth Trust contributing to make the festival environment-friendly?
While judging the mandals who participate in our competitions for Ganesh mandals in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad,the environment friendliness of the festival is kept in mind. Through this competition we also create awareness about the need to go eco-friendly. The Ganesh idol,which is established in my own house,is immersed in a PMC pond and not in river.
What instructions will you give to the devotees who will visit the temple?
They should come with the faith,devotion and joy and without any fear. What they need to do,however,is to co-operate with the police.