The cosmopolitan city of Mumbai has become the home of thousands who have migrated here. These people have become one with the local population and the city. With the Ganpati festival just around the corner, not just the Maharashtrians, all Mumbaikars are gearing up for the big festival.
Kanwal Shah Puri of Hari Niwas co-operative society, Churchgate, says, “I don’t celebrate Ganpati at home. I visit the sarvajanik mandals. I prefer going there, as the mood is sombre and it is the only time of the year when bhajans are played. They have a very nice and soothing effect. Even the ruffians seem to behave themselves. It takes away the hustle bustle of the city and throws it into a festive fervour.
The mandals are bustling with activities--from distribution of the prasad to exchanging topical ideas and social messages, it is all very refreshing. It is as if everyone, like Ganesha, is full of joy and ready to help. Though I am a non-Maharashtrian, I have never felt out of place when I visit the mandals.”
People have also become very aware of their responsibility towards the environment and do their best to protect it while celebrating Ganpati. From using natural clay to make Ganesha idols to using paper to make the makkar, people are doing their bit in their own way.
Sheiba Jasuja, a resident of Cuffe Parade, celebrates Ganpati in a slightly different way. “Even though we are Punjabis, we celebrate Ganpati since it is such a wonderful and happy occasion. We bring home an eco-friendly Ganpati idol and keep Ganpati for a period of one and a half days.
After we bring Ganpati home, a sthapna puja is performed by our panditji, after which we have a small bhajan programme, where we invite all our friends and relatives to sing bhajans in praise of Lord Ganesha. A lot of people come and we enjoy ourselves. We decorate our Ganpati with lots of flowers and lights. After the bhajan programme, we serve prasad to the guests, and then have dinner together.”
On asking what type of Ganesha they get home, Jasuja replied, “We are very conscious of our environment and want to disturb it as little as possible. We get an idol that is made up of Shaadu Ki Mitti, commonly known as natural clay. Even the makkar that we use is made up of paper. We try to re-use it year after year. We hope to motivate others to get eco-friendly Ganesha idols as well.”
Shopkeepers aver that people come to buy Ganpati from far off places, irrespective of region and religion. Atul Kurgaonkar, who owns a shop in the Lalbaug area says “It is not just the Maharashtrians, people of all religions and regions come and buy things for Ganapti. Ganpati is not about who is from where or what is his religion, it is about unity and oneness, and that is what we celebrate.”