Ganesh Chaturthi – Ganeshotsav Festival Celebration in Mumbai

Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the most popular festivals in Mumbai. Celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi, also known as Vinayak Chaturthi, was introduced by Chhatrapati Shivaji but it had been popularized among the masses in present form by eminent freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak to awaken the people against the British rule. Ganesh Chaturthi in Mumbai is culturally the most religious community festive event. The fourth day of the Hindu month of Bhadrapad (August-September) is celebrated as the birthday of Ganesh, the jovial, elephant-headed deity of the Hindu pantheon. Different legends are current among the Hindus concerning the birth and the peculiar appearance of Ganesh. According to one legend, after her marriage to Shiv, Parvati remained sterile for a long time and desiring to have a son, propitiated Vishnu; this god, pleased with her devotion and in deference to her status in the pantheon, decided to get himself born as Parvati’s son.

On the birth of her son, Parvati invited to a feast all the gods and goddesses of the pantheon. As the distinguished guests arrived, they were shown the baby and each one congratulated Parvati, but Shani (Saturn) neither looked at the baby nor congratulated his mother. Parvati, offended by the discourteous behaviour of Shani, asked him what was worrying him, and Shani told her that he was handicapped by a curse of his jealous wife by which anything he looked on with pleasure would break into pieces. On this the proud mother declared that her baby was Vishnu himself in person, and enjoyed immunity from all evil. Thus encouraged, Shani came forward and felt great delight on beholding the beautiful face of the wonderful baby: and immediately the head of the child flew off into space. The wailing Parvati cursed Shani and he became a deformed monster; the gods flew in all directions in search of the head, but it was irretrievably lost. Parvati gave herself up to lamentation.

Something had to be done to vivify the trunk of the baby before it petrified and a resourceful god, finding an elephant sleeping in an objectionable manner, chopped off its head and brought it to Parvati. When this head was clamped on to the truncated body, the baby leapt again into life. The appearance of the renovated son of Parvati was not altogether pleasing, but Shiva promised to make him great by giving him the leadership of his Ganas (legions). This satisfied Parvati and the child was named Ganesh (‘lord of the Ganas’).

In another legend, the origin of Ganesh is attributed solely to Parvati without the aid of any male agency. The impecunious Shiva could not afford to keep guards at his gate, and Parvati, while she was having her bath, was often disturbed by visitors to whom there was none to give information about her whereabouts, especially when Shiva was out. So, one day, the goddess made an image of a boy from clay and the oil she was using, and infused life into it. She was highly pleased with the appearance of the young man and asked him to guard her house as Shiva had gone out, and then went for her bath. While Parvati was washing herself, Shiva returned from his peregrinations and was not a little surprised to find his entry into his own home blocked by the young stranger who wished to know what his business was!

Shiva has never been known for a genial disposition, and the young man proving unreasonable, the furious god blew his head to pieces. Parvati now came on the scene and finding that her son had been killed by her husband, started wailing which brought all the gods and goddesses to Mount Kailas, the abode of Shiva. The guests tried to console her but Parvati would not be satisfied with anything short of the revival of her son. The head of the boy was so badly shattered that even the gods could not find all the pieces. So Vishnu, to save the situation, mounted his charger Garuda and set out in search of a fitting head for the body of the boy. The first one he could procure was that of an elephant, and the boy was revived with this head on his neck. Parvati was not quite satisfied with this, but the gods promised that they would exalt him as the leader of the Vinayakas (a group of minor deities; Ganesh, hence, is also called Vinayak) and he would be made the first recipient of adoration in all rituals as the remover of obstacles (hence Vighnaharta), and this pacified the goddess.

Ganesh is the god of plenty and his potbelly signifies a good appetite. In order to remove every obstacle to the smooth progress of the year, Ganesh is worshipped by all orthodox Hindus on Ganesh Chaturthi day, and offerings of fruits, milk and pudding are made to him. In Maharashtra, specially made images of the god, usually of clay, are worshipped on the occasion and then taken in procession to some waterfront where the image is bidden farewell in a short ceremony, and then immersed in the water.

Mumbai is a great center for Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations, and thousands of images of the god, to suit all pockets, are made and sold. For domestic worship, householders usually buy small images but in every street community worship is offered to a life-size image of the god installed on a temporary altar constructed at a convenient place in the street. The image is worshipped for three days with hymns and offerings of edibles, and then taken in a grand procession for immersion. People perform ‘puja’ at home and also visit various ‘pandal’ to have a glimpse of the captivating Ganesh idols. The Lalbaughcha Raja (King of Lalbaug) mandal, founded in 1934 AD, attracts a sea of humanity every year and known for pompous celebration for Ganesh Chaturthi. On the main immersion day, the sea front in Mumbai is packed with people, and practically all the roads get blocked by processions in which Ganesh rides in chariots, victorias, motor cars and on the heads of devotees, towards his watery rest.

It is inauspicious to see the moon on Ganesh Chaturthi day. The moon is said to have irreverently laughed at Ganesh when this god slipped and fell one day. The handsome moon had always had a low opinion of Ganesh’s looks, but this was the first time his mirth was openly expressed, and Ganesh cursed him with the evil eye on account of which the moon was avoided by all and was compelled to hide himself for shame. The gods now interceded on behalf of the moon, this god himself tendered an apology, and Ganesh while cancelling the general effect of the curse, maintained that his insolence and shame should be perpetuated as a warning to others and declared that the moon should be in disgrace on Ganesh Chaturthi day. Those who see the moon during this period fear to be slandered, and even Krishna is said to have been falsely accused of the theft of a jewel due to his having seen the moon during Ganesh Chaturthi, and had considerable difficulty in clearing his honour. But fortunately, every evil has a remedy, and a person who sees the moon inadvertently on Ganesh Chaturthi day can forestall its ill effects by getting himself abused or manhandled by his neighbours soon after!

Ganesh Chaturthi, also called Ganeshotsav & Vinayak Chaturthi, is celebrated in Mumbai with religious zeal at home & pandal. In some parts of India, Ganesh is the god of good harvest, and after the immersion ceremony, clay is brought from the waterside and ceremoniously thrown into the barns and store-rooms for luck and plenty. Many travelers wish to visit the city to experience the religious exuberance. Customized Mumbai tour packages offer opportunity to enjoy the cultural surge of Ganesh Chaturthi along with visit to several tourist attractions in Mumbai. During city exploration, shopping in Mumbai happens to be one of the favourite activities. While hopping from one ‘pandal’ to another ‘pandal’, don’t miss to taste traditionally popular foods of Mumbai.

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