India is a fascinating country known for its rich cultural diversity. Here people from various religions and cultural background celebrate different festivals together with great enthusiasm. Among the many festivals celebrated here, Ganesh Chathurti is one festival that is celebrated with great pomp in Maharashtra, specifically by a large number of Lord Ganesha devotees in the most elaborate way. During this festival, huge pandals decorated artistically come up all across Mumbai and other parts of the state. Processions of devotees dancing while carrying colourful idols of Lord Ganesh on small platforms can also be witnessed on the streets. The Indian film industry also celebrates this festival with immense devotion.
Inception of the Ganpati Festival
In order to promote the Maharashtrian culture, this festival was introduced by the well-known ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaja. Legendary freedom fighter Lokmanya Tilak popularised this festival by making it a public ceremony. The idea was to bring harmony among Indians when they were fighting for freedom from British Colonial rule. It was considered one of the best ways to arouse a sense of unity amongst Indians to fight against their common enemy. The first public procession was conducted in 1893 and since then, every year this tradition has witnessed more participants with each passing year.
What are the customs and traditions of this festival?
The people of Maharashtra celebrate this festival every year with enthusiasm. The celebration lasts for ten days but some people celebrate it for 21 days. The entire city is decorated with attractive lights and other decorations. The idol of Lord Ganesha is welcomed on the first day of the celebration. Initially, the face of the idol is covered, and it is revealed at the beginning of the Puja.
Modak or laddoos are the special offerings to the deity, which are considered the favourite food of the Lord Ganesha. In order to please the Lord, various devotional songs, Ganesh aarti and hymns are chanted. The family hosting the deity invites their loved ones for celebrations. It is customary not to let the guests leave empty-handed. Several communities also host the event, which is open for all the devotees. Markets are decorated, and food lovers can enjoy various sweets and snacks.
Bidding Farewell to Lord Ganesha
The 11th day stands as the last day of the festival when the deity proceeds for his heavenly adobe. It is believed that Lord Ganesha comes to earth for 10 days and gives an opportunity to his devotees to rejoice in harmony. The processions begin in the early morning and the final immersion of the idol takes place by midnight. People bid adieu to the idols of the deity by immersing them in water bodies after the Ganesh Utsav. A farewell procession called ‘Visarjan’ is conducted on the last day, which is witnessed by thousands of enthusiasts.
Along with the spectators, there are many singers, priests, dancers and acrobats which add glory to this procession. The idol is offered coconut, flowers, sweets and fruits on its final journey. ‘Ganapati Bappa Morya’ is the famous slogan, which is chanted by the devotees. Most of the idols are immersed into the Arabian Sea. Chowpati Beach in Mumbai, which is located just 1 km away from Marine drive witnesses the maximum number of processions.
How to celebrate Ganesha Chaturthi in an eco-friendly way?
With the immersion of the Ganesh Idol in various water bodies, serious environmental hazards have been observed in the form of water pollution. Not just that, the non-biodegradable waste in the form of thermocol and plastic takes further toll on the environment. To maintain the spirit of the festival without harming the environment, the environment specialists have recommended the following ways to celebrate Ganesha Chaturthi in an eco-friendly way:
- Limiting the number and size of Ganesh idols in community
Bigger the idol, the greater the environment-threatening materials (used to make the idol) immersed in the water bodies. Hence, the height of the idol should be limited to 5 feet. Moreover, huge idols also take much longer to dissolve into water. Transporting a huge idol is also a difficult proposition leading to massive road congestion as well. Hence, the focus should be on performing the rituals of the festival diligently, instead of showcasing the huge idols.
- Using Eco-Friendly Idols
Opting for bio-degradable materials is the safest way to keep the environment clean. People organising the Ganesh Chathurti puja at their residences often get the idols crafted from chocolates, which are immersed in the milk on the last day. This chocolate milk is served to the needy children adding to the fervour of the festivity. Unbaked clay and paints with natural colours should be used for crafting the idols in community celebrations.
- Saying No to Noise Pollution
Environmental threat on Ganesh Chaturthi is not limited to water pollution; in fact, loud music also leads to serious noise pollution. Low sound instruments like tabla and mridangam should replace the loudspeakers, which cause disturbance to the elderly people, children and patients. Firecrackers should also be avoided as it contributes to air pollution. People should abide by the rule of not using speakers after 10 p.m.
- Restraining the Number of Pandals
Instead of building several pandals in every neighbourhood, one massive pandal should be built for each area or zone, which can accommodate a large number of devotees. It will lead to lesser garbage disposal and fewer immersions on the last day. This will also strengthen the harmony of the festival by reducing traffic congestion on the day of immersion. Money will also be saved and can be used towards community development.
- Avoiding Plastic Bags
Plastic bags are used to carry flowers, sweets, fruits and various other offerings to God. Thereafter, people throw these plastic bags carelessly causing a serious threat to the environment. Hence, biodegradable bags should be promoted to avoid environmental pollution. For disposing of ‘Nirmaya’ as well as other offerings, eco-friendly bags must be used. To distribute Prasad, banana leaves should replace the plastic bags and plastic bowls.
Not just in Mumbai, this grand festival is celebrated in many other states of India like Ahmadabad. To witness the true essence of this festival, several people from Ahmadabad and other cities visit Mumbai. With several Ahmedabad to Mumbai flights options, it is easy for residents of Ahmadabad to book a flight as per their convenience. So, get ready to soak in the spirit of Ganesh Chaturthi in an elaborate way.