The land of many religions and faiths, India has some of the most vibrant and interesting festivals in the world. Each religion has its own unique festival and traditions. In India, the festival season starts in August and continues till the end of the year. And Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the most important and much awaited festivals of all. Ganesh Chaturthi, which is also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi, is celebrated in honor of Ganesha, the elephant-headed god. The festival is celebrated on chaturthi or the fourth day of the Hindu month Bhaadrapada. Ganesha festival usually lasts ten days and this year it will start on September 5. Also Read - Real Kashmir Announce Partnership With Oxford United Football Club, Sign Arsenal Youth Defender Kashif Siddiqui

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Ganesha is the god of wisdom and remover of obstacles. The story of Ganesha’s birth is very interesting. According to mythology, Parvati was preparing for a bath and she didn’t want to be disturbed. So, she created a human figure, breathed life into it and asked him to guard the door while she bathed. At this time, Shiva returned home and was stopped by this stranger from entering. Enraged at his audacity, Shiva severed his head. Shiva soon realized that the person was Parvati’s son and fearing her anger, he asked his ganas (attendants) to find a head of any living creature. The ganas could only manage the head of an elephant. Shiva placed the elephant’s head on the body and brought him back to life.  The elephant god was named Ganesha, which means the lord of ganas. Also Read - After Lockdown is Over, Automated Sector to Resume Operations First | 5-Point Strategy

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CELEBRATION OF GANESH CHATURTHI

Ganesh Chaturthi was first publicly celebrated in Pune during the reign of the Peshwas whose family deity he was. But after the fall of the Peshwas, the festival became a private family affair in Maharashtra. Ganesh Chaturthi was revived by Indian social reformer and freedom fighter, Lokmanya Tilak. He popularized the festival and used it as a front for revolutionary activities.  He introduced the practice of immersing the idols in sea, river or other water bodies after the ten days of celebration.

Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated in many parts of the country like Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Goa and Karnataka, but people in Maharashtra take this celebration to another level. You must visit Pune and Mumbai during the Ganesh Chaturthi festival celebration to witness the grandeur. The streets are lit and shops are decorated. Huge public pandals are constructed and beautiful clay image of Ganesha is installed. You will see many Ganesha pandals on the streets of Mumbai and many of them follow themes like antiterrorism. Preparation for the public celebration begins months before the festival. The committees putting up these pandals compete with each other to erect the best and biggest pandal and install the biggest Ganesha idol. During the ten days of celebration many competitions are held in these pandals.

In Mumbai, the most famous pandals are Goud Saraswat Brahmin (GSB) Mandal and Lalbaugcha Raja. Thousands of people wait in queue for a glimpse of the beautiful face of Lalbaugcha Raja idol. Located in Lalbaug Market, this idol of Ganesha is believed to be Navsacha Ganpati (the one who fulfills wishes).  The unveiling of Lalbaugcha Raja is a major event and is covered by regional and national channels. Be prepared to wait for long hours to offer your prayers at this mandal.

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GSB mandal is another mandal you must visit to see the grandeur. Located in King Circle, the GSB Seva Mandap uses over 60kg of gold to decorate the Ganesha idol. The mandal was founded by Karnataka’s Brahmin community in 1954. You will be immersed in the spirit of the festival at the madap that plays traditional music. The Prasad distributed here is usually South Indian dishes. You will have to wait in a long queue for darshan but it will be worth it. GSB Ganesha idol is taken for visarjan on the fifth day.

At home, Ganesha festival is celebrated by installing a smaller idol of Ganesha in a beautifully decorated mandap. Having Gnesha at home is like have a guest. Poojas are performed in the evening and morning with family and friends. The idol is offered flowers, modak and durva. People also sing aartis in honor of Ganesha. One of the main aartis in Maharashtra is Sukhkarta Dukhharta, which was composed in the 17th century by poet saint Ramdas. Some devotees even fast during the Ganesha festival, while some abstain from non-vegetarian food and alcohol during this period. During this festival, Siddhivinayak Temple located in Prabhadevi see more crowd than usual days.

VISARJAN OF GANESHA IDOLS

The 10-day of puja, competitions, modaks (Ganesha’s favourite food), reciting hymns and the celebration come to an end with the Visarjan, the immersion of the idol in a water body. It is the day when you can see millions of people dancing and travelling to the waterfront with their Ganesha idols in a large procession for visarjan. The procession includes people playing traditional instrument called dhol and tasha. The air reverberates with the chant of ‘Ganpati Bappa Morya’. The grey sky of the September gets in bright pink with the gulal (coloured powder) thrown by the people dancing in the procession. This grand procession inches towards the sea for visarjan or immersion. In Mumbai, over 150,000 idols are immersed every year.

Traditionally, the idols are immersed in any water body but because of the environmental pollution caused by this process, these days people immersed the idol in a container at home. The idol is left in the container to dissolve and later this water is used in the garden. Different schedule is followed for the immersion. Although there are no specific rules for immersion of the idol, immersion can be done only on some specific days. You can perform the visarjan after one and half day, on third day, fifth day, seventh day or the last day, which is called Anant Chaturdashi. This year one and half day falls on September 6, third day falls on September 7, fifth day falls on September 9, seventh day visarjan falls on September 11 and the last day also known as Anant Chaturdashi falls on September 15.

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The visarjan on the fifth day is also called Gauri visarjan. Gauri puja is also performed during the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi. Gauri puja is performed mainly in Maharashtra. Gauri is goddess Parvati and mother of Ganesha. The idol of Gauri is brought home along with the Ganesha idol during the festival. It is believed that arrival of Gauri brings happiness, wealth, health and prosperity. Devotees decorate the idol of Gauri by dressing the idol in beautiful cloths and with jewellery like necklace, bangles and nose ring. Flowers and garlands are also offered to the goddess. In many parts of Maharashtra, the idol is brought home two days after the start of Ganesha festival and pujas are performed for three days before it is immersed on the fifth day of the festival. In some parts of the state, two idol of Gauri are brought home during the festival. According to a legend, the two idols of Gauri are Ganesha’s sisters and they always follow him.

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The first day of Gauri puja is the avahana (arrival), the second day Satyanarayan puja is performed and the third day (fifth day of Ganesh Chaturthi) Gauri idol is immersed in a water body. A pujari is invited to conduct the Gauri puja. After the puja, the goddess is offered rice, a piece of cloth, fruits and flowers. On the night of Gauri puja, women gather to sing Mangala Gauri bhajan and worship the goddess for health and prosperity. This function is for women and taking part in this gathering is considered auspicious especially for newly married women. On the fifth day of Ganesh Chaturthi is Gauri visarjan. The final aarti is performed and special Prasad is prepared before the visarjan of Gauri. Many people immerse Ganesha also on the same day.

After hosting Ganesha for 10 days, people get attached to him and visarjan of the idol is always an emotional process. You will find people with teary eyes bidding adieu to their beloved elephant god. They chant ‘Pudchya Varshi Laukarya,’ which means come again next year.

WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF GANESH VISARJAN?

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Ganesha is a supreme being and we bring Him into our house in the form of an idol. After the festival, this idol is immersed in the water, which means He becomes formless again. The festival teaches us that the body perishes but the energy remains.

VISARJAN LOCATIONS IN MUMBAI

In Mumbai, the major sites for Ganesha immersion are Girgaon Chowpatty, Powai Lake, Juhu Beach and Varsova Beach. Usually Police constables and other volunteers are deployed to maintain order and manage the whole process.

Girgaon Chowpatty: If you want to see the most famous and largest Ganesha idols head to Girgaon Chowpatty. Also known as Chowpatty, Girgaon Chowpatty is located in Girgaon region of Mumbai adjoining Marine Drive. The beach is one of the famous beaches in Mumbai. It is well known for Ganesh Chaturthi celebration and Visarjan. Lakhs of people from Mumbai and Pune visit Chowpatty to bid farewell to the elephant god. The processions generally start out in the morning and slowly inches towards Chowpatty. The streets are filled with the devotees waiting patiently to see Ganesha idols passing through the street for visarjan. Drumming, dancing, music and fire crackers are part of the procession. You will see Ganesha idol of different sizes in everywhere on the beach. People huddle together and perform the final aarti, distribute Prasad and take the idol for visarjan.

This is where the most famous Sarvajanik GanapatiLalbaugcha Raja is taken for Visarjan on the auspicious day of Anant Chaturdashi. The procession for the visarjan of Lalbaugcha Raja begins at about 10 am on the tenth day of the celebration. The procession starts from Lalbaug market and moves towards Lalbaug, Bharat Mata Theatre. From there it goes to Byculla Railway Station, Dunkan Road, Sant Sena Maharaj Marg, Madhav Baug, Opera House and finally reaching Girgaon Chowpatti. People flock to these places to see Lalbaugcha Raja for one last time before the visarjan. The procession takes entire to reach the immersion spot and the Visarjan takes place the next morning. Ganesha idols from other renowned mandals are also brought here for immersion and their procession is something you must not miss. The excitement and the mood are infectious during this time.

If you are planning to see Ganesh Visarjan at Girgaon Chowpatty, make sure to reach the place by about 1pm to 2pm as it gets crowded by evening. Since roads will blocked due to the processions and crowd, take the local train to Grant Road from there you can make your way to Girgaon Chowpatty. Be prepared to for crowded streets and loud music. There are several eateries around the place that will take care of your growling tummy and will keep you fuelled for the revelry.

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Powai Lake: Powai Lake is another famous spot for visarjan of Ganesha idols. Located in Powai valley in Mumbai, Powai Lake is an artificial lake. The lake is also a tourist attraction and is located near the Hiranandani Complex. People flock to this lake to witness the Visarjan. People dance to the Dhol and chant of “Ganpati Bappa Morya” while moving towards the lake for the immersion.

How to reach: The nearest railway station to Powai Lake is Kanjur Marg, but you can reach the lake via many routes like from Andheri, Sion and Kurla.

Juhu Beach: Another famous beach in Mumbai, Juhu is also the spot for Ganesh visarjan. Located in Ville Parle, Juhu beach is one of the most visited beaches in India. Juhu is also home to many Bollywood actors. This beautiful beach gets immersed in the festivities during the visarjan of Ganesha. Ganpati idols from the region are taken to the beach for immersion. You will see many processions with people dancing, performing aarti and distributing Prasad travelling towards the beach for visarjan. People usually wade through the water to immerse the idol far into the sea.

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Juhu beach is famous for chaats and local street food, so make sure you taste some snacks while you enjoy the processions. Watching the Ganesh visarjan in the Arabian Sea is a vision you will remember for a long time.

How to reach: The nearest railway station in Vile Parle. You can also take a taxi from many areas in Mumbai. Dadar is just 15 km away from Juhu Beach.

Versova Beach: Located in Andheri, Versova Beach is another place where you can witness the grand procession of Ganesha and visarjan. The beach is an extension of Juhu Beach and is home to kolis or fishing folks. Ganesha idols from Versova and nearby areas are brought here for the immersion. Like other immersion spots in Mumbai, Versova also sees huge crowd during visarjan.

Several tours and travels operators organise Ganesh Visarjan tours. These tours offer informative and interesting tours about Ganesh Chaturthi and it include visit to ganpati pandals and Girgaon Chowpatty for the immersion of the idol. You can call Grand Mumbai Tours (+91 9167472957 for more information) and Reality Tours and Travel for such tours (call +91 9820822253).

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