Mumbai Memoir 97- When Lord Ganesha visits Mumbai!
Mumbai is known for its Ganesh festival celebrations. As per Hindu mythology, Lord Ganesha is worshipped for invoking various virtues like wisdom, kindness, courage, dedication, commitment etc. in oneself. The elephant God, Lord Ganesha, is most popular deity worshipped by the masses whose festival is celebrated mostly in September of each year. The festival just is not a religious event, but also has social, culinary & cultural relevance.
Ganesha idols are installed at homes and also at public places. In the 10-day long celebration the entire city enjoys a positive vibe till the immersion day. Here is a video showing the ‘making of Ganesha idols’ & the activities during the festival: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJPpT_tWAzY This year due to the government ban on plastics and thermocol, many ‘out of the box’ decoration ideas were seen applied as background scenes. Branches of trees, paper decorations, light & lantern decorations etc. brought a fresh eco-friendly vibe to the festival.
Every year, irrespective of my busy work schedule, I visit at least 11 public Ganesh idols. This time I visited most of Mumbai’s Fort area Ganesh idols. All of them had their unique themes promoting various social awareness related topics like caring for aging parents, patriotism, to be eco-friendly etc. Here is a BBC video featuring Mumbai’s Ganesh festival: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LKumV4ZX-V8&t=33s
“Gaud Saraswat Brahman (GSB) Wadala Ganesh. The idol stands like a ‘father figure embracing the devotees.”
This year, on the personal front, I decided to learn to make ‘Modak’. Modak is a sweet preparation which is offered to Lord Ganesha during the festival. My mom was delighted to teach me the traditional way to make Modak, which is believed to be Lord Ganesha’s favourite food.
Every home celebrating Ganesh festival will make this Indian dessert atleast for 1 day. Modak is prepared in two phases. The first phase is to prepare a jaggery and grated coconut-based mixture which is simmered on low flame till its cooked. The second phase involves preparation of rice base dough. Small balls of dough are then taken and filled with the jaggery and coconut mixture and then decoratively wrapped at one end. The preparation is then steamed for 15 mins which results into lip smacking ‘ukdiche modak’ (literally meaning ‘steamed modak’) Here is a video that demonstrates the making of ‘ukdiche modak’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mHHWANOWhmY
Ganesh festival also has a psycho-social dimension in today’s urban culture. Due to the disintegration of joint family system, social isolation is on an increase. People who wish to connect with each other look forward to bond during the Ganesh festival. Besides meeting friends and family on occasion of the Ganesh festival, usage of digital media to spread the festival vibe has promoted the festival beyond Mumbai’s shores, as far as the Gulf, U.K and U.S.A.
Here is a video of Ganesh Festival celebrations in the Bay Area, U.S.A: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwF-a2f1Ffk Selfies taken by people along with the Ganesh idols get viral during the festival, which I believe is a good thing, as it adds to self-pride and also indicates sense of community bonding which generates warm feelings about the deity and all the goodness it brings along with it.
Ganesh festival always creates a reassuring vibe for me and for all who believe in the goodness of the supreme energy that surrounds us. It reminds me that the ‘Divine’ exists in each of us and by nurturing the virtues of intelligence, wisdom, generosity, focussed vision, kindness, sacrifice, adaptability, which Lord Ganesha symbolises, we can achieve even our most impossible dreams!
Photo Courtesy: Shraddha. C. Sankulkar