It was always my dream to see the grand Ganpati Visarjan in Mumbai and this year, I decided to take out a day and witness it.
I could not afford to miss it this time for another reason – my good friend and photographer Rafal came all the way from Poland to capture the festivities. It will be a shame, if I could not travel from Hyderabad. I took an overnight train to Mumbai and then a local train to Grant Road station. We met at his hotel and set out for the day.
About the festival:
Ganesh festival (also known as Vinayak Chaturthi) is one of the most important festivals of Mumbai (in fact in most parts of Maharashtra). People bring home statues of Ganapati , install and worship the god for 10 days (or less) in the month of September / October. On the final day of Anant Chaturdashi, the idols are taken to a water body and immersed. This act of immersion is called ‘visarjan’ or ‘nimajjanam’.
I was very excited for what was going to happen. I was told that the crowd will be overwhelming and I was mentally prepared for that.
Girgaum Chowpatty on Marine Drive in South Mumbai was one of the prominent immersion points and we decided to go there. There was not much crowd. People had already started bringing their idols for immersions. These were mostly the ones that people intall in their home. The huge ones in the pandals start coming late in the afternoon and continue till early morning next day.
The final puja and arati is done before the immersion.
Hinduism has 33 Million gods and one of them is Lord Vishwakarma. He is believed to be the ‘Principal Architect’ of the universe. He is revered all craftsmen, industrialists and architects. Vishwakarma puja generally coinsides with Ganesh puja and is celebrated with much fervour in North Indian states. I saw some Vishwakarma idols being immersed as well .
There were floating vessels which were taking the idols and then going to deep sea to immerse them.
There was a shooting going on for a film or TV serial where the actors were acting to do the Visarjan before the actual one.
This dog must be wondering why the people are going to do with the statue after so much of puja…
While I was moving around taking pictures, these actors were doing retake after retake. They were taking the carriage where Ganapati was seated to the water and bringing it back again and again repeating the same scene.
Being of of the most developed cities of India, its not a surprise to see even Pandits going high tech.
While everyone was busy with the departing prayers, this little one managed to get some sleep.
The noise level at the beach is quite high with the beating of drums and cymbals. The enthusiastic people say goodbye to the god with all their energy.
You will find Ganapati idols in all sizes, this was a miniature one.
The festival of Ganesh Chaturthi has crossed all boundaries of religion and caste. Its a great opportunity to go to houses, participate in the puja and meet old friends.
I could help appreciating this little girl going to immerse the idol with her father in the crowd.
Modak is a sweet dumpling made of rice flour with a filling of grated coconut and jaggery. Being the favourite food of Lord Ganesha, it is almost mandatory to offer and distribute prasadam of the same. Since Ganesha cannot wait till the time, people him, there is always some stock near him.
Most families hire big vehicles to come for the visarjan. Its the time when the whole family is together.
I was desperate to get a top view of the procession but I could not find a single way to get to the terrace of a building. With the bomb blasts by terrorists, the trust in outsiders is less.
Since many people like me, request the house owners if we go to the terrace, this owner put a notice board saying that ‘Outsiders are not allowed to enter the building’.
It was time for the road-side food vendors to make brisk business.
Some where distributing prasad and food for free and there were many takers.
Mumbai is called the city of skyscrapers and the size of Ganesha idols definitely match them.
Its very boring to get stuck in a traffic jam, but thats something unavoidable in this situation.
Kudos to the patience of the drivers who take the idols.
As the procession got more an more frenzied, the spectators started flocking on top of every possible place available.
It was indeed a photographer’s delight.
There were some people doing the last rites to this Ganapati. They where chanting mantras loudly and sprinkling water on the idol with vigour.
The Marine Drive
It was disappointing to see the other aspect of the festival. For the sake of convenience, the idols are made with Plaster of Paris which is non-biodegradable. It takes months for the municipal corporation to clean the area. A visit to the same place after the visarjan is like a dumpyard.
It was time for me to go to the railway station, as my train time was approaching. There was no public transport and walking was the only way out. As I was leaving, more and more people were pouring in.
The last Ganesha I saw before I entered the railway station.
It was definitely an experience of a lifetime. I would come back again another year with a determination to shoot better.
Thanks to you all for spending your time on my blog.
I will soon be back with another interesting place. You might like to read my previous posts.
This article is written by Saurabh Chatterjee. He is a travel photographer and a photography trainer. He strives to ‘make every camera-owner a great photographer through his Photography workshops and Photo Tours and Photowalks.