Nagpur: Not just in Maharashtra, but all over the country, Ganpati Bappa is the most beloved God whom we worship before conducting any ‘shubh karya’ like a wedding, or opening of a new venture. This is because he is supposed to be ‘Vighnaharta’ and Sukh karta dukh harta, which means removal of obstacles and God bringing joy and dispelling sorrow.
If you ask Nagpurians across the city what their greatest ‘sorrow’ in their day to day lives is, they will all say, lack of parking space and fear that traffic police henchmen will either put a lock on your vehicle or carry it away. Right?
Roads that are already overcrowded, that have cars and two wheelers parked on both sides, will have a new problem in two days.
Traffic will come to a complete stand still and the unfortunate shop keepers and residents nearby will have to either shut their shop or move their vehicles to another destination for 10 days.
Why? Ganpati Bappa is coming you see! Various mandals have cropped up, as usual, who will install the Elephant God in every square and many nooks and corners of the city and Police and local administrators will look on, since ” they do not want to hurt religious sentiments of people”.
Even if it means contempt of court. The Bombay High Court two years ago had given this land mark decision:
“No citizen has a fundamental right to worship God at a public place, unless that place is of particular significance for the religion concerned,” the division bench of justice Abhay Oka and justice Revati Mohite-Dere had said in a direct attack on the ‘complete failure’ of the state government.
The judgement also explained that the fundamental right to walk on roads and footpaths lies with the citizens. It also directed municipal commissioners to use their discretionary powers in granting permission for putting up temporary pandals, in public places in order to curb illegal pandals. The local police stations have been directed to provide protection to the civic staff.
The High Court decision will be flouted even more this year in Nagpur! Why so? NMC elections are just months away and no local body, organization or society is to be ‘hurt’ since it may affect votes.
When veteran freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak had advised that Ganesh Utsav should be celebrated publicly ( ” samuhik ritya “) and not just inside Hindu homes, he had a political purpose behind it. Our British rulers were not allowing Indians to meet in large numbers publicly because it would foment the freedom movement. But if the gathering was religious, they dare not prevent it, for the same reasons mentioned above.
Little must Tilak have guessed what, in stark honesty, this samuhik celebration has become. It is a nuisance, which must be put up with. Traffic jams, noise pollution, bursting of crackers and digging up of roads – all is excused in the name of the Bappa.
Even the logic of having just one Ganpati for one moholla or colony will not be observed. There will be multiple pendals everywhere – so many in fact, that viewers going to see them and offer prayers are declining year by year. This is also because more or less every other home will have its own Ganpati. This house hold Ganpati is also getting bigger and bigger boasting quite professional decoration. People invite their friends and relatives for ‘prasad’ – many people will have all 10 days booked for meals!
Then why the public festivity too? Must life come to a standstill for the city as a whole?
Just look at the accompanying pictures. Many of these places are near hospitals – since Nagpur is a city of Doctors and their hospitals catering to all of Central India. If you go to any complex that has many Doctors chambers’ or nursing homes in it, any complex in Ramdaspeth or Dhantoli, you will already face parking woes. Now, for ten days even the little parking available will disappear. In many instances, even ambulances won’t be able to make their way. We are not even taking into account here the noise and pollution problems the patients in those hospitals will suffer from!
Ten days later, another big problem will crop up. When these various public and house hold Ganpatis are taken for ‘visarjan’ ( immersion in a water body) all city lakes like Telankhidi, Ambazari and Gandhi talao will be polluted with hundreds of tons of ‘nirmalya’ being chunked in along with Ganesh idols. Many of them colored with toxic colors which will not just pollute but even poison the waters. Fish will die in thousands and there will be stink for days. But who cares?
The irony is, if one reads what is written in our Shastras, and is still in practise during our wedding rituals etc. the Ganpati that we worship before any big event is to be made at home from either some grain or mud.
For instance if there is a wedding of a daughter, about 5 days before the main event, the first puja, also called ‘mandap puja’ is done by the women folk of the house. They are supposed to grind some ‘jowar’ on the ‘Jata’ ( stone grinders) while singing folk songs or odes to Gods and use that pounded Jowar to form a Ganpati shape which is then stuck on the front door. After the wedding is over, He is to be thanked for being with the family and giving his blessings then immersed in the household well. During Ganesh Chaturthi men folk were making Ganesh idol out of soil from their farms/ gardens which was again immersed in the well.
Even now, in Karnataka, before any Puja is held, the pujaris first make a rangoli with only Haldi and Kumkum inviting Ganesha to bless the puja. Then a bigger rangoli is made to invite the other Gods to be present!
We have forgotten all these traditional customs and commercialized our Bappa so much that even He wont be able to recognize himself. We are making him bigger and gaudier and putting him in rockets/ aeroplanes/ on the moon and anything that catches our imagination – and sells! There is competition for the most ‘fancy’ idol… Where is the sanctity in all this?
I wonder what Ganpati Bappa, looking down on all this, must think? I bet these 10 days are the saddest of His life… “I am supposed to remove Obstacles – look what they have made of Me and do in My name!”