Come Ganesh Chaturthi, when Mumbai’s beloved Bappa comes for his annual visit, the city metamorphoses into a spectacular showground for extravagant festivities and merrymaking. Colossal idols of Ganesha, each a specimen of intricate craftsmanship; ornate pandals thronged by millions of devotees; streets milling with revelers dizzy from days of unyielding revelry; blaring microphones; blinding light works and dazzling fireworks – it all amounts to a sensational spectacle of festive excesses. Add to it a smidgen of Bollywood glam and you have the recipe for a real life blockbuster.
Here are some of Mumbai’s most famous Ganpati pandals.
Such is the lure of Lalbaugcha Raja, the King of Lalbaug, that millions of devotees throng the Ganpati pandal here every year, waiting in queues for hours, sometimes over a day, for a mere glimpse of the Raja in all his resplendent glory. Lalbaugcha Raja is famous as Navasacha Ganpati, the fulfiller of wishes. This is arguably Mumbai’s most famous Ganpati.
Mumbai cha Raja (Ganesh Galli)
The Ganesh utsav here dates back to 1928 and it is one of the oldest Ganesh utsavs in Mumbai. Lovingly referred to as Mumbai cha Raja, Ganesh galli’s Ganpati is one of the most famous Ganpatis of the city, second only to Lalbaugcha Raja. The pandals, usually replicas of famous temples from around the country, are all specimens of brilliant artistic endeavour.
Andheri cha Raja
Now in their 49th year, the Azad Nagar Sarvajanik Utsav Samiti was established in 1966 and started Ganesh utsav the same year. Famous in Mumbai as Andheri cha Raja, here too, Lord Ganesha is extolled as the fulfiller of wishes. The utsav here is not only famous for the exquisite idols of Ganesha but also for the flamboyant, themed pandals. Last year the pandal here was modelled on the Mysore Palace. This year Andheri cha Raja will reside inside a brilliantly crafted imitation of Gujarat’s famous Arasuri Ambaji Temple, one of the 51 Shakti Peethas.
Twelve adjacent lanes comprise the area known as Khetwadi and each lane here has its own Ganesh mandal that celebrates the utsav with unparalleled pomp. Khetwadi’s Ganesh utsav transcends all religious and cultural differences. The Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations here were encouraged by Lokmanya Tilak in order to bring together the Hindus, Muslims, Parsis and Christians settled in the area, who joined hands to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi, not only as a religious festival, but one of brotherhood and camaraderie. It could take an entire day to walk around Khetwadi visiting all its Ganapati pandals but it is worth the time and toil since it is here that you will see some of the city’s tallest and most imaginative idols. The pandals in Khetwadi’s Khambatta Lane and lanes 11 and 12 are particularly famous.
GSB Mandal (King’s circle)
Here all that glitters is, in all probability, gold. The Ganesh utsav organised by the Gowd Saraswat Brahmin Ganesh mandal is known for their dazzling display of gold and silver. The GSB mandal’s Ganpati is Mumbai’s richest and thousands flock here for a glimpse of the idol adorned with gold and silver jewellery worth millions, which has earned GSB’s Ganpati the nickname Golden Ganesh. The GSB Mandal also organises Ganesh utsav in Sion and Wadala with equal pomp and ceremony, and a mindboggling display of riches.
Parel cha Raja
This utsav at Nare Park is a celebration with a cause. The Ganpati mandal here is committed to preserving and safeguarding the environment and is known for its eco-friendly pandals and idols. But there is no compromise with the aesthetics or the glamour quotient.
Chinchpokli cha Chintamani
Started in 1920, this is Mumbai’s second oldest Ganpati mandal and holds one of the most popular utsavs. Chinchpokli cha Chintamani is known for its imaginative and beautifully crafted idols.
Keshavji Naik Chawl, Girgaum
This sarvajanik Ganesh utsav on Charni Road in south Mumbai is not only the oldest in Mumbai, it is also historically significant in the sense that its history is linked with the country’s struggle for independence. This Ganesh utsav was started by none other than renowned freedom fighter Lokmanya Tilak in 1893, as a symbol of unity among fellow countrymen in the face of British rule. It continues to enjoy its iconic status and is one of the most visited Ganpati pandals in Mumbai.