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Om Ganeshaya Namah!
...The Festival Laureate of Maharashtra
Pranav Muzumdar and Suhas Agashe
Come September 13 and Maharashtra will reveberate to the chants of Ganpati bappa morya as the elephant headed God will be installed in every nook and corner of the state as well as in parts of Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh.
Ganesh Chaturthi commences on the fifth day of the bright half month of bhadrapada around August or September. It is the day on which Lord Ganesha materialised as Mayureshwara to kill the demon Sindhu who had acquired extraordinary powers.
Special puja is performed to welcome Lord Ganesha. The worship involves 16 steps. The Lord is welcomed with a special phrase and the idol is bathed in panchmurat or five nectars which includes milk, curd, honey and jaggery. Lord Ganesha is then given a red garment and the sacred thread and is smeared with red sandal paste and offered red or yellow flowers. Food is offered to Lord Ganesha's panchapranas or vital breaths.
In Maharashtra the idol of Lord Ganesha has ruled the place of worship in every household from times immemorial. But community celebrations started only in 1893, at the behest of Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak who realised it could help not only in uniting the people but also help in spreading political awareness.
In Bombay, the only surviving Ganpati since 1893 is the Keshavji Naik chawl Ganpati. For decades, the idol has been placed in a palanquin and brought for darshan and taken on the same palanquin for immersion.
Today, it is estimated that 40,000 utsavs take place in Maharashtra. The idols are installed at various places including homes, public places, institutions for one-and-a-half days, five days, seven days or for eleven days.
The entire period of 10 days passes by in a flash and the streets become bottlenecks due to the teeming multitudes from within and outside the city who throng the streets to witness the splendour of Lord Ganesha. Then comes the time to bid adieu to the Lord on Anant Chaturdashi day. The idols are taken out in procession for visarjan (immersion).
As the day progresses, so does the excitement. The mandals bring out their idols to join the immersion procession in their fully decorated and illuminated forms. It is as if the entire city takes to the streets to witness this memorable sight.
The immersion process continues well into the afternoon of the next day. But, the city remains awake to keep an eye on its most revered deity till the very last moment and to implore the Lord, Ganapati bappa maurya, pudcha varshi laukar ya!
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