Mumbai's oldest Ganpati mandal marks 131 years of celebration
The oldest Ganpati mandal, nestled in the lanes of Girgaon, South Mumbai, marked 131 years of celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi this year.
Nestled in the narrow lanes of Girgaon in south Mumbai is the city’s oldest Ganpati mandal Sarvajanik Ganeshutsav Sanstha, which marks 131 years of celebrating the festival this year.
The Sanstha, established in 1893 under the leadership of Rao Bahadur Limaye and Godse Shastri, has been celebrating the festival at Keshavji Naik Chawl on Khadilkar Road in a traditional manner.
“Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak’s close associates Rao Bahadur Limaye and Godse Shastri started celebrating the festival here after he gave a call for public celebrations of Ganesh Chaturthi for people to come together against the British,” says Kumar Walekar, secretary of the Sarvajanik Ganeshutsav Sanstha.
The 10-day festival is being celebrated with the same devotion since 1893, he says.
Time seems to stand still as one walks into the chawl, where the city’s mega festival had its humble beginnings.
The one thing that makes the pandal stand out is that traditions have been followed for the last 131 years, says Walekar.
The Sanstha has kept the celebrations simple and traditional since the beginning with a 2-foot idol made of clay.
“Residents celebrate the festival as one family and all the decorations are designed and made by them. Only the stage and pillars are brought from outside,” says Walekar beaming with pride.
“We bring idols of the same size every year. There are children here who observe what is happening, they might not understand it now, but once they grow up, they will know what to do while following all the traditions,” he says.
Santosh Rajwade, a former resident of the chawl, has been visiting the pandal for 40 years despite moving out of the locality.
“I have shifted to Borivali now, but I make sure I visit the ‘Bappa’ here every year. I am very attached to the ‘Bappa’ here. I can never forget everything I learnt here and everything Girgaon has given me,” says Rajwade.
As the city’s first and oldest pandal, the Keshavji Naik Chawl receives a lot of visitors from around the city and foreigners as well.
Politicians Balasaheb Thackeray, Murli Manohar Joshi, and Amit Shah have also visited the pandal to seek ‘Bappa’s’ blessings.
The idol here receives a traditional welcome in a palanquin without loud music blaring from speakers and is taken away in the same manner for ‘visarjan’ at Girgaon Chowpatty.