Every year around September, several parts of India celebrate the homecoming of Lord Ganesha, popularly known worldwide as the Elephant God. While the festivities differ in terms of grandeur and decibel levels, the city of Pune has a special place for Ganesh Chaturthi, with Punekars looking forward to it with far more eagerness and enthusiasm than the rest of the country.
Here are six reasons why Ganpati celebrations in the city are a class apart and why you should be heading to Pune for a taste of the real thing.
Pune is where it all began
Initiated as a festival to promote culture and nationalism by Shivaji Maharaj and celebrated by the Peshwas as a private family affair dedicated to their family deity or kuldaivat, the origins of Ganesh Chaturthi can be traced right back to the city of Pune.
Punyache Manache Paanch
Though every Ganesh Puja in the city is equally revered, there are Five Ganpati mandals which have special places in every Punekar’s heart. The idols of Kasbapeth, Tambadi Jogeshwari, Guruji Talim, Tulshibaug and Kesariwada are older than a hundred years and continue to drive Pune’s festive tradition till date.
A social affair – away from the show-sha
Two (Tambadi Jogeshwari and Kesariwada) out of these five mandals were started by social reformer Lokmanya Tilak as an opportunity to bridge communal gap in society. and Pune has well-adhered to his philosophy. For Punekars, the mandals are not just about performing the rituals right; there are organised events like debates, singing, gaming competitions and lots of opportunities for people to socialize.
Moreover, in comparison to its much-celebrated twin city Mumbai, Pune has managed to keep its festivities away from glamorous pomp and show. Though there is no question about the fact that Mumbaikars celebrate the festival with equal zeal and devotion, Bollywood celebs and TV stars still manage to dominate over the celebrations there. In Pune, Ganesh Chaturthi is still about the simpler side of celebrations: No VIP Darshans, no separate queues, just Punekars with their Ganya!
Dhol, Tasha and ‘Miravnuks’, complete the madness
Be it a dhol/tasha player or a flag bearer, every authentic Puneri household is bound to have a Pathak member. Clad in Puneri style Jhabbas (kurtas), this Puneri Por is a blast of unlimited energy as they play for hours at a stretch. These Pathaks (Marathi version of modern-age bands) and their members, along with their instrument of choice (Dhol/Tasha/Jhannjh) accompany the idol during miravnuks (commonly called the shobha-yatra), and their beats compel everyone to dance to their tunes.
Pathak rehearsals – A stress buster
Bhavik Shah, founder of Morya Pratishthan Pathak says, “The vibes that one gets during the rehearsals are so positive that it cures us of the mental fatigue which has now become a part of our daily lives.”
Pathak practices begin a month before Ganesh Chaturthi, where members of each Pathak gather at their practice venues every evening to play their hearts out. Pune comes alive with the beats of Dhol and Tasha all through the days leading to the festival.
It lasts a whole 10 days
With changing lifestyles and people getting busier each day, Ganesh Chaturthi has been largely reduced to a day or two of festivities. Punekars, however, still uphold their tradition of celebrating with Bappa for the entire duration of his stay. On the 10th day, Ganpati idols are taken away for visarjan with grandeur as citizens, young and old, bid adieu to their beloved deity for another year.
Title image credit: https://www.instagram.com/anangryartist/