Ganapati idols lined up at a workshop at Parel in central Mumbai

Ganesh Chaturthi, birthday of the Hindu god of beginnings, is celebrated in many parts of the country; it is only in Maharashtra, though, especially in Mumbai, that it has a community aspect. This was introduced by Lokmanya Tilak as part of an effort to bring people together during India’s freedom movement. Today, the festival has evolved into a showcase for causes: some social, others corporate. Among Mumbai’s 13,000 Ganapati pandals this year is one which campaigns against ultrasound clinics that determine the sex of a foetus and abort it if it is female and another which celebrates Pratibha Patil, India’s first woman president. A Pune pandal recreates the scene of a recent rave party busted by the police.

Shoppers buy flowers and other articles

The mandals typically use half the money on the festival itself, the idol, the stage, security guards, closed-circuit cameras and other such. The other half is used for charitable purposes; for instance, Mumbai’s Chinchpokli mandal runs a medical centre, nursery, computer classes, study area and medical camps through the year.

The pandals are replete with banners for marble tiles, life insurance, bottled water, even banks. Some mandals also bring out souvenirs filled with ads from retailers and companies. Typically, though, contributions from individual devotees outstrip ad pickings. Last year, the Lalbagcha Raja Mandal got Rs1.5 crore as collections from devotees and Rs40 lakh from ads. Immersions of the statues happen on the city’s beaches on the second, fifth and seventh days of the festival. The 10th day is the most happening, with roads blocked and offices and shops closed.

Also see following photos:

1. A worker erects scaffolding at a pandal

2. Giving finishing touches to a Ganapati idol

3. One of the bigger idols is transported a few days in advance to be decorated at the pandal itself

4. Final touches at the Lalbaug pandal

5. Initial stages of creating the idols. A plaster of paris mixture is created to give shape to the idols

6. Shoppers’ banners at a Matunga Pandal-

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