The air in my city is getting festive. We are just out of the Ramzan festivities and now we are gearing up for the socio cultural and religious Ganesh Utsav. The huge eco friendly ganesha are being booked by the various associations. The ganesh Utsav committee is involved in gathering the children and elders for its various cultural programs. Money is being collected in hundis for this public funded utsavs. All the Indian cities and villages, I’m sure is gearing to welcome the first god of hindu pantheon, Ganeshji. A practicing hindu’s good friend and guide.
Undisputably one of the friendly gods whom you can mould into a cricketer, chessplayer, soccer player, drummer, guitarist and into many avatars now even holding an apple product. So flexible that he is now in the form of stuffed toy and even Mcganesh( imitating McDonald's Ronaldo's pose). He needs no palatial temple to house him,and can simply be found around the bend of the road on a raised pedestal, or any traffic island, or under any tree or any of the junction of three roads.He throws no fuss and is very adaptable ,adjusting, a confidante, a giver and much more.
I too am excited with the festive air for he is one of my favorite god. My association with him dates back to those times when I was around 6 or 7 years . We then lived in a beautiful place here which was the quintessential Bangalore then. My house was surrounded by beautiful places which are now brand names like Lalbagh west gate, The famous eat street Sajjan rao circle( featured in TLC and many food shows like HOMP), the headquarters of the famous ready to eat MTR (Mavalli tiffin room) and the famous traditional market Gandhi bazaar( again in TLC). I grew up here for a few years playing, listening to and reading stories when things like TV were unheard of. Predominantly most of the stories were mythological and ACK. It was the IBH exhibition at Glass house in Lalbagh which was just a walk from my house that introduced me to Ganeshji stories, the elephant headed god. Appa bought me this ACK for just 2rs( now it cost rs 40) there and thus started the association and after reading the book, I was interested in reading ganesha stories and so he gradually became my special friend. Even today, i love to read Ganeshji stories in Tinkle and other books The hopeless nostalgic person that I am, I fondly recollect the memories of those sepia toned and simple times, when money was less but happiness was plenty. Choices were few but life was contented and uncomplicated, responsibilities were none but footloose and carefree days were abundant.
So one of those memories is this special friend’s birthday which every year like in most homes we celebrated as Pillaiyar( the tamil name for Ganeshji) chaturthi. We would source all the pooja items from the streets of Gandhibazaar. Accompanied by appa and amma and my little sis we would shop on the streets of this traditional market nearby home.
At home, the wooden stool would be decorated with small plaintain saplings and decorated with festoons and flowers. We then would install the clay idol of Ganesha(not the colored one) decorate him with beautiful wild flowers, serial lights, a toy umbrella called 'pillaiyar kudai'. The puja was performed with variety of wild flowers and darbha grass by appa while amma made all the delicacies like kheer, vada. Neivedyam(bhog) to god was the Kozhakattais(modaks), which amma would give only when I made 108 thorpukaranams (sit ups).
In the afternoon around 3.p.m , we would be dressed in our best and I and my friends would set out to see Ganesha’s in different house in the neighbourhood and ask people "Aunty, ganesha ittidira" ( Meaning "Have you kept Ganesha?" kept in this context meant installed the idol) . People then were not apprehensive to open doors to strangers and would gladly welcome us. We would then shout ‘Ganapathi ki jai” throw the turmeric coated raw rice(akshata) taken with us , collect the 'sihi thindis'(sweets) the various people gave us and the little gifts like hairband, hair clip, bangles etc. Kannadigas also celebrate Ganapati’s mom the previous day called ‘Gowri habba’ which is essentially a ladies festival like karva chauth hence gifts like bangles, clips etc. We would head home in content with all the goodies collection. The general idea is to see 108 ganeshas, but the main intention was the goodies. Perhaps, those days this was a form of socializing and knowing your neighbourhood.
We would also be a participant in the Ganesh utsav functions in the pandals close home. These publicly funded utsavs served as a reason to bring the spirit of unity and oneness among the neighbor hood residents. The cultural programs held in the evening served to showcase the talents of children and I too would sing in those ganesh utsavs. The famous song was of course” gajamukhane ganapathiiye ninage vandane…..”.
In many localities of Bangalore like Vijayanagar where I later shifted, these Ganesh utsavs in Bangalore would almost extend till Kannada Rajyothsava i.e November 1st which is the day Karnataka was formed .
Finally the immersion, there is no concept of immersion in my dad’s side and the ganesha would be kept in the puja room and the same ganesha would be used for 5 years but I would accompany my friend Sandhya’s house idol. Her father would walk with us up to Lalbagh, While she carried the Ganesha in thelittle basket, I would ring the bell upto Lalbagh kere(lake). At lalbagh kere, there would be many clay figures lowered . some would arrive in customized trucks, some would come in handcarts. Tempos, cycles etc., The clay of the idol would get immersed and form the silt. Now of course, there is a huge noise about pollution, those days we never used much of chemical dyes.
Much has changed now. The fast emerging metro, the various underpass, flyovers have gobbled up many landmark places. The lalbagh kere(lake) has been acquired or is slowly getting phased out by the metro development, so is the traditional market of Gandhi bazaar. The junction road of Vanivilas and kanakapura road where I stayed has become an underpass. Nothing seems to be at ground level now, everything is underground or flying high. Last time i travelled out of the city, my head was held high and eyes were only at the sky. So many buildings touching the sky line. All these have transformed the grounded Garden city Bangalore to an elevated world class global city called Bengaluru. These places exist only in my memories.
Agreed change is inevitable and we have to move on in life.
But.... but...., after all these one thing remains unchanged. The ganesh Utsav celebrations at Basavanagudi APS grounds and National college grounds . This is the 50th year. Just in case, you happen to be here and are a connoisseur of Good food and music, Be there. Enjoy the 'Aromas of Karnataka' a food festival treating you to the traditional delicacies and this is also the venue Where you will hear to the greats like Ilayaraja, yesudas, Shankar Mahadevan, Sonu nigam, Shaan, Drums sivamani and Vijay Prakash this year. And get blessed in one of the Best and oldest Ganesh Utsav pandals. For program schedule click here.
Meanwhile, we are gearing up for the festivities here in our condominium. Hopefully, my next post will be on an unique temple of Ganesha, infact very very unique.