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The Vaishnodevi Experience 2023

My first trip to Vaishnodevi was unimpressive. Climbing was hard, and it only served to highlight how badly out of shape I was, while my in-laws managed to cope so much better. Further, I hadn’t quite realized that the cave experience wouldn’t be the same as I had imagined, since the original cave was only opened at certain times a year, and that we only entered a newly created tunnel, one far easier to access, and hence more manageable with the crowds that thronged the mountain shrine. The resulting experience at the shrine, for barely a fraction of a second, hardly compared to what I had expected / imagined / heard about. So, for me, Vaishnodevi was like any other temple, nothing to write home about, something that was reflected (though not explicitly mentioned) in the blog post I wrote then.

A Tour of Ganesha Pandals.. and some thoughts on the festival

The ten day festival of Ganesh Chaturthi is coming to a close. Tomorrow, the idols will head to the sea, amidst chants exhorting Him to come back early next year. Meanwhile, come with me, as I take you through some of the Ganesha Pandals I went to, this year...

Matunga remains one of my favourite places to visit at this time.. Here are some of the Ganeshas we saw there...

I remember a time when the Matunga Flower Market Ganesha used to be made of flowers. Today, the Ganesha is a normal one, but the decoration is still completely made with flowers. The arrangement is changed every 3 days, so you get to see 3 different arrangements. This is the first arrangement this year..

Living in Chembur, for the last few years I have been doing the rounds of the Ganpatis in my locality. Here are a few...

The Duke's Ganpati is all time favourite with Samhith. For one, they usually have scenes from mythology, and the props move around, which excites him. But even more that that is the fact that they always give poha (puffed rice) and sugar as prasad, which he loves!!!! So, how could we miss it?

The R.K.Studios Ganpati is the same each year - not just the idol, but the decoration too..But for some odd reason, Samhith still doesnt want to skip it!!

This is a favourite of mine.... Located right next door to R.K.Studios, this pandal always has some interesting set up, usually a local story related to a saint. This year, it is Sant Dynaneshwar. 

I have been wanting to go and see this one for years now, and it only worked because a friend agreed to come along. Thanks Sita!!! This is the Chemburcha Raja..

The major theme in Chembur this year seemed to be palaces or temples. This one situated in a tiny lane of shops had a huge temple with Ganesha in the form of Shrinathji, with plenty of figures showing scenes from the life of Lord Krishna...

Right opposite was another temple - this one from the south, apparently inspired by the temple at Kanyakumari...

The Ganesha inside had nothing to do with Kanyakumari, though!

There was another huge palace... a few yards away....

with a royal -looking Ganesha inside!

What we loved here was the decoration.. made entirely with shells!!

At Chembur station was the one I loved the most....

Recreating the chawls of Mumbai, where these Sarvajanik Ganeshas came into existence!

A board at the entrance explained how the concept of Sarvajanik or community celebrations of Ganeshotsavs began in the chawls of Mumbai, and how with popularity and fame, the Ganeshas moved from the chawls to the roads. By recreating the chawls, they are trying to take the Ganesha back to where he came from. Ironically, this pandal is right on the main road leading from the Chembur station!!! 

Before I end this post, there is just one more Ganesha to show you - the one in our colony.. The Chedda Nagar Ganpati...

This year the theme is one related to the colony, and the decoration is rather simple. On one side is a pandal set up for a marriage reception and on the other is a group of people standing on a cricket ground. 

Confused about what it stands for? Here is the explanation - We are among the few areas in Mumbai blessed with a huge ground, and of late, it was being used for a number of commercial activities. Eventually, a few members got together, spoke up against it, and even managed to bring the rampant commercialization to an end. Today, we can enjoy seeing kids playing cricket on the ground, and not be bothered by loud and heavy music!! 

P.S. This is a note for any of my readers who might be on the organising committees of various mandals. There is no doubt that the variety of Ganeshas and the decoration in the Pandals are what make this festival special. I have enjoyed Pandal-hopping as a child, and now enjoy taking my son along. However, there are a few things that can be done in such a better manner. such as -
  • Using Ganeshas made of clay.. the reason is obvious!
  • Using a nearby ground for the festivities (at least where possible, such as in our colony) and not blocking the road
  • Toning down the music... and playing devotional music instead of Bollywood chartbusters
  • We dont really need to have two pandals right opposite each other, or right next to each other. The festival was begun to bring people together, not to compete with each other!!! Why not try to join hands with our neighbours and enjoy the festival more?
  • Do we really need to be reminded of the local politician or rich merchants every time we visit a pandal? The Lord is said to cut down a person's ego, not bolster it!! These huge banners are such an eyesore!
  • And finally, just think of the huge amount of money which goes into the celebrations. By joining hands, working together, and making the festival more efficient and devotional, we can cut down on the costs and use the money collected for such good purposes! This city of ours will be a much better place to live in!!


  1. Such colorful and vibrant pictures!

  2. Great snaps.... Captures the grandness of the festivities involved. :)

  3. Loved the blog…

  4. Beautiful idols and well captured.

  5. Thanks for the tour of Ganesh pandals, Anu, all done from the comfort of my chair :-)

    Reading about the Matunga ganeshas, brought back memories of visiting them as a child with either my grandmother or mother and aunts. And I had totally forgotten about the flower decorations of the Matunga Flower market pillaiyar ! Thanks, Anu.

    1. Thanks Sudha! Glad you liked them! lets go see the Matunga ganpatis together next time.. what say? and chembur too, actually.... we passed by ur office when we visited the chembur cha raja..

  6. Thanks for this Anu! Ganaptai makes me so nostalgic! Barely register it out here :(


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