In Focus

Bappa back, in Goa, Konkan belt!

By Manu Shrivastava

In the months-long lockdown, many things changed but not the devotion commanded by the God of Prosperity - Lord Ganesha. So, despite enduring loss of life, health and revenue, devotees left no stone unturned in celebrating their beloved Bappa’s birth anniversary during the Maghi Ganeshutsav, this week. And, this year, even families who couldn’t observe Ganesh Chaturthi in August last owing to the lockdown joined in the Maghi Ganesh Jayanti celebrations with renewed fervour.

Traditionally, Ganesh Chaturthi or Vinayaka Chaturthi is observed in the Hindu month of Bhadrapada (August/September) followed by the popular 10-day-long Ganeshutsav before culminating in the final visarjan. Maghi Ganesh Jayanti, Ganesh Jayanti or Varad Chaturthi is celebrated in the Magha month (January/February). Even before the lockdown, Maghi Ganesh Jayanti was celebrated by select few communities in Goa and Maharashtra, mostly across the Konkan belt, as Lord Ganesha’s birth anniversary. This year, 15 February 2021 marked the celebration of the auspicious Hindu festival of Ganesh Jayanti.

LEGEND SAYS: Ganesh Temple at Divar Island in Goa, considered to be the birth-place of Lord Ganesha
While most feel that Ganesh Chaturthi is the Lord’s birthday, it actually is celebrated to commemorate the arrival of Lord Ganesha and his mother Parvati from their heavenly abode in Mount Kailash to Earth and Maghi Ganesh Jayanti is the birth anniversary of Lord Ganesha. Yet, according to some, Ganesh Chaturthi is considered the birthday of Lord Ganesha.

Interestingly, in Goa’s Divar Island, the main church dedicated to Our Lady of Piety (Piedade) at a hill top is believed to be a chapel first that was constructed on the site of Lord Ganesha’s temple. According to legend, this place is believed to be the birth-place of Lord Ganesha. The idol was later shifted to Khandola to prevent destruction. Today, a beautiful Ganesh temple, in typical bright colours of the region, stands at a few metres distance from this church. Every year, during Maghi Ganeshutsav, a Ganesh Palki is carried by the devotees starting from the temple that goes around the island, even to the adjacent Vanxim Island.

In Maharashtra, several families came out to celebrate Maghi Ganeshutsav where the sarvajanik mandals installed idols with diverse themes, many even playing up the ongoing COVID crisis such as Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaja Mandal which depicted the ongoing vaccination drive in an intricately created pandal. “We have been coming to see ‘Kandivalicha Shree’ for the past nine years, since its inception,” says 58-year-old homemaker and Dadar-resident Neeta Joshi. This year, the ten-day celebrations began on 15 February 2021. The mandal has a four feet tall idol of Lord Ganesha, as per the guidelines issued by local civic body. "This year, most sarvajanik ganpati idols were smaller that their usual sizes owing to the government guidelines."

PIOUS: Devotees have been coming to see Kandivalicha Shree since the celebrations began on 15 February 2021
Intriguingly, apart from those who traditionally observe Ganeshutsav only during the month of Magha, this year around, several households and mandals celebrated Ganeshutsav this time around, a deviation from their usual celebrations in the Hindu month of Bhadrapada in August-September.

The “now more than 100-year-old family tradition,” is being carried forward by Bengaluru-based Amey Balwally and wife Maya Balwally from this generation of Chitrapur Saraswats. “When I realised celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi won’t be possible during the lockdown last year, I spoke to the family matriarch who lives in Mumbai. She suggested it was okay to postpone the festivities and instead hold them in the Magha month to come. This is the first time in the family’s history we did something like this,” says Ms Balwally.

TRADITION: The Balwally family performing puja at their home in Bengaluru
The celebrations included preparation of special dishes made only during the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations. “As part of the offerings to God i.e. ‘Naivedya’ we prepared chaklis, nevri (karanjya), modak, special dessert madgane made of rice, jaggery and coconut milk and khotte i.e., idlis steamed in jackfruit leaves,” says Maya. The celebrations were restricted to family members, this time around, as opposed to the 30-odd invitees who would be invited for the Ganesh Chaturthi festivities.

OFFERING TO GOD: Special dishes are made during the Ganeshutsav celebrations
Mumbai’s Anushakti Nagar-based Shenoy family also observed Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations in the Magha month as they couldn’t organise the same during the Hindu month of Bhadrapada last. In 2020, Ganesh Chaturthi fell on 22 August, when COVID-19 cases peaked in several cities across Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka, the region where the festival is mostly observed, leading to most festivities being deferred.

“With relatives scattered across the city, we come together to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi at the Walkeshwar Kashi Math during August-September. This year around, like always, all the rituals were performed, prasad distributed to family members, aarti and bhajans sung and finally the idol was immersed but all on Maghi Ganesh Jayanti.”

TOGETHER: The Shenoy family in Mumbai gathered to observe Ganesh Chaturthi in the month of Magha
“Several members of our extended family gathered at the Walkeshwar Kashi Math on 15 February 2021 for a long day of festivities for the deferred Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations. We started with a puja in the morning and concluded with Visarjan of the idol at the adjacent Banganga water-tank in the night,” maintains businessman Sharad Shenoy.

RITUALS: The Shenoy family performed all the rituals as they did during the regular Bhadrapada Ganesh Chaturthi
Walkeshwar Kashi Math Secretary, Hemprakash Shenai says, “For generations, it’s been a tradition that if, for any unforeseen reason such as a death in the family, Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations cannot be observed during the Bhadrapada, the same can be held on Ashwin Shuddh Chaturthi during the Navratri. This time around, even for Navratri in October 2020, the lockdown was not lifted completely leading to a further deferment of the festivities. Hence, the celebrations were held during the month of Magha, in February 2021.”

THE ORIGIN: The Ganesh Temple at Divar Island in Goa rich with history