With just 18 days remaining for the Ganpati festival, every mandal in the city is going all out to be better than the rest before the Lord makes his arrival. The Fort Vibhag Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus has even transcended the boundaries of religion, with about 50 Muslim labourers working at the pandal for the last two months.
Even though they do not celebrate the festival themselves, the Muslim labourers play a major role in the mandal’s success. The labourers work under the art director, Anand Sawant, who has been relying on them for the past three years. While around 80 labourers are employed for the construction of the pandal, 50 alone are members of the Muslim community.
The mandal will be placing their idol for 11 days in a replica of the Laxmi Niwas palace. The height of the pandal is more than 45 feet, and it has an entrance gate spanning 40 feet. The total area covered by the pandal is 160 square feet, which the mandal claims is one of the most spacious in the city.
The construction of this set began on July 15, and will be completed at an estimated cost of about Rs 60 lakh.
One of the labourers working at the pandal, Abu Ahmad, said, “I have been associated with this mandal for a long time and have been a involved in making the 12 Jyotirlingas as well. For us, the work is more important than anything else. We are never discriminated against here and we had a pleasant Ramzan here with the mandal’s members. We have bonded with this mandal and will continue to be here even next year.”
President of this mandal, Ravindra Surve said, “There are some workers who have been associated with our mandal for a long time, but this year the need for workers was more and hence they (the muslim labourers) were hired. They have been working with us for the whole of Ramzan and because of them, we held Iftaars for the whole month — they would break their fast in the pandal itself.”