Ganesh Chaturthi 2018: A century of piety

Sep 16, 2018, 19:30 IST | Snigdha Hasan

As a housing society in Dadar completes 100 years of celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi, current and former residents join forces to ensure the 10-day affair is remembered for the very reason the festival became a community event

Ganesh Chaturthi 2018: A century of piety
The society's has its own dhol taasha band

"The night we immersed our 99th idol, we began our work for 2018," says Hemant Utrankar, as he joins us in our conversation with his neighbours at Dadar,s Indravadan housing society. He is late by a few minutes; his brother and sister-in-law have just arrived from the US to partake in the 10 days of revelry that mark 100 years of the society,s Ganeshotsav.

Ganesh Utsav Committee members (from left): Kedar Oak, Hemant Utrankar, Arun Patwardhan, Mahesh Phadke, (back row) Mangesh Bhide
Ganesh Utsav Committee members (from left): Kedar Oak, Hemant Utrankar, Arun Patwardhan, Mahesh Phadke, (back row) Mangesh Bhide

What started as a response to Lokmanya Tilak,s call to fellow Maharashtrians to celebrate the then privately observed festival as a community event for social and political unity has seen many milestones. There was the golden jubilee celebration in 1968, which resident Arun Patwardhan remembers distinctly. "Residents would sponsor ingredients of the big lunch we would have on the last day," he says. Then came the 75th anniversary, when the likes of Pandit Bhimsen Joshi and Hridaynath Mangeshkar serenaded the residents.

The late Pandit Bhimsen Joshi at the 75th year celebration
The late Pandit Bhimsen Joshi at the 75th year celebration

With the passing years, the housing complex underwent several changes. Earlier known as the Tulsidas Tejpal cluster of chawls, it went for redevelopment around 20 years ago. The new avatar of an apartment complex comprising eight wings was rechristened Indravadan Society. It houses over 650 people today.

The pandal’s design incorporates the centennial year
The pandal,s design incorporates the centennial year

What hasn,t changed though is the way the members of the society see themselves as part of one big family that transcends their nuclear households. It is evident in the group of women taking care of the floral decorations on the night before Ganesh Chaturthi, or the resident shutterbug moving about the premises capturing candid moments of the preparations just before Bappa arrives. A corner of the ground floor flat we are sitting in is occupied with rows of cloth bags, each carrying a souvenir that sports a special centenary logo designed in-house, and a copy of "Smarnika", a compilation of essays and poems contributed by current and former residents about their experience of living in Indravadan.

Going back to the night of visarjan in 2017, resident Mahesh Phadke tells us how they brainstormed ways to generate funds for the centenary. "At the end of every month for the past one year, residents have been collectively selling trash from their homes. We generated Rs 1 lakh from this exercise alone," he says. The society, however, was clear that it would not associate itself with any political party. "While politicians are welcome to seek the lord,s blessings, no such hoardings are displayed at our Ganeshotsav," adds Phadke,s sister Manjusha Mulye, who despite having moved to another locality after marriage, is duly invited every year for the celebration. "In fact, we even went to Pune and Nashik to invite former residents in person," says Utrankar.

The one-and-a-half-feet clay idol will be immersed in an artificial pond
The one-and-a-half-feet clay idol will be immersed in an artificial pond

The cultural calendar for the 10 days brims with well-known names from the field of Marathi theatre, music and dance, including Dilip Prabhavalkar, who will perform a solo act on the fourth day. Cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar, who lived at his aunt,s place in the housing complex when he was training under Ramakant Achrekar at Shivaji Park, is also expected to pay a visit.

Sachin Tendulkar with coach Ramakant Achrekar at an earlier Ganeshotsav celebration
Sachin Tendulkar with coach Ramakant Achrekar at an earlier Ganeshotsav celebration

Stars aside, it is the residents who have taken on the mantle of not just backstage preparations — including catering and pandal decoration — but cultural performances too. A group of music enthusiasts have been training under a professional for over six months to usher in and bid farewell to the clay idol with synchronised beats of the dhol. There is an in-house orchestra, and a grand cultural showcase will see the youngest and the oldest members of the society perform together.

The late cricket icon Ajit Wadekar was a regular visitor
The late cricket icon Ajit Wadekar was a regular visitor

In times when a busy, cocooned life may not allow one to know who lives next door, how has Indravadan kept up this tradition for generations? "There is an unspoken bond that ties the people of this society," says Utrankar, as other residents nod in agreement. "We don,t know of any other way of existing."

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