Mumbai Ganpati: Top 5 Mandals You Should Visit In 2018!
Our guest writer and travel enthusiast Rustom Irani reminisces about Mumbai Ganpati and mandal-hopping as a kid, along with his friends and family. We’re inspired by his eagerness to be a part of the celebration each year, given the number of caveats around the accessibility of mandals for wheelchair users. Read on to know all about the best Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations in Mumbai from Rustom Irani.
Nothing brings about bigger smiles, fulsome cheer and foot-tapping music to Mumbai like the arrival of its largest and most adored of deities, Lord Ganesha. Known for his intelligence and appetite, he’s worshiped by all and sundry, often taking on mythical proportions in stories of wish fulfillment. Months and months of work by artists, sculptors and volunteers take the shape of larger-than-life Ganpati idols and grand celebrations. The grandeur of Mumbai Ganpati idols and the mandal themes are truly worth witnessing. Ganesh Chaturthi is when entire Mumbai comes together to celebrate this festival, which rounds off the city’s festive calendar along with Ramzan and Mount Mary’s Fair.
As a child, I remember plans being chalked out, maps being marked, and timings being fixed to trek across Mumbai. We would start from the suburbs and fan out, along with friends, family and our trusty old Ambassador chugging along. Every Ganpati mandal would advertise their themes, which would be given a set, character and lighting that could put most modest Hindi films to shame. But this is not a time to reminisce. As yours truly has been a frequent visitor to these celebrations, I know there are a few caveats to visiting different Ganeshas on one’s wheelchair or if you have other disabilities.
Large crowds are a given, so expect plenty of people. While the old and the disabled are given some space, preferential treatment is not that common. Orderly queues are the only option. Most mandals have two dedicated lines: Ganpati Darshan (distant viewing) and a ‘Navas’ (wish-fulfillment) line that takes you right up to the idol’s feet. I highly advise opting for the former option since wish-fulfillment lines are not accessible near the idol platform. Blind visitors with a strong companion, however, can use this approach for the ultimate tactile experience. For the deaf, signages abound and volunteers are very helpful since they often communicate with people speaking languages they aren’t familiar with. The advantage of opting for the Ganpati darshan queue is the quick movement, which affords you more time to visit other mandals and indulge in some food goodies.
Having said all of this however, I would definitely opt for at least one traditional ‘Aarti’ (prayer viewing) since it is absolutely spectacular, and you truly feel inclusive in the spiritual sense.
The top and most majestic kings have maintained their sway in Mumbai for decades, but don’t be disheartened if you can’t make it to all of these mandals. Check out the nearest local mandal; trust me, every area has one and it will truly surprise you with its accessibility and experience. Lord Ganesha is omnipresent after all. One hidden gem happens to be the Banganga Tank, where half-a-dozen or more Ganeshas vie for your offerings and prayers.
Finally, for the hardiest and most adventurous amongst us disabled, no Ganesh Chaturthi experience is complete without taking part in the ‘Ganpati Visarjan’. The time when we bid him adieu, along with thousands of revellers on the city streets, taking him right into the Arabian Sea. Noise, colours, showers of flowers, and rain abound and the procession moves at snail-pace. This is a feat even able-bodied folk avoid, but I have experienced it twice; from the roof of a slow-moving truck, with the lord himself keeping a close eye on me from the bed of the truck.
This Ganesh Chaturthi, visit these top 5 Mumbai Ganpati mandals
1. Lalbaughcha Raja
An average of 1.5 million devotees throng to this mandal every day, waiting in queues for hours and sometimes over a day, such is the lure of The King of Lalbaug. The mandal is open around the clock, but plan to visit during the day since the evenings right up to midnight are the busiest hours. Known as Navasacha (fulfiller of wishes), Lalbaughcha Raja is hands down the most popular Mumbai Ganpati.
2. Mumbaicha Raja, Ganesh Galli
Located just a couple of lanes away from Lalbaugcha Raja, the Lalbaug Utsav Mandal is the oldest mandal in Mumbai, dating back to 1928. This famous Ganesh idol is fondly referred to as the Mumbaicha Raja and the Lalbaug Utsav Mandal is famous for delighting visitors with its lavish themes year-on-year. This Mumbai Ganpati mandal draws the maximum crowd between 3pm to 2am, so try and visit in the late mornings.
3. Khetwadi Ganraj
Each lane in Khetwadi has its own mandal that celebrates the Ganesh utsav with great pomp and show. Once host to Lokamanya Tilak, this Ganpati mandal was started to bring together the Hindus, Muslims, Parsis and Christians, who joined hands and celebrated Ganesh Chaturthi as one. Covering all the mandals in Khetwadi could take an entire day, but it is worth the time to witness the city’s tallest and most creative Ganpati idols.
4. GSB Mandal, King’s Circle
All that glitters here, in all probability, is gold! The GSB Mandal at King’s Circle is known for its dazzling display of gold and silver. Affectionately known as Mumbai’s Gold Ganesh, this Mumbai Ganpati mandal is also believed to be the richest in the city. Unlike other mandals, traditional Indian music instruments used in South Indian temples are played at this one. Along with the grand Ganpati utsav, they also conduct various social programmes that draw large crowds every year. Adding to the convenience is the mandal’s elevated walkway, which is set up for a better and easy view of the idol. Travel Tip: This Ganesh idol only stays for the first five days of the festival, so choose to visit this before the other Ganpati mandals.
5. Andhericha Raja
Located in the suburbs of Andheri, near Azad Nagar Metro Station, Andhericha Raja boasts the same look every year and is most famous for its 3.1kg gold crown. This Mumbai Ganpati has a reputation of fulfilling wishes, which makes it a favourite for celebrities who come to seek his blessings. The best time to visit this mandal would be between 5am to 12pm, when it is less crowded.
Much like other devotional fairs, food and worship are equal partners in crime at these celebrations, although Ganesha adds an aspect of competition. Lord Ganesha, is presented in various ways by his followers, which makes visiting every avatar across the city as much of an adventure in sightseeing as an effort to seek his blessings. I hope you’re ready for some fun mandal-hopping this Ganesh Chaturthi. Ganpati Bappa, Morya!
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