Friday, August 18, 2017

Smart Pune Needs Smart Ganesh Festival!






“Festivals promote diversity, they bring neighbors into dialogue, they increase creativity, they offer opportunities for civic pride, and they improve our general psychological well-being. In short, they make cities better places to live”… David Binder.

Binder was a journalist for the New York Times from 1961 to 2004, reporting on a multitude of topics regarding Eastern and Western Europe, Soviet Union, the United States, Cuba, Puerto Rico. He served as a foreign correspondent in Berlin in 1961 where he reported on the building of the Berlin wall. No wonder after seeing most of Europe from a journalist’s eye, he can describe festivals so perfectly. And why I remembered his quote in none other than our Ganpati Festival; as if you ask anybody about Pune then first answer comes, the famous Ganpati Festival. During these ten days the entire city transforms in to a fairy land just the way it happens in Disney Land. Citizens forget about routine problems the city offers to them & everybody is busy in welcoming as well worshipping Lord Ganesha in his or her best possible way. And it’s not about just domestic i.e. in house celebration, what makes the Ganpati of Pune special is it becomes entire city’s celebration, getting along all the segments of the society together, making them forgot position, age, gender, caste & even religion. Well, this was what Lokmanya Tilak (Due respect even Shree Bhau Rangari also) has thought of this festival some 125 years back. Such a rich & long heritage this festival has got, sure this makes Pune’s Ganesh Festival unique in entire country!

Before having a look at today’s face of ganesgh festival, let’s have a glimpse of past. Some three decades back the festival may not be having glamour what it has today & may be the budgets were also small yet the charm was there & a flavor of family culture. The events carried during the festival were for all the segments of the society as well every age group of the family. And I am speaking about public Mandals’ mean not just restricted to some society or wada but entire locality used to gather under the banner. A  Mandal means group of people coming together socially of one suburb or locality or mohalla or Aali (Street) or Peth in Pune’s language. Each such Mandal has one common Ganpati apart from their own home & all the events right from various games’ competitions to cultural programs like debate competition or dance to arraigning music programs or movie screening were arranged keeping in mind social awareness. Sure decoration was the key factor but it wasn’t the only factor while celebrating the festival. Money used to be generated via residents as well shop keepers in the locality but not forcefully. Enjoyment was sure main thing on agenda of ganesh festival but not at the cost of other’s peace of mind. Every event is worked out keeping the budget in mind & not vice versa & most importantly the object of the festival was fun, peace & togetherness of every segment of the society. And at the end of tenth day the Wisarjan Mirawnuk (Immersion ceremony of Gnaesh Idol) was the peak of the festival. It’s this wisarjan mirawnuk which gave the real glory to Pune’s Ganesh Festival as not just from the State but visitors come to witness this procession even from other countries as nearly a million & above people come on the streets of Pune for whole night & become part of the procession, an event worth being part of!

There was one more aspect to this festivals or Mandal’s formation & that was many political careers has been started through the  Ganpati Mandal’s all across the city & this is where the scene started changing on the horizon of Ganesh Festival of Pune. Once the political figures realized this aspect of ganesh festival which assures entry in to millions of home (read vote bank) then the money started flowing in. Slowly the families & social workers from the Ganesh Mandal’s got replaced by bhai, dada & yuva nete type figures. Like the popular stand in election while issuing party ickit i.e. capacity to get elected; capacity to collect or pull in more money become the criteria for being prominent member or office bearers in the Ganpati Mandal’s organization. And with that came rat race to spend millions on the decoration & work books with glossy images of big political figures as well celebrities. No more these Manadal’s were taking families of local residents as center of the events in the festival but crowd pulling become the main object of the Manadal’s decorations as well so called cultural programs. Outcome is, no more ladies or the families can now move freely in the crowd which floods the roads to see the Ganpati Mandal’s decoration or immersion procession on the last day. As the entire focus is now on flashy lighting, walls of sound speakers & so called mandal karyakarte (volunteers) shaking their bodies in ugliest (lewd is proper term) way on the tunes of raunchy songs. The very purpose for which the Ganesh Festival has started is being defeated as it has become a tool controlled by few to show their power to the society!  I know many people won’t agree with this sharing or even may not like it but this is what I have observed in my last thirty years of stay in Pune.

And then the nature of our celebration, look at it; when the festival started some 125 years back & later on for many years then our traffic wasn’t what it is today. The work nature of entire society has changed; people can’t take this disturbance to their movement or the ear pollution for ten days. What is the first thing which announces arrival of Ganesh Festival; earlier it was starting of pendols (mandap along the road), now its Dhol Tasha deafening sound all-around the city which starts nearly a month before the festival. Agreed its celebration but do we need such sound pollution cancer, with enough of pollution already surround year long to us! And then blocking of roads by the mandaps (pendol) for the festival & it’s not for just ten days, these structures remains there for nearly a month long disturbing the entire traffic of the city. Agreed the festival is highlight of city’s heritage but if the city is getting smart then cant we make Ganesh Festival also a bit smart, is what I will like to ask every citizen.  For e.g. do we need so many mandal’s around & if we do then is it necessary to celebrate the festival by blocking roads & ears of the citizens? 

Why can’t we come out something like we have in UP & MP State as Dashahara Maidan, where Ravan is ignited. Or in Dubai there Global Village where pavilions of all the countries are built on a huge ground displaying every countries culture & commerce. Likewise we can have a big open space outside of city by name of Ganesh Maidan, may be on all four sides of the city & let all the Mandals have here their respective Ganpati’s Mandaps. The place can be connected all round by public transport & only Ganpati’s which will be in the city are of societies or wadas causing no trouble to city civic management or residents. Here at such place we can have spaces reserved for cultural as well performing arts along with food stalls & sale of goodies. On each day prominent figures from the society can visit this Ganesh Maidan & share their views with the public from a common stage. And one single procession can be planned through the city like Carnival in Rio, Brazil on last day which everybody can attend. 

This is just one thought to make the Ganesh Festival smart & it may sound weird & sure may will think I have gone out of my mind yet considering the changed nature of the festival as well needs of the city, it’s high time we should really think out of the box to make the Ganesh Festival relive for what it has been started by our forefathers! Because if you see the controversies launched regarding the Ganesh Festival, then the people it, Lokmanya Tilak or Bhausaheb Rangari, both of them would have been ashamed of starting this event, had they been alive to witness the present face of the festival which we call Pride of Pune! There are many Ganesh Mandal's who does try to celebrate sensibly & use the festival to spread awareness about social issues but unfortunetly the percentage of such Mandals is very less is fact.

Just to sum up will share something I wrote about the kind of society we are becoming…
“Few years back it was statue of dadoji konddev, few months back it was statue of ram ganesh gadkari & now snap of lokmanya tilak; when we will understand that a person is honored or respected by his deeds as well achievements & not by his caste or religion! Very frankly not just Pune or Maharashtra but entire country is on such a shameful track of dividing people on basis of caste & religion that we don’t need China or Pakistan to defeat us as our enemies as we, ourselves are sufficient to doom us as our enemy!!” This culture & feeling of togetherness is what we need to take back home while we immerse Bappa on the last day when we say good bye to him saying “Ganpati Bappa Moraya, Pudhachya warshi lawakar ya” (come back soon next year) or else one day even he will refuse to come back to us if we remain on the track we are on as a society!

Sanjay Deshpande 

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1 comment:

  1. Aptly put. Unfortunately no political party, I repeat - No political party including BJP & Sena have guts to reform this festival. Agree that they are political outfits, but then it is expected that sensible leadership and vision is provided to the society with thought provoking and nuisance free celebration. But who cares?

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