Lord Ganesh would probably be the poster boy for Hindu mythology. I’ve rarely met a foreign yogi who hasn’t heard at least one legend about how he got the head of an elephant. I’ve rarely been to an Indian or an Indophile’s house which doesn’t have a picture or a statue of Ganesh-ji. I don’t profess to have more than a rudimentary knowledge of Hinduism and am not in the least iconoclastic. But I also have a beautiful statue of Ganesh in my house. One of my favorite pieces of jewellery is a gold Ganesh pendant that a friend of mine gave me when I was about to embark on an import journey in life (thanks Lakshmi).
I guess it was destiny for me to come to Maharashtra when the most special festival is going on. Ganesh Chaturti here is celebrated like Dusshera in Mysore. The festival has been immortalized in numerous Bollywood songs and last night I had the pleasure of visiting the 5 famous Ganesh mandals here in Pune. These are so famous in fact, that it is rumoured that Bollywood celebrities come all the way here to offer their prayers. Going to the old city and walking through the crowds to make your way to the Ganpatis is no easy feat, and I guess it was destiny once again that I had a group who was kind enough to think of me when they made their plan. Had it not been for Hariharan, Shivangi and Subbu I don’t think I would ever have had the chance to participate in the festivities.
We had a very capable and organized navigator. Hariharan did the groundwork. We had the names of the famous Ganapatis and the walking route printed out. We knew that it was going to be crowded, so we left our bags behind in the car and ventured out on foot. Don’t get too close to the venue to look for parking because you won’t find any. We parked on the other side of the Mula Mutha river and crossed the bridge. The area is cordoned off for vehicles.
Have to go back to this. I’ve heard there is a sound and light show here. Also, it looks very different from how it does in Bajirao Mastani. I will have to go back for a closer look.
The Ganapatis we wanted to visit were:
- Guruji Talim
- Tulsibaugh (we missed this one)
So the Ganapatis, in no particular order are:
The oldest Ganapati.
While here I want to make sure that I have as much vada pav and pav bhaji and other local fare, and in keeping with that we stopped at JumboKing for their famous Wada Pav Burger.
Mario Miranda on the wall.
Fortune tellers, old and new friends, phenomenal yoga teachers and amazing practice sessions…what else will Ganesh-ji bring my way during the rest of my Pune travels and in my life?
I’m a lover of stories (maybe a collector of stories?). The house I’m living in is located on Flight Lt Sudhir Pawar Road. I found out early that Sudhir Pawar was actually related to my landlady. He was her uncle. Once on a sortie, the plane malfunctioned and he crash landed. The government named the road on which he lived after him. Once upon a time there were several bungalows on this road, however now there are only two left, one of which is the one I’m staying in. The compound has 3 bungalows within it, and the grave of a fakir. That piqued my interest.
Yesterday, I had a chance to speak to my landlady’s father who is a retired architect. In his 80s now, he is bedridden but his mind is spry and alert. Deaf since the age of 17, he approached Morarji Desai for permission to travel abroad (in the 50s) to see if there were any doctors who could help him with his hearing. Morarji Desai provided 400 pounds and letters of references to top doctors in Austria to help him out. He set sail. While on a quest to find a cure for his hearing loss, he managed to get a job in London, rented a Viscount’s house, learned lip reading from nuns in Birmingham, travelled all over Europe and finally decided to come home to get married and look after his younger brothers. Still deaf, he decided on a final jaunt to Dubai for work before he came to India to settle down and start his own architecture firm.
So I decided to ask him about the fakir’s grave. “No no he doesn’t walk…he doesn’t go anywhere.”
“What?” I was puzzled.
“Yes, he doesn’t walk anymore. We’ve created a walkway for him and given him a house, so he doesn’t bother us. He stays there only.” So he was talking about the fakir.
The house he’s referring to is right behind the room which I’ve taken. There’s a tree under which the fakir lies. For obvious reasons I choose not to dwell on that right now. However, I will try and get a picture of that house and tree one of these days.
Ganesh Chaturti is a big deal in Maharashtra and today was one of the first holidays (besides Sunday). I realized this only last night and I got so excited when I realized last night that I could actually read all night if I wanted to. That’s exactly what I planned on doing, but stumbled upon ‘The Painted Veil’ on YouTube. I’m having issues putting the book down these days, and I was curious to see how they’ve done the movie.
I could hear ‘Ganpati bappa moriya!‘ as my hosts brought their Ganpati home and I went up later to see what they’ve done. Family members have been visiting all day and festivity is in the air. Tomorrow is the visarjan, where they will take the idol and submerge it the river. Good to be in Maharashtra at this time.