Chhatrapati Shivaji, Veer Savarkar, Senapati Bapat and Hemant Karkare are not exactly the kind of figures you would expect to meet on a typical Ganesh darshan trip. But go to Kalachowki’s Abhyudaya Nagar Ganesh Mandal, and you’ll see scores of leaders from Maharashtra’s history along with the presiding deity.
Ganpati pandals are a popular platform to spread social and environmental messages, but this housing colony has chosen to go historical. Their theme is ‘Samyukta Maharashtra’, a celebration of the 50 years since the state’s formation in 1960.
The attraction here is not so much the Lord as what lies at his feet: elaborately arranged cardboard cut-outs of prominent Marathi leaders, and scenes from the freedom struggle, all hand painted by artists from the colony. This is accompanied by a flawlessly organised light-and-sound show played every 15 minutes in the evenings.
As a Marathi voiceover documents the history of the state, the stage gets moving, with shifting spotlights, sliding cutouts and memorial lamps lighting up spontaneously. The narrative includes a mention of the farmer suicides and the 26/11 attacks, and for the grand finale, 50 electric diyas light up around a large map of Maharashtra in the centre.
“It took us one month to set up the entire décor, and it takes three people to operate each show,” said Vaibhav Sawant, who conceptualised the theme. The organisers spent Rs 70,000 to set up the pandal.
This mandal, housed in the residential colony of 3,500 families, has been an active social group for 53 years, supported by contributions from colony members.
For colony members, their activities include AIDS awareness camps, art exhibitions, sports, gymnastics and dramatics.
This year’s plans include setting up a library, an ambulance service, a grievance cell and counselling centres.