Dancing to the beats of dholaks, swathed in gulal and holding Ganpati idols in their hands, devotees swarmed visarjan spots across the city on the fifth day of the Ganesh festival.
At Juhu Beach, people poured in to see off their favourite deity. It was mainly the smaller idols that were immersed — those installed by families and housing societies. “It’s a great atmosphere. We feel a little sad that the deity is leaving,” said Rambrij Nisad, who had come there with his family.
“I feel bad about the pollution in the sea, but it’s our faith, what can we do?,” said Shakuntala Kumbhare, a homemaker.
As devotees performed aarti, distributed sweets and helped each other immerse the idols, everybody strained to get one last look at the deity.
In the crowd were several women and children. “This is the only time of the year I roam around freely in such a great crowd. People here don’t harass us,” said Tania Shenoi, a homemaker.
As the sun set and the crowd swelled further, volunteers stepped up their efforts and the police persistently reminded parents to ensure they don’t lose hold of their children. “It’s difficult as well as risky as the evening progresses,” said Arvinda Kelve, a civic lifeguard at Juhu.
“The crowd will be at its peak at 9 pm when visibility is low, but we’ll manage somehow. People are helpful and we enjoy it so much, it doesn’t even register that our duty hours have ended,” said Dinesh Maru, another lifeguard.
For Prakash Bhambhwani, the visarjan at Girgaum has been a tradition for the past 27 years. Amidst the tight security, he finished immersing the idol in a matter of minutes. “Much has changed since I first came here, but the devotion has stayed the same,” said the 43-year-old businessman, a Napean Sea Road resident.
Meanwhile, the Shinde family of 12 from Arthur Road prepared to return. “The five days that the deity was with us, time passed quickly. It’s been only a few minutes since we immersed the idol but we already feel the void,” said Prakash Shinde.
About 250 policemen manned the 23 immersion spots at Girgaum Chowpatty since 8 am to manage the crowd, traffic and immersions.
While most had no complaints about the arrangements, some complained of the filth on the shore. “Last year, there were drums in which garlands were collected. Only the idols were allowed to be immersed,” said Sunder Mirchandani (50), pointing to the polythene strewn on the sand.
Though it was late, the policemen and volunteers on duty were well aware that their work hadn’t ended — the biggest immersion of the day, that of the GSB Mandal from Sion,was expected at 4 am on Thursday.