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The god of all beings

india Updated: Aug 31, 2009 02:48 IST
Karthik Balasubramanian
Karthik Balasubramanian
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Address: Vileparlecha Peshwa, Bal Gopal Mitra Mandal, Vile Parle (East)

“The show starts at 7 pm,” Vijay Naikude (29), secretary of the Bal Gopal Mitra Mandal, the organisers of the Vileparlecha Peshwa Ganesh pandal.

At the allotted time, a projector — it was borrowed from Tat Memorial Hospital — begins to display slides on what chewing tobacco can do to you. Next to Ganesha’s idol, a replica of a hospital ward has been built, complete with animated statues of a doctor, patient and nurse.

To underscore the message, there is a demon, or rakshas, next to the set of the hospital ward. The rakshas is decorated with cigarette packets, gleaming packets of tobacco, and cigarette paper.

The Vileparlecha Peshwa has been around for 21 years and each year, it tries to use the festival as an opportunity to give out a social message. This year, the Peshwa has taken up cudgels against tobacco chewing.

“We started with a five-rupee Ganpati statue many years ago,” Naikude said. “We would collect money for the festival by selling raddi (old newspapers). Now it’s grown.”

Headed by Mohan Jadhav, the mandal is prominent in the Vile Parle locality for social work. Last year the mandal started a campaign encouraging the use of cloth bags. This year they introduced eco-friendly materials into the pandal.

“All the materials used are easily disposable. The 13-foot-high Ganpati idol is made of papier-mache,” said Naikude.

Ashish Chandalia, a ten-year-old local resident, skipped school to be at the pandal. “I really like the hospital arrangement, and you can’t say I am not learning anything here,” he said with a straight face.

Address: Angelina Apartments, Vile Parle

Harishchandra Baluthambe (35) works at a jewellery store in Vile Parle (East). But every year, as Ganeshotsav approaches, he divides his time between his work and designing a unique pandal for Ganesha at home.

This time he decided to go green, or one should say soil brown. His pandal, which took him over a month to make, consists of newspapers laved with beach sand and mud, giving it the air of a castle built on a cliff.

The whole arrangement takes up half the space in the tiny living room of his house. Family members are seated in the balcony as the living room has too little space. But they don’t mind.

“This murti (idol) at home is older than even the building murti,” said Baluthambe. “My father started this when he was a child and I am just continuing the tradition.”

The building pandal, built by the residents of the Angelina Apartments, where Baluthambe lives, is also a study in eco-friendly decorations. The pandal is decorated entirely with homemade rust-coloured paper, again making it look like it has been carved out of a cliff-face.

There is, however, a bell made of styrofoam. Next to the bell is a little rill that Hitesh Jethva (23) said is designed to drip water like a mountain stream. Jethva, a freelance photographer, is one of the residents who along with Baluthambe made the decorations and built the pandal.

The pandal is inside a canopied corridor next to the Baji Prabhu Deshpande Road and attracts a lot of curious commuters on the way to SV Road or the Vile Parle station.

“We get almost 300-400 people daily because of the location,” Jethva said.

The idol, which is a four-foot replica of the Lalbaugcha Raja, has been drawing devotees for the past six years. For the entire week that the idol stays in the building, residents come together for aarti and festivities.