For girls of Muslim community at Snehlataganj in Indore, Ganesh Chaturthi is more than a festival. It is an occasion to strengthen the bonds of humanity and communal harmony.
The fact that they belong to a different faith does not stop these girls to take part in the ceremonies and rituals of the ten-day festival. From 'aarati' to the decoration of stage and arranging little necessities, these girls do not miss out on any opportunity to celebrate the festival with passion.
"We have been celebrating the festival and decorating the stage since three years. For us, Ganesh Chaturthi holds similar reverence as it does for Hindus," said Kahkasha, 13, a resident of Snehlataganj.
Accompanied by her Muslim friends from the neighbourhood, these girls can be seen organising cultural activities every day to keep the neighbourhood buzzed during the ten-day fest. "Apart from ‘aarti’ and stage decoration, we organise a number of cultural activities to ensure that people from the entire neighbourhood participate in them," said 14-year-old Asira Khan.
The girls feel that discriminating and classifying festivals on the basis of religion should be avoided. "Festivals always mean happiness. One should not be choosy and celebrate some and avoid others. For people living in our neighbourhood, the festivals are about ensuring peace and harmony amongst people of different faiths," said 13-year-old Misbah Ali.
The unique aspect of the neighbourhood is equal participation of all the communities irrespective of the religion. The residents of the neighbourhood celebrate all the festivals with same zeal.
"Our neighbourhood is an epitome of harmony. While we participate in Ganesh Chaturthi, girls of Hindu community help us in preparing ‘tazia’s’ during Muharram," said Shehnaz Bi, mother of Misbah.
According to Azam Pawar, living with the same people for generations together has influenced them.
"We have been living together for ages. Family-like terms in the neighbourhood is very common and natural for us to stand with each other in good or bad times. Festivals like Ganesh Chaturthi are no exception," adds Pawar.