For nearly 50 years, the Ganesh mandal of Khetwadi’s 12th lane in Grant Road (East) maintained a closet full of awards for creating one of the tallest idols in the city year after year. Then three years ago, the mandal adopted a new strategy, and won the mayor’s award for cutting down the height of its Ganpati.
“We were once famous for making idols as high as 40-feet, but when the BMC began urging mandals to regulate their height, we decided to comply,” said Shankar Harare, the secretary of Khetwadi’s popular Ganesh mandal, which turns 53 this year.
Although the height of their elephant lord is now just 14feet, the mandal ensures that the idol’s poise and facial features remain the same. “We must have the same look on the murti every year because ours is a wish-fulfilling God who draws thousands of people to him every day during the festival,” said Harare.
Grant Road resident Nirmala Kadam is one those loyal devotees who believes in the miraculous healing powers of the Khetwadi 12th lane Ganesh. “Five years ago, he cured my son of severe head injuries in just two weeks,” said Kadam, a housewife who unfailingly visits the mandal every day during the festival.
The mandal is also known for its elaborate and large-scale pandal decorations on various themes. While they attempted to recreate swarg (heaven) last year, the aesthetic theme this year will be ‘samai’ – lanterns.
On the mandal’s makeshift wooden stage where the idol will be housed, an army of designers and labourers is already busy crafting intricate fibre pillars and carved wooden screens for the lord’s palace, as well as two giant three-tiered lamps to be hung on the sides of the idol.
“We never rush devotees who come to visit us. People stand in line for hours, and we allow them to sit by the lord’s feet and pray for at least two whole minutes,” said Harare.
The money that the mandal collects through donations is spent in providing educational, medical and other benefits to locals in need.