Even as the road to the Lalbaug temple is abuzz with activity, a veil of hushed secrecy persists closer to the pandal being erected inside. Policemen guard the Ganpati idol to ensure that no trespasser catches a glimpse of the Lord before the big day.
“We have finished moulding the idol and will complete painting the 12-feet divine figure in a week,” said Santosh Kambli, sculptor and owner of Kambli Arts, which has been making the Lalbaugcha Raja idol since 1935.
“Since 2005, we have been creating a 3-D background using plaster of paris to accentuate the overall look. Though the face and expression of the murti has remained the same in the past 78 years, we keep altering the pattern of the singhasan (throne) and the pose he strikes,” added Kambli, who had applied for a copyright for the idol in July.
This year, members of the Lalbaugcha Raja Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal are expecting a larger turnout.
“There could be more than 1.5 crore devotees coming to seek darshan during the 10-day festival. Security is our primary concern,” said Ashok Pawar, president of the mandal. “We are going to have closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras inside and outside the pandal and will also have facilities such as clean toilets, water supply and a medical unit complete with an ICU for the devotees.”
For the devotees, the theme and facilities are not as important as the emotional connect they have with the Lord. “Since my childhood, I have been visiting the mandal. Earlier, the queues were mismanaged and there were no washrooms on the way, making it highly inconvenient.
However, over the last five years, the entire experience has become a lot smoother and last year, I saw him, after seven hours in the queue,” said Manjula Patkar, 29, who will be playing host to her Raigad-based relatives coming down to the city to seek the Raja’s darshan.