Mumbai’s oldest Ganesh mandal, which got Tilak as visitor, to celebrate its 125th anniversary
Ganeshotsav went from being an intimate family affair to being a publically celebrated festival in the late 19th century with freedom fighter Lokmanya Tilak providing the fillip. Tilak wanted to foster community spirit through Ganapati (in which “gana” means group).
Keshavji Naik Chawl in Girgaum, home to Tilak’s friends at the time, was one of the first in Mumbai to join this unifying endeavor. And, this year, the Ganesh mandal at the now famous Keshavji Naik Chawl is celebrating its 125th anniversary.
“Lokmanya Tilak used to come here often to visit his friend Raosaheb Limaye. Limaye and his other friend Naraharshastri Ghodse helped in putting together the first few celebrations, and Tilak himself visited the 1901 celebrations,” said Vinod Satpute, trustee of the mandal.
In 2001, the community celebrated the centenary of this visit with great enthusiasm. “Girgaum witnessed a grand procession and a re-enactment of the visit,” said Vinay Rahatekar, another trustee.
From 1987-1995, a series of lectures called the “Lokmanya Vyakhyamala” also ran during the celebrations, which were graced by historians Setu Madhavrao Pagdi and Yashawant Dinkar Phadke, among other speakers.
In general, the mandal has had celebrities, politicians and dignitaries visiting its celebrations. Yet, it has remained low-key – looked after by the residents of the chawl, who design the décor and often erect the pandal themselves.
“This year, we are expecting higher footfalls because of the special anniversary, so we have hired somebody to do the décor. The structure being constructed is inspired by the Ganapatipule Temple near Ratnagiri, but the murti is the same as every year,” said Satpute.
The two-feet tall clay murti is made by Rajendra More, who is the fourth generation sculptor from the More family associated with the mandal.
Comprising of six buildings, which are home to approximately 150 residents, the chawl is made up of some families who have lived there for seven to eight decades and others who have moved in recently. Everyone synergises to put together a rich cultural program every year.
“This place,” said Rahatekar, pointing to the small shared space between the buildings, “Was totally muddy until 1925, when the residents appealed to the municipal corporation to have it paved. This is where all the events happen now.”