Meet Pune’s most revered Ganeshas and people’s ‘Manache Ganpati’
Sardar Krushanji Khasagiwale witnessed a Ganesh festival in Gwalior and initiated the idea of a ‘Sarvajanik Ganesh Festival’. His idea was backed by revolutionary Lokmanya Tilak and Pune’s festival started on a large scale in 1893.Updated: Aug 28, 2017 14:35 IST
Every city in Maharashtra has their own style of celebrating the Ganesh festival. However, Pune being the pioneer of the ‘Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav’ has the unique flavour of the most prestigious Ganesh mandals. These top five mandals are known as ‘Manache Ganpati’. These mandals have the honour of being the foremost among other idols during the immersion procession. The order never changes and has been carried out meticulously for the past 124 years.
Though the Ganesh idol was worshipped for several centuries, and during the Peshwa regime it gained huge popularity but it wasn’t the same for the common citizens. Sardar Krushanji Khasagiwale witnessed a Ganesh festival in Gwalior and initiated the idea of a ‘Sarvajanik Ganesh Festival’. His idea was backed by revolutionary Lokmanya Tilak and Pune’s festival started on a large scale in 1893.
However, when the festival actually started, there were only three idols in the procession – Sardar Krushanji Khasagiwale, Ganesh Narayan Ghotawadekar and Bhausaheb Rangari. Initially, it was Khasagiwale’s Ganpati mandal which was the first in the procession, but next year when the number of mandals increased to almost 100, it created some issues about who should go first. Then, Lokmanya Tilak intervened and decided to give importance to the city’s first deity Kasba Ganpati. So the honour of being first was given to Kasba Ganpati and it was followed by city’s first goddess Tambdi Jogeshwari. Thus, the concept of ‘Manache Ganpati’ was introduced. No other city in India has such a system which is still being carried out meticulously. Not just the first, but it was also decided who will be the last one in the procession. The initial route of the procession was Mandai – Faraskhana – Sadashiv Peth and Lakadi Pul, but it was changed after 1952 and Laxmi Road became the centre of attraction. In 1978, Kelkar and Kumthekar Roads were used to accommodate the increasing number of mandals, while Tilak Road was first used for procession in 1988.
HT brings out the significance of the top five ‘Manache Ganpati’ and three other significant mandals in the city.
The Kasba Ganpati is the presiding deity of Pune and its history dates back to 400 years. The temple was commissioned by Shivaji Maharaj’s mother Jijabai, after it was reported to her that an idol of Ganpati had been found in Pune. Although, some claim that the idol was worshipped even before that. Until 1925, Shri Kasba Ganpati Mandal celebrated the festival within the premises of the temple and from 1926 it has been celebrated in an enclosed mandap. The mandal also gives huge encouragement to musical artistes, singers and performers. The programmes which were known as ‘Mela’ (fair), were entertaining and also acted as a medium to inspire citizens to join the fight for freedom.
Tambdi Jogeshwari Ganpati Mandal
Tambdi Jogeshwari Ganpati Mandal has the honour of the second most prestigious Ganpati as Tambdi Jogeshwari is the village goddess. Tambdi Jogeshwari temple is one of the oldest temples built around the idol by Trimbak Bendre in 1545 AD. History records reveal that Peshwas used to seek blessings from the goddess before embarking on a new mission. Every year, the Ganesh idol of the mandal is immersed and a new replica is made. An interesting point to note about the Ganesh idol is it’s sculptor DM Gulunjkar, a well known artiste from Pune who has sculpted the idol as is right from the beginning. This legacy is now carried forward by the fourth generation of the Gulunjkar family. Another feature of the Ganesh idol is that the face of the idol resembles the African elephant.
Guruji Talim Ganpati Mandal
This is the oldest Ganpati mandal in city as it was started in 1887. It was started by families of Bhiku Pandurang Shinde, Nanasaheb Khasgiwale, Shaikh Lalbhai and Vastad Nalband. Talim means wrestling training centre and the mandal was backed by Guruji Talim. On the background of the Hindu-Muslim riot in 1893, the mandal played a key role in spreading the message of communal harmony. That’s why the mandal was given the third place in the immersion procession in 1950. When the talim was functional, the idol used to be placed inside the talim but later on it started celebrating it from the Ganpati chowk. The mandal gains huge support from shopowners, jewellers and cloth merchants from Laxmi Road.
Tulshibaug Ganpati Mandal
The fourth revered Ganpati mandal was founded quite late. It was started in 1901. However, Tulshibaug was quite famous for the ancient Lord Ram temple. The mandal was started by Aba Khatavkar, Sadashivrao Pawar, Boloba Walke and others. The mandal was first to start decorations in front of the idols. They are also pioneers of the large-sized idols in Pune. In 1975, DS Khatavkar created a 15-foot idol of fibreglass. It was a first-of-its-kind. Due to the religious importance of Tulshibaug, the mandal was placed fourth in ‘Manache Ganpati’ in 1950.
Kesari Wada Ganpati Mandal
Founded by Lokmanya Tilak, the Kesari Wada retains its century-old tradition and is considered as one of the most respected Ganesh mandals of the city. The mandal as a tradition does not display decoration but emphasises on organisation of cultural events and educational programmes it attracts a large number of devotees. The mandal also celebrate its Ganesh festival which is held on the basis of the Tilak Panchang. Earlier, the mandal celebrated the festival from Vinchuarkar Wada, but later in 1902 it was shifted to Gaikwad Wada (also known as Kesari Wada) and since then it has been following the tradition. Like the first two Kasaba and Tambdi Jogeshwari, the Kesari Wada Ganpati also has the honour of a palkhi (palanquin). Some claim that initially Kesari Wada was third in the procession but later on it moved to fifth to make way for Guruji Talim and Tulshibaug.
Bhau Rangari Ganpati
Bhausaheb Laxman Javale is also known as Bhau Rangari for their family business of colouring the traditional sarees. He started the Ganesh Festival back in 1892, thus, the mandal claims that Bhausaheb was the pioneer of the famous Ganesh Festival in Pune. The idol of Lord Ganesha killing a demon — the demon here signifying the Britishers - clears the intention behind the festival. Bhausaheb Rangari Trust celebrates Ganeshotsav near Budhwar chowk. Right from the first year, the Rangari Ganpati used to be third last in the procession in its wooden chariot.
Dagdusheth Ganpati Mandal
No article on Pune’s Ganesh Festival will be complete without mentioning the most historic and most famous mandal. The deity of Ganesha was incepted by Dagdusheth Halwai and his wife Lakshmibai way back when they lost their only son to the plague epidemic. The Ganpati was earlier known as ‘Bahulicha Houd Ganpati’ or ‘Kotwal Chawadi Ganpati’. Then for a few years, it was known as Suvarnayug Tarun Mandal, but its name is famous even internationally. Initially, the mandal used to be the last one during the procession till 1969.
Akhil Mandai Ganpati Mandal
Akhil Mandai Mandal and its traditional Sharada-Ganesh idol is one of the main attractions of Pune’s Ganesh Festival. Mandai, the vegetable market in the old city, was dominated by a few families, including Kachi, Thorat, Mate, Ursal and Sanas, who formed the mandal. Earlier, it was known as ‘Ray Market Ganpati’ and then Chhatrapati Shivaji Sangh and then, it converted to Akhil Mandai Mandal. Right from the first year, the beginning of the immersion procession begins from Mandai and the tradition has been carried out even today.