As the ten day long Ganpati festival is being celebrated in many parts of the country, the fervor, festivity and mood of celebration can be felt on the streets and chowks of Vadodara. Like the other Hindu festivals, Ganesh Chaturthi also has religious significance and ancient roots. What is special about Ganesh utsav however is its linkages with our recorded history. Chatrapati Shivaji maharaj initiated collective celebrations to promote culture and unity. It continued during the Maratha rule as Lord Ganesh was the family deity for Peshwas. The festival also has deep links with the history of our freedom struggle. Lokmanya Tilak very famously revived the Ganesh utsav to promote unity and nationalism among people and mobilize them against the colonial rule. Ganesh utsav became a collective socio-religious festival of the people. It developed as a festival for every one binding people across caste, class and communities. Today, it is a festival for all and everyone! Ganesh after all is God of Gana (group of people in Sanskrit). It belongs to everyone. By this token, worshipping Ganesh is worshipping and seeing divinity in all beings and respecting it.
On a deeper level, Ganesh is considered first Devata, because he is the God of threshold where horizon of humanity and divinity meets. Ganesh is deity who brings together spirituality and material comforts, monk like discipline and indulgences of household. His consorts, Riddhi and Siddhi represent wealth and wisdom, his sons are Shubh and Labh literally meaning auspiciousness and profit. Thus Ganesh is all about harmony and balance in life.
Our city Vadodara has long and historical association with Ganesh festival which is ingrained in our way of life. As the times change, traditions are also transformed. In the last few years, many welcome changes have been brought in the way festival is celebrated. Increasingly, due to admirable initiatives by environmentally responsible Ganesh mandals, the ‘plaster of Paris’ idols are being replaced by smaller idols made of clay. Some groups have initiated innovative practices like doing away with the procession & immersion and replacing it with symbolic puja and visarjan of small clay idol. Some others have made idols of Alum (Phitkari) which when immersed in water bodies reduces turbidity and impurity of water! Our government and courts have pushed for and promoted these laudable ecofriendly changes.
This year in Vadodara a new beginning will be made when idols will be immersed in artificial lakes created by VMC rather than water bodies like historical Sur Sagar. I thank all who have supported this initiative, for no change can be brought about and sustained without the support of citizens, opinion makers and media. Let’s resolve to continue to take steps which are in tune with spirit of collective living, balance & harmony and respect for all citizens. May lord Ganesh help us rid the city of its stubborn, persistent and sometimes unmanageable problems. I am sure, every one of us will contribute in removing all obstacles, present and future, and make the city best for living!