“Om Shree Ganeshaya Namaha”. This mantra means “Lord Ganesha, I offer prayers to you”. This mantra is often used to start a new project; hence I am quoting this at the beginning of this blog to seek Ganesha’s blessings.
Get set as I take you for Ganpati darshan through a virtual tour of few Ganpati Pandals in Mumbai on a Kross bicycle and highlight the eco-friendly way of celebrating the Indian festival. Pandal hopping on a bicycle is my own unique approach of exploring the deities fascinating avatars in a sustainable way.
A look back in history:
In the late 1890’s, Indian freedom fighter and social reformer Lokmanya Tilak championed the Ganesh festival as a grand public event (which was earlier limited to a family-affair) to unite and mobilize masses in Maharashtra against the British Rule. British government had banned large assembly of people to stop unified public movement as mark of protest to oppose their regime. To counter the colonial rule, Lokmanya Tilak led large gatherings at the back of the Ganesh festival and used it as a resilient strategy against the British rule. Since then, Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated widely with great fervor in Maharashtra and other parts of India.
The Elephant God:
Lord Ganesha is the son of Parvati and Shiva. He is the remover of obstacles and considered to bring good fortune and the god of intellect and wisdom. As the god of beginnings, he is honored at the onset of new projects and ceremonies.
An annual festival honours Ganesha for ten days, starting on Ganesha Chaturthi, which typically falls in late August or September. The festival begins with people bringing in idols of Ganesha, symbolising the god’s arrival. The festival culminates on the day of Ananta Chaturdashi when the idols are immersed in the most convenient body of water. Some families have a tradition of immersion on the 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 7th day or 10th day.
Moving to an eco-friendly celebration:
In the recent years, the government is laying emphasis on using eco-friendly idols like mud and clay. The agenda is to reduce long-term environment impacts. Several activists and NGO’s have campaigned over the years to create public awareness about the harmful effects of using POP idols (Plaster of Paris) and switching to eco-friendly alternatives.
Especially, the visuals of day after the immersion with semi-dissolved POP idols lying at beaches and lakes in the past have resulted in the public being sensitized to the fact. As a coordinated effort between the Idol manufacturers, local municipalities and citizen activists, the trend of bringing eco-friendly idols has picked-up and growing. For instance, my family has moved towards welcoming eco-friendly Ganesha idol at home since the last 3 years.
Moreover, the administration has taken measures such as setting up of artificial ponds at every ward level to minimize environment pollution and encouraging people to do immersions at designated sites. Like, my family has initiated a practice of immersing the idol in a drum at home and use the water to furnish the plants in the subsequent days.
Some idol makers also put seeds in the idol which are made of mud. At the end of the festival, you can put that into a pot and post immersion it grows into a plant. I strongly feel this is another good way of respecting god and nature and must be adopted at scale and speed.
Ganpati darshan on a bicycle:
Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the most popular festivals in Mumbai, and every year, millions of people flock to the city to celebrate. You look around and you will spot a Ganpati pandal at almost every corner of the street which are decorated with colourful lights and vibrant flowers. While most people explore the pandals on foot, however, some devotees bring their cars for darshan and that results into a traffic jam. One of the best ways I have identified is to experience the festival in an eco-friendly way and go pandal hopping on a bicycle.
There are many benefits of taking a bicycle for Ganpati darshan:
- First, it is the easiest way to get around in the city and narrow lanes by navigating on a bicycle.
- Second, it is a more sustainable way to travel with absolutely zero emission and noise pollution and you will be helping to reduce traffic congestion.
- Third, it is a great way to get some exercise. You will be burning calories and getting fresh air while you explore the city. That gives you an extra levy to indulge into sweets like Modak and Laddos (Indian Sweets) because you know that cycling will balance out those extra calories.
Route and ride schedule:
I went pandal hopping on the first day of the festival, 19th September 2023. While there are pandals set-up all over the city, I stuck to a specific route due to the paucity of time. I travelled for Ganpati darshan to pandals located at Santacruz, Khar, Bandra, Matunga and Dadar riding a total distance of 22 kms and did darshan of 15 pandals.
I started my ride on a Cube MTB by Kross Bike, made in India and designed for the city streets. The front suspension of Cube MTB is good to absorb unexpected bumps, while the thick tyres give you rolling stability. The bicycle has wide handlebars, comfortable saddle, 21 Shimano gears to manage inclines and disc brakes. I suggest you must test ride it to get the full experience of the bike (you can find more information on their website www.krossbikes.com).
I ditched the lycra and opted to wear a traditional Kurta and helmet as a mandatory safety requirement. The Ganpati idol is worshipped in my house as I mentioned earlier and that was my first darshan point. My first real stop was at the pandal in Khar area. The journey thereafter continued towards south Mumbai with halts at several pandals wherever I spotted one. I avoided visiting the larger-than-life pandals like Lalbaugcha Raja and many other popular ones in Ganesh gully as the queues are endless and waiting time is too long.
My last stop was at Bandra Talao on my way back where I offered prayers for the betterment of humanity, justice, equality, and global peace for all.
Tips to plan your ride:
If you are planning to seek Ganpati darshan and go pandal hopping on a bicycle, there are a few things you need to keep in mind:
- First, make sure you are comfortable riding a bicycle in traffic.
- Second, wear comfortable clothes and sandals (avoid shoes as you will have to remove them every time before darshan).
- Third, bring water and snacks with you.
- Fourth, carry a napkin, handkerchief, or wet tissues to wipe your hands as you will be receiving prasad at every pandal and your hands will become sticky.
- Fifth, be aware of your surroundings and watch out for pedestrians.
- Sixth, carry a lock for the safety of your bicycle.
You can design and plan your own itinerary based on your convenience, but I heartily recommend doing Ganpati darshan on a bicycle. As the festival has just begun, you can either go solo or form groups to maximize your fun quotient.
People from Tours and Travel companies if you are reading this blog, I suggest you use this idea to start customized tours for local and foreign tourist. This will open-up new opportunities for people to get close to the Indian traditions and cultures. It will also help generate revenue for small businesses and infuse values of brotherhood, love, and togetherness in society.
Finally, no matter where you go, you are sure to have a memorable experience on your Ganpati darshan bicycle ride. Ganpati darshan is a time for joy and celebration, and taking a bicycle ride is a great way to experience the festival. So, get out there and enjoy the ride. Ganpati Bappa Morya!
Disclaimer: This article is written in collaboration with Kross Bikes India. A small fee is awarded to me for integrating Kross Bikes in my journey.
Enjoy the visual tour of lord Ganesha and if you liked this post share it with others.
You might also like to read: MARK RUTTE CYCLES IN BANGALORE; ERIK SOLHEIM IN HYDERABAD
Author: Vijay Malhotra, Mumbai