Aale re aale maazey bappa aale. The people of Mumbai have always celebrated Ganesh Chaturthi with all enthusiasm and joy for more than hundred years now and this festival is nothing less than Diwali especially for Mumbaikars that celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi in grand style with some great pandals (set-up decorations) coming up all over the city. According to the local civic body in the city, around 1,91,00 Sarvajanik Ganesh Mandals (Publicly-Opened Ganesh Groups) have come up all over the city while more than 1,80,650 households around the city bring Ganpati Bappa idols to their homes which also indicates the kind of affection and love that devotees in Mumbai have for their most favorite Hindu God. Personally, I don’t like the kind of competition and business concept that have been merged with the festival because Ganesh Chaturthi is all about Bappa bringing joy into our life and taking away the evil from our life which is why He is the dukh harta (remover of sorrows) and over the years the entire meaning of Ganesh mandals (Ganesh groups) have changed, but that does not stop devotees to visit some of the must visit Ganesh mandals in Mumbai that draw large number of people from all over Mumbai and also from Maharashtra.
The Lalbaugcha Raja
Do I even have to introduce you to the most famous Ganesh idol in the city? Well, Mumbaikars already love their Lalbaugcha Raja (King of Lalbaug), so probably they know better than me, but for some of my readers let me share a few things. Established in 1934 this mandal (Ganesh group) managed to gain more popularity in 1990s and have managed to attract more number of people and devotees than any other mandal in the city.
You won’t believe that almost every day a million people come to visit this mandal (idol) believing that Ganpati Bappa will fulfill their wishes. The mandal is located at G.D. Ambedkar Road in Lalbaug and you can get down at Lower Parel, Curry Road or Chinchpokli stations to get here. The visiting hours are open around the clock, but your waiting time can be anything from five hours to twenty hours depends on your luck factor and the amount devotees in the line at that time.
Ganesh Galli Mumbaicha Raja
Well, the competition is always tough and just couples of lanes away you can find Ganesh Galli Mumbaicha Raja (King of Mumbai) which still many believe is the most popular Ganesh mandal in Mumbai throughout the history of Ganesh mandals. Why? Well, it started way before The Lalbaugcha Raja (King of Lalbaug) was established and it managed to attract devotees and people for more than six decades until The Lalbaugcha Raja manage to garner better response.
Established in 1928 this is also the oldest Ganesh mandal (group) in the locality which was originally formed for the benefit of mill workers. The Ganesh mandal is located in Ganesh Galli in Lalbaug and you can get down at either Lower Parel, Curry Road or Chinchpokli stations to get here. While the pandal (visiting area) is always busy and crowded it will take you an hour or so to take the darshan (glimpse) of Lord Ganesha’s idol inside.
12th Lane Khetwadicha Ganraj
Spectacular is the right word to describe Khetwadicha Ganraj that leaves you spellbound when you enter the pandal (set-up area). Established in 1959 Khetwadicha Ganraj never achieved the popularity that they have managed to get recently in the last few decades. It was only during early 2000s that the mandal (group) dared to come up with the tallest Ganesh idol ever of 40 feet that dwarfed all others that year. You can see the grand decoration and set up in the picture below which is a replica of a palace interior.
Since then Khetwadicha Ganraj has managed to attract large number of people annually getting the kind of popularity it deserved. The mandal is open to people till late night so you can visit it any time you want. You can get down at Grant Road or Sandhurst Road which are the nearest stations and the pandal is located in the 12th Lane of Khetwadi. Oh, when you are here, do visit other Khetwadi lanes as well that also bring up smaller Ganesh idols. Khetwadi has in all 14 lanes, so you get to see lot of idols here, both small and big ones.
GSB Seva Ganesh
I believe respecting the nature is as good as respecting your God and that is why GSB Seva Ganesh mandal is the most popular mandal (group) for those who think differently. Established in 1952 and started by Gowd Saraswat Brahmin community of Karnataka this Ganesh idol is something that you should not miss out especially when you are on the tour of top Ganesh mandals in Mumbai. So, what makes this Ganesh idol stand apart? Well, its eco-friendly and made out of clay plus it is adorned with real gold. It is believed that this idol is adorned with 60 kilograms of gold. I am not trying to put someone down here, but GSB Seva Ganesh mandal do not play any recorded songs in regional languages that we usually here playing out loud on the streets. Instead, the mandal (group) plays traditional Indian music instruments which are usually played in South Indian temples. Finally, a group that still sticks to the basics and does not give in to the concept of money.
While the idol is not as big and jazzy as the others it is placed conveniently for the visitors and devotees to see. This mandal is located at GSB Sports Club Ground at King’s Circle near Matunga. Oh, yes I would also like to mention that this Ganesh idol stays for five days and not for 10 days as usual so keep this first in your list. To get here you can get down at King Circle or Matunga railway station.
In the last few years, a major part of the city’s population has moved to suburbs and therefore the Andhericha Raja (King of Andheri) has managed to gain more popularity especially for the people living close to Andheri. The mandal was established in 1966 by mill and factory workers who moved to suburbs from Lalbaug. In simple words, Andhericha Raja is the sort of Lalbaugcha Raja for people that live in this part of Mumbai.
However, don’t expect glitz and glamour here and you will also miss out the tall statues here because Andhericha Raja is not about competition, but about respect and devotion and people come here because they believe that Lord Ganesha will fulfill their wishes and get rid of their problems. The mandal is located at Veera Desai Road, Azad Nagar in Andheri West. To reach the mandal get down at Andheri station and take a bus or rickshaw to Veera Desai Road, Azad Nagar.
When you are done with all these, you can take a tour of the city and you will find many more such Ganesh groups and idols all over the place. This year, in 2014 the festival begins on 29th August, Friday, so put on your shoes and take a tour of some of the grandest, tallest and most spectacular Ganesh idols in the city.