Meet Mumbai's 'King-size' Ganpati
As kings always deal in superlatives, Mumbai's most famous Ganpati -- Lalbaugcha Raja -- is no exception. Be it his overbearing personality standing tall at 12 feet or the record number of devotees that come to seek his blessings or the record donations being collected -- everything is 'king size.' Lalbaugcha Raja reigns over Mumbai during these ten days of festivity, reports N Ganesh
Located at Lalbaug market, Lalbaugcha Raja is one of the oldest sarvajanik (public) Ganesh festivals of Mumbai established in 1934. During the pre-Independence era, the festival was used as a platform by the prominent leaders to generate opinion against the British empire.
Lalbaugcha Raja is truly a King in all respects and it pays to seek his audience. A mere glance of the deity which is labeled as mukh darshan takes about two-and-a-half-hours wait in the queue during weekdays and eight to nine hours during weekends.
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Image: Lalbaugcha Raja Ganpati in Mumbai
Photographs: Shripad Naik
During peak time, queue of devotees stretches to 10 km
For the devotees who go seeking the fulfillment of their prayers to the Lord, it is more arduous path, as it takes about six hours during the weekdays particularly during the initial days. During weekends and after the fifth day, the devotees wait for as much as 25-30 hours in the queue.
During lean periods the queue is 2.5 km to 3 km long while during peak time it stretches to 10 km. Ideal time to get a darshan by having to spend minimum time in the queue would be to reach Lalbaug by 3.30 am in the morning.
Photographs: Shripad Naik
Lalbaugcha Raja reigns over Mumbai during these ten days of festivity
On an average there are about 15 lakh people who queue up for darshan every day. Last year about 2.5 crore people had turned up at Lalbaug making it an event management nightmare for the organisers and the police.
With bigger crowds, comes bigger donations. So far the King Lord's coffer has ringed in Rs 2.72 crore and is expected to touch Rs 10 crore. Last year it was over Rs 12 crore. It takes several weeks to count the cash and make a itinerary of the donations made in kind such as gold and silver ornaments by unidentified devotees.
Unlike the previous years when the devotees had to weather the climates, this time around the devotees queuing for darshan have been accommodated in 60000 sq ft ground which has been enclosed and centrally air conditioned.
Besides, the organisers also offer bottled water, tea, snacks to the devotees in the queue free of cost. Mobile toilets have been set up at various points along the queue.
The organizers have also set up a 24-hour intensive care unit manned by doctors and medical attendants to meet any medical emergencies of devotees. Besides the 1500 policemen, the organisers have 2200 members and 3000 volunteers to manage the crowd.
Image: Lalbaugcha Raja reigns over Mumbai during these ten days of festivity
Photographs: Sanjay Sawant
The King Lord is 'secular'
Citing security reasons, the VIPs are not made to stand in the queue and have a quick access to the Lord. So far Chief Minister Ashok Chavan and his entourage, former chief minister and Lok Sabha speaker Manohar Joshi, Bollywood star-couple Abhishek and Aishwarya have come to seek the blessings of the Lord this year.
The King Lord is secular with a huge fan following among members of the other community. The immersion procession, which passes through Byculla and other Muslim dominated areas of South Mumbai, attracts crowds in overwhelming numbers.
Interestingly, the procession of the Lalbaugcha Raja halts in front of the Chisti Hindustani Masjid at Byculla. "This is a tradition that was started to establish peace between the two communities. The procession is welcomed by Mohalla committee members and trustees of our mosque," said Imam Abdul Jabbar Azmi.