It was perhaps Lokmanya Tilak who first used Ganeshotsav to bring out unity and harmony within the community and society. Apart from being a joyous cultural gathering, the festival is also used to promote social causes and spread awareness about them.
With the theme of breast cancer, the city-based Nag Foundation has set up a Ganapati Mandal in Koregaon Park. The mandal is decorated with several pink roses and the idol is adorned with silver jewellery and pink cloth. Several devotees can be spotted wearing a pink ribbon, which represents breast cancer.
Dr Shona Nag, a medical oncologist and a trustee with the Nag Foundation, spoke to Pune365 about this mandal’s unique theme. “We have been working on the issue of breast cancer for quite some time. Women’s health has become a priority issue now. The authorities have been very supportive on this and what better way than a festival like this to spread awareness!” she states.
The mandal saw a street dance performed by children to raise awareness about breast cancer and women’s health as well as to celebrate the joy of having Bappa. Speaking about spreading an important message through the festival, the Corporator of Koregaon Park, Vanita Wagaskar said, “There has been a steep rise in breast cancer among the slumdwellers of the city. We wanted to take advantage of the popularity of the Ganapati festival to spread the message that early detection of breast cancer can save lives. We have also been associated with the Nag Foundation since a few years.”
The Poona School and Home for the Blind has been celebrating Ganeshotsav in its own unique way. The mandal is located in the prayer hall and is decorated with flowers, lights and a lit lamp.
Every year, on the ninth day of the festival, the children, along with police authorities, proceed towards Burning Ghat to immerse the Ganapati idol. “We make sure that all the permissions are taken and the police accompany us so that the children are safe. Fifteen children from the school also form an orchestra. These children go to different parts of the cities and play during the festivities,” says Krishna Shewale, the administrative officer of the school.
All around the city, the celebrations continue with pomp and glory as Bappa is with us only for five more days. While many are immersed in the festive joy, there are some in the city who continue to use Ganeshotsav as a way to make society better.