The loudspeakers are on and the drums are out. The third day of Ganeshotsav saw many mandals setting up a stage in the vicinity and fixing up props for plays that start in the evening. Street plays during the festival tell several stories that depict scenes from the Mahabharata, Ramayana, Chhatrapati Shivaji’s conquests, stories from Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar’s life and also address issues like gender equality, cleanliness and the importance of blood donation.
From a quaint narrow lane in the metropolis to a bustling street, every nook and corner makes way for Bappa’s temporary abode. A ride through any part of the twin cities, will tell you how much Puneites respect and adore the elephant god’s presence. There are contrastingly extravagant mandals which make people step back and take keen notice of the beauty and effort behind it while feverishly clicking away on their phones.
To make their wait more worthwhile, adjoining some Ganapati mandals are makeshift podiums where plays are staged. A festival that was made a public affair to generate unity within the community provides an important platform to spread moral lessons as well as reinstate our rich cultural history. Therefore, a number of plays are staged during this festive season based on social issues or historical recreations. Amidst preparing for their play at Deccan, Yogesh Shirole, the director of a play tells us: “It’s been seven years since I have been directing plays during Ganeshotsav, each year with a different theme. This time we have decided to recreate the Lal Mahal, where Shivaji spent a large portion of his life. The play will take place every day after 7:30 pm.”
The streets are filled with people walking towards mandals as well as young boys and girls, who can be seen carrying the heavy dhols on their backs to load it in a vehicle. “One dhol is around four to five kilos. We carry it on our backs daily to load it on to the vehicle. The new members who are also younger don’t have the practice of doing so, so they might find it difficult in the beginning,” says Varad Kulkarni as he hurries towards his dhol-tasha pathak.
The festival that brings the city together faces its own set of hurdles, but administrations such as Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) are present to ensure a safe and smooth sailing one. In a bid to make Ganeshotsav eco-friendly, a PMC team is supposed to be present at the waterbodies and artificial tanks where the visarjan takes place. We visited the artificial tanks present at Deccan, where a number of Puneites bid farewell to Bappa. But, the waterbody adjacent to them is used to perform the same function. According to Archana Kadam, the PMC sanitation inspector, “We stand here from 6 am to 11 pm. We do not force people where to immerse their idols, but help them out with the procedure. This year though, we have observed that more people are using the artificial tanks compared to the river.” Supplementing this with facts and figures, she reveals, “It’s the third day of the festival and almost 664 idols have been immersed in four artificial tanks near Tilak Pool and 359 in the river.”
Bappa is with us for seven more days and we, at Pune 365, will make sure to bring the best of what’s happening in the city and highlight what Puneites are doing to celebrate the festival.