{Photo story}: A walk with Ganesha

Within infinite myths, lies an eternal truth; Who sees it all?

Varuna has but a  thousand eyes, Indra, a hundred, You and I, only two.

So reminds, Devdutt Pattanaik, India’s first and perhaps most popular mythologist across his talks, discussions and books. But books and discussions seem very different from real practical life. When  it comes to faith, though, I have always been stumped, unable to reason or fathom faith at all. Does god exist?  If yes, what does science have to say about it? Is god it, he or she? Is he visible or invisible? Does she live in skies or on earth? Is god formless or is he an elephant headed god, that is revered across by millions?

On the eve of one of the biggest festivals of India, the Ganesh Chaturthi (the festival of the most adored deity of the city), I decided to make good use of my time. With just a month to go, I went   roaming, along with Breakaway Trails, (an experiential travel company that offers immersive travel experiences), for a rubaroo with the forgotten world of Mumbai’s closed mills and  the lost alleys of Parel and Lalbaug, which come to life, as the ‘Lalbaugcha Raja’ (the most popular Ganesh association in the city) comes visiting for a brief 10 day reign. On the walk, I uncovered the stories of some of the erstwhile mill workers, the Tamasha artists and the Bihari and Jewish artisans who are engaged in the idol making business of Mumbai.

Meandering through ‘Ganesha Shaalas’ or workshops as they are known, I learnt about the ‘science of idol making’ or ‘Murtividyan’ as I looked at umpteen number of Ganesh idols and decorations, at different stages of completion. Having learnt a thing or two, I further walked through the popular ‘Ganesh galli’, ‘Chiwda Galli’, ‘Masala galli’ which remain abuzz throughout the year, but are most busy during the 11 day festival, when the whole city comes to a halt to prepare diverse delicacies and mouth-watering sweets chanting Ganpati Bappa Moraya.  Here are a few glimpses from my walk with Ganesha:

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Large idols require scaffolding to stand erect

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The favourite deity of Mumbai can be seen on the walls of old alleys

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An artisan painstakingly puts last tub of paint as a finishing touch

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The Ganesha endorsing “Sarva Siksha abhiyan (Education for all), Indian government’s successful campaign

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An artisan painstakingly puts paint on the idol

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The Elephant God, an artisan’s imagination of how the original Ganesha would have looked like as Lord Shiva blessed him with a new life.

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Frames from the spice market of Lalbaug

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The now deserted mills of Mumbai serve as rental spaces to the local floral vendors.

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A lost world: Rustic gates of a mill now shut

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Travellers from the walk contemplating the history of the city

 

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