When you visit Ganesha this year, wear a lawyer’s coat — a pandal in Dahisar wants to spread awareness about the critically low number of judges at Indian courts. Or take a 20-minute walk through a deep, dark cave before greeting the elephant god in Mulund, exploring temple art inspired by pilgrimage spots in north India. For a taste of world architecture, visit pandals in Khetwadi and Ulhasnagar: the former a grand Indo-Italian palace; the latter a replica of the glitzy Lisboa Tower in Macau.
“Worshippers have been visiting pandals for decades, and want to be blown away by something unique,” says Ganesh Mathur, secretary of Khetwadicha Ganraj, a mandal in Girgaum. “We want to offer them an experience to remember when they come in.”
Aside from offering your prayers to Ganpati, take our pandal trail to marvel at the creativity that descends on the city this time of year.
The Macau experience
Ganesha will receive an exotic Asian welcome in Ulhasnagar this year, through a 69-foot bamboo structure made on the lines of Macau’s Lisboa Tower. The deity will be placed in a 35-ft birdcage inside the tower — complete with real and artificial birds.
The entrance of pandal has a 69-ft high bamboo structure that resembles Lisboa tower in Macau. (Getty Images)
“Birds such as the little cormorant will be brought in from Thailand,” says Dilip Valecha, president of the Ulhasnagar Fan Circle (UFC) pandal at Ulhasnagar.
Artisans from Kolkata were flown in to adorn the Lisboa Tower replica with LED lights. “We want the structure to be very impressive,” adds Valecha.
The 23-year-old mandal is known for its unique themes. Last year, they created a giant aquarium, with real fish, recalls Ganpat Devan, 23, a banker based in the area, and a regular visitor.
“With such themes, the mandal is the perfect visit for adults as well as children,” he says. “It is a grand visual treat with world-class experience.”
Where: UFC Group Pandal, Section 27, Ulhasnagar
When: 5 am to 11 pm.
Making a case
Businessman Navnit Chudasama, 48, will open up his home to Ganesh this year, with a purpose — to create awareness about the acute shortage of judges in courts across the country. Each devotee will be given an advocate’s coat before entering, and the mini-pandal will be set up like the Supreme Court with cut outs of the current Supreme Court judges addressing to the idol.
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“Court cases go on for several years because there are not enough judges. Through this pandal, I hope to share the urgency of this with others, and hope that authorities will look into the grave matter,” says Chudasama.
For 11 years now, Chudasama has been setting up pandals at his home inspired by social issues, including political relations between India and America and Terrorism in Kashmir.
“The theme begins as soon as you enter Chudasama’s housing society,” says visitor Rajeshwari Sakhuja, 22, media professional. “He pays attention to minute detail, such as measurements of the pandal that correspond to the measurements of the actual structure. The pandal is a visual treat too.”
Where: A-15, Om Arun apartment, Dahisar (East)
When: 10 am to 10 pm
To visit this Mulund idol, you will have to take a 20-minute walk through a long, winding cave that features replicas of pilgrimage spots such as Jagannath temple and Amarnath temple from north India. With twists, turns and inclines, the cave is made with bamboo and jute, and plastered with PoP. You also encounter two 14-ft waterfalls, and a pond at the end of the cave.
Trek for 20 minutes in a cave before you see the deity at a pandal in Mulund. (Pratik Chorge /HT PHOTO)
“The entrance of the cave will have a 14-foot statue of Shiva, seated at a height of 18 feet, pouring a stream of water below,” says Dampita Iyer, 22, a science student and a regular visitor“This year, the mandal plans to host a fire safety training programme for visitors.”
Where: Dayanand School Ground, Devidayal Road, Mulund (West)
When: 9 am to 11 pm
When India meets Italy
A 28-ft palace will marry Indian and Roman architecture in Khetwadi, as Ganpati’s abode for his city visit. The palace, made of Plaster of Paris, will have Roman pillars, but sculptures inspired by Indian cave art on the walls.
Indian themed wall art at the Khetwadicha Raja pandal. (Arijit Sen/HT PHOTO)
“We want to give visitors a glimpse of the architectural heritage of the two countries,” says Ganesh Mathur, joint-secretary of the mandal.
“The grand structure looked breathtaking even while it was being built,” says Nevidita Chatterjee, 30, a home maker from Girgaum. “There is room for hundreds of devotees in the structure.”
Where: 12th Lane, Khetwadi, Girgaum
When: 6 am to 10 pm
A no-waste idol
Made entirely of tissue paper and finished with chalk powder, the 22-ft idol at the Bal Gopal Mandal in Vile Parle will weigh seven kg. The deity will sit on a unicorn made of recycled newspapers, painted with water colours. Instead of immersing the idol, the mandal will donate it to an exhibition after the festival.
The idol is seated on a unicorn also made entirely of paper. (Satish Bate/HT PHOTO)
The eco-consciousness doesn’t end there — members of the mandal will perform dramas and telecast documentaries on issues such as environment conservation and female foeticide.
“It is nice when a festival mandal uses its platform to spread awareness about the issues that matter,” says Rahul Devrai, 24, an advertisement professional and a regular visitor. “The theme this year is interesting, and it’s inspiring to have an idol that does not need to be immersed.”