Its that time of the year when Maharashtrians celebrate the Ganesh festival. Ganeshji's idol is brought and installed at home on the day of Ganesh Chaturthi with a lot of pomp and show.
The preparation for this begins days earlier. Elaborate decorations are planned for hosting the idol in the house. Children of the house take an active part in this decoration. Nowadays, there is a "green" theme to these decorations. Idols turn up in the markets a fortnight in advance. Lot of care is taken to select the idol. Again here, the paint for these idols is increasingly available in ecologically safe colors. They should dissolve naturally when the visarjan or water immersion happens, usually in rivers or other water bodies, ten days post the installation.
There is a whole industry that specializes in the creation of Ganeshji's sculptures. They come in a lot of sizes and themes. A multi-storeyed handicrafts store will be required to showcase all the exclusive creative idols of Ganesh made so far. Usually there is some historical or mythological play in the form of puppets being played that accompanies the idol. This play is part of the theme for the decoration.
In societies housing a bevy of apartments, a single idol is installed in the club-house or any such common area by all the enthusiastic residents. Aarti takes place twice a day - in the mornings and the evenings. This is an occasion when the residents get an opportunity to interact while decorating the idol's abode, preparing prasad, enjoying games, competitions and food together. In our complex, there is a Ganesh idol-making competition held among the children. Each child makes an idol out of clay and then paints it. On the day the idol is installed, and pooja being performed, all the children perform pooja for their respective idols too.
The sweet - modak that is prepared as prasad for Ganeshji is a special favorite. There is a lot of creativity involved in the preparation of modaks too.
Thus, right from the idol sculptors, to the flower vendors, the decoration specialists, the sweet shops and even the hawkers selling their wares outside well-known Ganesh temples - all gain from this festival. Creativity abounds in the form of making or selection of idols, decorations, sweets, scrapbooks of Ganeshji's pictures etc. The Lezim dance that is performed during the visarjan procession is something worth watching at least once in your lifetime.
Hats off to Lokmanya Tilak who first thought of making this festival a public celebration that was hitherto limited to worship at homes only! Not only does it keep the tradition alive in the minds of the young, it brings families and friends closer, provides an outlet for the creative juices and also boosts the economy. Sadly, it also boosts the noise levels sometimes. But its a small price to be paid for all the other advantages.