I believe that festivities of any kind bring a togetherness which is cultivated by traditions. A ritual that is passed down from generation to generation. Something that can never be taught but only learned from observation, participation, involvement, and regularity. I believe that ritualism instead of being rigid, fanatical or compulsive due to fear, can be molded into an interactive, community harmonious, social occasion. I am so happy that our Ganesh festival in Sangli has managed to regale and retain this warmth and togetherness in its festive splendor.
Devotees, believers or simply festive celebrators flock from all across Maharashtra to witness and be part of the Ganpati visarjan held in Sangli at the Krisna nadi (River Krishna). A tradition started by my forefathers almost 200 years ago, continues with the same aplomb and glory. Introduced to this tradition ever since we were children, I hope and pray that I can successfully pass this on to my children to carry on the legacy of togetherness.
The Sangli Ganesh temple and festivities binds all the communities together. The temple has devotees from all cultural backgrounds, both Hindu as well as Muslims…such is the reverence. While the Hindu priests do the poojas, there are even some brother Muslims that are employed to look after the administration, maintenance and security. The Burud Community has the honor of pulling the Rath, the Gawli Community is given the charge of handling road discipline and then the Ambi community (fisher-folk) have the honor of doing the actual Visarjan. The 2-mile procession is joined by young and old, from different school children participating in the lehjim and dance to aged scholarly pandits singing bhajans, an all women’s band surpassing most by their vigor and tempo. The entire city comes to see off their beloved Ganesha, showing gratitude for blessings received and for those more to come. What can be a better display of festivity than this lineage of this tradition, increasing in magnitude and attendance!
What we pass on to the Gen Next is the righteous thought, humility, love and gratitude. The four pillars of togetherness. Let us adapt, commemorate, translate and transfer these human traditions that go beyond caste and culture, that seek to bring everyone socially together to celebrate life and happiness.
With the concerns for the environment, changes were also introduced in the traditional festivities for noise reduction by banning loudspeakers, no fireworks to curtail air pollution, continuing the eco-friendly Ganpati idol to promote the reduction of water pollution. There has been no reduction in the numbers thronging even after these tweaks, which only goes to prove that where love and communal harmony exist, traditions will still celebrate togetherness.