By Ravi Gadiyar
The GSB (Gaud Saraswat Bramhin) Seva Mandal Ganapati utsav this year was the 61st since inception in 1955. The pandal, at Shree Sukratendra Nagar A Rama Nayak’s Grounds in King’s Circle, is among the top three Ganesh Mandals of Mumbai.
The Ganesh idol at the GSB Seval Mandal is 14.5 feet in height and weighs 2700 kgs. It is made with shadoo (red mud) and grass easily dissolves in water. It’s sculpted by Avinash Patkar and his family since ages. The GSB Seva Mandal Ganapati is widely accepted as the most expensive of all the Ganeshas in the city of Mumbai. The idol is adorned with 70 kgs of gold and 470 kgs of silver, estimated at a staggering Rs 23 crore! The Lord’s crown itself weighs 22 kg gold. The idol is insured at a mindboggling Rs 237 crore! The expenditure for the idol is donated by a devotee for decades.
A sea of humanity throng the one lakh square feet area of the mandal during the five days of the festival. Yet, the discipline that is seen in the flow of the devotees is extremely orderly. In fact, no less an authority than Rakesh Maria believes that the GSB Seva Mandal Ganapati is the “most disciplined” of all the mandals in the city.
Nearly 500 vedics come from all over India to do the various poojas. Nearly 3.5 lakh coconuts are used for poojas, and the same is distributed at the exit for each and every visitor, along with "panchkadayi" (poha). Tulabhara is done as per the desire of the devotees … with coconuts, rice, sugar, modak, dudhpak, coins etc Approximately, Rs seven crores of donations is expected this year from devotees pouring in during the five days.
The hundi collections go towards the education of students. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are also served to devotees, numbering an overall 70,000, during all five days of the utsav. Annapurna has different sections: seating on the floor, for senior citizens, the handicapped and for VIPs. Around 1200 devotees have meals at a time. Apart from water purifier tanks which serves mineral water for devotees, there is also a 5x6 small well, which is otherwise dry.
Apart from the normal entry, there is a "skywalk" for visitors to take a quick Darshan. At any given time there are 1200 volunteers to regulate the flow of devotees.
On visarjan day, the Idol with all ornaments intact is taken to Girgaum (Chowpathi) with full police protection. The journey from the start at Wadala to Chowpati takes 10-12 hours, and immersion takes place the following day by 7.00 am after the ornaments are removed and kept in guarded police van, following which it goes straight into the banks vault.
Through the long journey, food, soft drinks, mineral water, tea and coffee are served at specific places and approximately 3000 follow the Ganapati to bid Him farewell.
(Ravi Gadiyar is a former Mumbai Ranji Trophy player and a volunteer of the GSB Seva Mandal)