What Goddess Kali or Durga is to Bengalis, Lord Ganpathi is to Maharashtrians. If Durga Puja is the most happening festival for Bengalis, it’s Ganesh Chaturthi, which falls on September 19 this year, which is a very significant festival for Maharashtrians. Worship of Lord Ganesha has been prevalent since Vedic times. This festival is celebrated all over India, but in Maharashtra it is more elaborate than that in any other state. That’s because of freedom fighter and social reformer Lokmanya Tilak transformed the Annual Ganesh Festival from being a private celebration into a grand public event. Lokmanya Tilak made it into a state festival. The reason for this was to build a new grassroots unity between Brahmins and non-Brahmins. The festival acquired a more organised form all over India during the Swaraj movement when Lord Ganesha was chosen as the rallying point for protest against the British rule because of Lord Ganesha’s immense appeal as the “God for everyone”. The festival inspired feelings of Hindu unity then, and it does even now. In Mumbai, however, Lord Ganesha is not just for Hindus, he is for everyone. Actor Salman Khan takes part in the Ganesha festival every year.
During the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi another deity also worshipped is Goddess Gauri—the mother of Lord Ganesha. Pandals are put up in almost every part of Mumbai with the installation of the Ganesh idol, the festival becomes a community gathering with lights and music and volunteers distribute prasad of coconuts, jaggery and modaks. After 10 days of celebrations the festival ends on the Anant Chaturthi day when the Ganesh idols are immersed in the sea. That is the saddest part for Mumbaikars who have to bid a farewell to their beloved Ganesha. The immersion is symbolic of the universal truth that all that has a beginning has also an end. The festival normally lasts for 10 days but some people love to continue for 21 days.
This love for the state deity Lord Ganesha sees a sea of Mumbaikars flocking every Tuesday to the Siddhivinayak Temple in Prabhadevi. One of the most important landmarks of Mumbai city is the famous Siddhivinayak Temple. On the eve of catching a flight to Delhi, Abhishek Bacchan was seen slightly limping, on asked why, he replied that he had gone barefoot walking from his house in Juhu to Prabhadevi where the Siddhivinayak Temple is situated barefoot; this had resulted in sores and abrasions on his feet. Such is the power of the Siddhivinayak that those who come in Mercedes Benz and those who come walking all yearn to have a darshan of Lord Ganesha to get their desires fulfilled. I make it a point to visit the temple every Tuesday. The day I don’t go I feel uneasy. The Lord has come to my aid in the most difficult situations. Many Mumbaikars consider Lord Siddhivinayak the guardian of the Mumbai city and rightly so. So many terror attacks, and tsunami in 2006, yet Mumbai survives because Lord Siddhivinayak is with us.
The idol of Shree Siddhivinayak was carved out of a single black stone and is 2.6” (750 mm) high and 2” (600 mm ) wide with the trunk on the right. This is rather an unusual appearance of Lord Ganesha. The upper right and left hands hold a lotus and an axe respectively while the lower right hand and left hand hold a rosary, japmala and a bowl full of ‘modaks’ — the favourite naivedia of Lord Ganesha. As it resembles the sacred thread a snake appears on the left shoulder to the right side belly. On the forehead of the deity is an eye which almost looks like the 3rd eye of Shiva. Riddhi and Siddhi—these Goddesses signify success, wealth and wisdom—are on his both sides. It takes anything between 3 and 6 hours to get darshan at the Siddhivinayak Temple. My friend Parur S Ganesan has written a remarkable book, Divine Experiences with Lord Siddhivinayak of Prabhadevi in which he has compiled 111 real spiritual experiences experienced by devotees. It is not possible to list all the 111 divine interventions, I will however, state a few here. Ajit Wadekar, former captain of the Indian cricket team and a Padmashree recipient, was rushed to the hospital with an impending heart attack. He says in the book that what saved him was his daughter immediately rushing to the Siddhivinayak Temple and praying for her father’s recovery. Ajit Wadekar says that after his recovery his daughter keeps her commitment of visiting the temple every Tuesday. Ekta Kapoor (veteran actor Jeetendra’s daughter) who is in creative business says that whenever she starts a new project she always makes it a point to visit the Siddhivinayak Temple. Many times she walks it to the temple in the early hours of the morning and when she does that, the problems get solved.
The most humorous incident in the book is recited by the author’s wife Lalitha Ganesan who says that her husband who was a class two central government officer in Mumbai had applied for a manager’s position in Industrial Finance Corporation In Delhi. Lalitha who had her job in the Reserve Bank in Mumbai did not want to leave Mumbai as she and her husband had already settled down in Mumbai. But her husband was stubborn to take up the job as a manager and shift to Delhi. Knowing the author Mr Ganesan’s stubbornness myself I can well sympathise with his wife Lalitha. Lalitha visited the Siddhivinayak Temple every Tuesday and prayed that they should not leave Mumbai. Her husband received his promotion and appointment as class one officer in Mumbai and he gave up his idea of moving over to Delhi. Lalitha’s prayers were answered.
The Siddhivinayak Temple in Mumbai symbolises three divine traits—faith, prayer and intervention. I ask Parijath Devi, in charge of communications at the Iskcon Krishna Temple in Juhu, why is it that so many people flock to the Siddhivinayak Temple? Parijath replies, “Devotees go to the temple with faith and that faith is reciprocated.” According to Parijath Devi it is the,” faith which is working here”. I ask the same question to Mr Seshan of the Shankara Mutt In Matunga. “There are so many Ganesha temples in Mumbai yet why is it that only this Siddhivinayak Temple attracts a sea of people?” Mr Seshan, a Sanskrit scholar, says: “When lakhs of devotees visiting the temple fully concentrate on the deity, this concentration, the focus on the deity, builds up into positive vibrations which could lead to the power of the temple.” Mr Seshan admits that there is another Ganesha temple in Prabhadevi but hardly one or two people go there.
The Siddhivinayak Temple has incorporated all the vaastu components, may be that could be another reason for the power of the temple. Mr Mangesh Shinde, the CEO of the Siddhivinayak Temple, says that the reason why this particular temple is more powerful than the other Ganesha temples in Mumbai is because the trunk of Lord Ganapathy in the temple is on the right side. “And what does that mean?”, I ask. “It means that prayers get answered and wishes get fulfilled here”, says Shinde. The Siddhivinayak Temple trust utilises the donations and offerings of devotees for charity. The temple provides medical assistance to patients up to Rs 25,0000 for cancer, heart and spine surgery. The temple runs a charitable book bank where free books are distributed to needy students from class 11 to graduation. No tourist visit to Mumbai is complete without having a darshan of Lord Sidhivinayak as He continues to shower His blessings over all.
By Indira Satyanarayan