I had settled on a chair placed in balcony and was sipping on a cup of coffee staring at darkness as twilight pervaded the skies before sun rose above horizon. The adrenaline gushing through my veins had got better off me and I woke up early that morning.
I had waited for this day for quite some time now and here it was, the final day of Ganeshotsav- the day we bid adieu to the lord himself. I had been romanticizing with the idea of capturing this event live through my shutter for almost few months now and this prospect had kept me awake the previous night. If there is any place on earth you would want to be on this day, dare I say it, is Pune. The final day of Ganeshotsav has always been one of the most prestigious events of the city- the day when multitude of people congregate at a designated spot to bid adieu to cities five Manache (exalted) Ganapati.
Stuffing camera and the lenses in my bag I stepped out of my house, rushing to get into the bus that would drop me to the nearest spot from where I had to walk my way to the congregation site. As a part of their traffic management plan, Pune police had barricaded all roads leading into and out of this site and their presence could be witnessed every few meters.
As I neared Dagdusheth Halwai Ganesh temple, I witnessed a small group of individuals offering Prasad to the devotees and passersby.
At some distance makeshift stalls were setup that had coconuts, flowers and other supplies on sale for devotees to pay a last visit to lord before his departure.
Head bands were on sale too.
While the streets were left vacant, sidelines were systematically occupied by significant gathering of people that kept growing with every passing second. The anticipation of display of grandeur had everybody excited as we waited with bated breath and soon we were greeted to the familiar sight of the troupe of drummers.
The dhol Pathak (drumming group) had arrived accompanied with their large bass drums tied on their waists with large ropes and other paraphernalia like snare drums (tashas) and handheld cymbals. They were lined up in their formations of files and ranks.
This larger contingent was ably led by a smaller troupe of equally passionate and motivated boys and girls carrying a saffron colored flag that unfurled throughout on top of a mammoth pole.
The maddening fervor exhibited by this smaller troupe (dhwaj pathak) in their performance was highly contagious and calls for far greater dedication than one could imagine.
A loud trilling sound of the snare drums had set the stage and raptured throngs of people on both sides of streets and then the loud thud. Yes it had begun. With the first stroke of drums, flags had risen high up and up unfurling in all its grandeur and as it lowered down few petals of flowers which were trapped inside were set free that came flowing down.
For next 8 hours, I was a part of enthralled crowd that kept inching ahead as a part of this magnificent procession. It was a riveting occasion and we all were part of it, a curious assortment of people, cutting across all barriers of age, caste and religion had gathered under the dark skies that day.
A gamut of human emotions were on display.
Innocence of a kid’s eyes peeping through his father’s shoulder.
Thrilled and excited young faces.
Septuagenarian eyes filled with affection for lord.
Foreigners with curiosity filled eyes.
Policemen with vigilant eyes.
Onlookers –with anxious eyes- finding their spaces on the walls.
Gradually inching ahead we had almost reached the banks of river Mutha that flows under Sambhaji Bridge (erstwhile Lakdi Pul). It would be absolutely distasteful if I do not highlight the historical significance of this bridge that is as important as the festival itself. The bridge had been witness to the first momentous Ganeshotsav procession and subsequent immersion that was started by popular freedom fighter of Indian Independence struggle-Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak in 1893. It is said that the vanquished Maratha army had walked over this bridge after losing out in 3rd battle of Panipat. It collapsed under the onerous burden of nature’s fury in form of flooding of Panshet, but was resurrected again to rise tall in all its glory. It still stands tall, and has been witness to hundreds of glorious processions that none of us could ever witness in our lifetimes.
While the leading end of the procession was still couple of hundred meters away, I decidedly took a slight detour and headed towards the river bank to capture throngs of devotees that had gathered under the bridge, each bidding adieu to their god in their own way.
Few devotees had made solitary arrival on the river bank
Some were accompanied
Others had come in large number
They differed in numbers but each of them had similar rituals to follow.
The gamut of emotions were on display at the site.
The hectic activities had a tiring effect on some.
Families were having relaxed time out.
Catching up with mates
As a photographer, it was a humbling experience for me to be a part of such ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ moment. Ten hours later, when I stepped out of the arena and made my way to back home, serenity had occupied my mind and I was gratified.
Good Bye Bappa, until we meet next time!