It has been almost two weeks that Ganesh Utsav has ended in the city, still, the pandals have not been dismantled. Pedestrians have been facing trouble in walking on the footpaths along JM Road, Pune. Pandals have restricted the space and pits, which were dug to plant poles still remain.
The stage at Krushna Sundar lawns near Kothrud was decorated to befit the magnificence and sheer vibrancy of the dhol-tasha pathaks that were to come in for a competition on September 10th and 11th this week. The 2 day competition whose grand finale happened at Shaniwar Wada on September 13th witnessed over 40 pathaks competing with their original compositions and raging dhol beats, emanating immense energy in the grounds.
The high point of the event however, was not only the magnanimity of it but also the presence of children as young as 5 years performing the dhol, some of them involved in playing the tasha, blending beautifully with the much apparent elder members in their respective troupes.
“We have members as young as 3 years to players who are 40 year old in the pathak. Everybody who is here is passionate about the festival and about the dhol. Age is never a barrier. This medium and space is open and accessible for all,” said Deepali, a senior performer at the Sahyadri Garjana pathak.
With audience members enjoying in tune with the rhythm of the dhol and applauding the young stars, the children have an insight into the history of Ganesh utsav and its meanings in Maharashtra. Atharva, a class 4 student playing with Veda Brahma pathak joined the group this year. “I heard about the pathak from a friend and the history of the festival is rich and interesting. Lokmanya Gangadhar Tilak started the festival for the first time in Pune to bring all Indians together in the fight against the Britishers. Playing the dhol is my passion and after a long day at school, this is my relaxing time,” he concluded confidently.
In the midst of groups that have a few children, the Shivatandav pathak is a bal pathak, a group comprising only of children. “We formed the group because of the interest shown by young kids and their desire to play the dhol. This festival is about getting everybody together and slowly things have changed with respect to who can play the dhol,” said Kunal Bhat, the instructor for Shivatandav pathak.
Inviting bappa morya with festive beats is not a space for traditional well settled pathaks anymore, as new entrants into the system have been changing dynamics and opportunities for others.
Though the first few days of the Ganeshotsav witnessed a great start in the city, people continued to express concern over the management of traffic at some of the busiest corners of the city like Apa Balwant Chowk, Mandai , Laxmi road and others.
Pune which is known for its extravagance during Ganesh festival witnessed a similar fervor of oversized pandals, loud noise and slow movement of traffic inspite of the Bombay High Court’s claim to arrest pandals which are more than the permissible size. The court had also instructed the organizers to submit an undertaking which would ensure they would not obstruct traffic and would also abide by the noise pollution rules.
“This is an everyday issue whenever the Ganpati festival arrives in Pune. We have to even block some lanes and make them one way so that the commute of people comes down.” Golaknath Patil, traffic inspector at Appa Balwant Chowk said.
Pandals also claim to abide by rules and refuse to take responsibilities if any traffic caused. They justify that their historical significance to the act holds more importance than other details. Sameer Valsad, manager of Peshwa Ganpati at Bajirao Road stated,” Movement of people towards Dagadu Sheth create havoc here. As all the lanes are narrow and inter connected, walking becomes a problem.”
The police personnel posted at every pandal at such busy chowks also believe that they do the best they could to regulate traffic and avoid problems.” I would say this time, atleast 250-300 pandals have been cut down in the city owing to the court’s regulations. This is a noted festival of Pune and we cannot stop people from moving.”
The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has directed its ward offices to identify oversize and illegal pandals and compile this information along with photographs. “The civic staff have been asked to visit their jurisdiction and compile a list of illegal pandals that will be submitted before the high court,” said a civic officer. They also plan to undertake a special, anti-encroachment drive on roads during the popular festival which would ensure smooth flow of traffic.
However, noise problems and difficulty in routine work mark to be the major problems for the residents. Bharat Gandhi, one of the shopkeepers at Tulshi Baug complained, “I park my vehicle three lanes ahead so that I would not have to face the interruption of the police or any pandal member while removing it in the night. I chose not to be a victimof this hustle.”
Tucked in a far corner of Lavale village is a nondescript fast food joint ‘Vaishali Snacks’. On entering the shop you will find yourself surrounded by half- made structures made of glass bottles. The proprietor, Sanjay Yadav stands behind one such structure, completing a pandal for Ganeshotsav.
He began making thermocol pandals in 1990 owing to his interest in creative work. Then once when he was in Mumbai, he saw a small pandal made from hospital glass bottles. He was instantly inspired to make similar pandals. But for a long time he could not pursue it due to work and family pressure.
Though he has been making these pandals for years now, he never sold them above the cost of production. But due to financial difficulties he has decided to make a profit out of them. He knows that he would not get any profits out of thermocol pandals that he would earlier make as there are no buyers for them with the arrival of new innovative designs for pandals. That is when he decided to revive his interest in glass bottle pandals.
He says, “I usually take four to five days for small mandirs and two to three weeks for big ones. The number of mandirs I make in a month solely depends on the free time that I get. Due to lack of proper knowledge on how to advertise these mandirs, I have not been able to sell them in big numbers. But next year I plan to open a stall in Kothrud to raise awareness of my pandals”.
On a typical day Sanjay Yadav juggles different roles. While he works in a company in Hinjewadi, he also runs a snacks shop in Lavale and in the remaining time he makes structures out of glass bottles.
The pandals he makes are completely made of small bottles. But that is not all, he places a light inside which keeps changing colours to bring the mandir to life. So this year if you plan to have a unique pandal at home, don’t go to the biggest Ganpati idol stalls in Aundh or Budhwar Peth, but in the modest village of Lavale.