21 Days of Ganpati: Koli Fishing Communities & Traditional Maharashtra
Having spent 6 years in India, and been fascinated by the festivals, I am fully aware I will never understand the full mythological heritage of them.
This was brought to the fore this past weekend. ‘Ganpati Visarjan’ had, I thought, finished 5 days previously. The major processions, bringing much of Mumbai and the hinterland to a halt, reached their conclusion on the 11th day of Ganpati Chathhurthi. This was as I expected.
Sunday evening I was driving to visit friends in Panvel. Ganesh was everywhere! Roads blocked. Drums deafening from a distance and physically making the car and my internal organs jump to their beat when close. Driving speed, where access was possible, down to 1/2 kph. But it was like no traffic jam I have been stuck in before.
‘But why?’ , I thought. The Ganesh Festival was over. 11 days had been completed.
There was another question in my mind. These processions were different to others I had experienced. Why?
It turns out that the traditional Koli Ganpati Festivals take place over 21 days. ‘Ganesh Vratas’ link gives more on the importance of ’21’ in the local understanding of Ganesha worship.
Koli are the traditional fishing tribes people of Maharashtra. They combine many elements of other festivals I have seen in Mumbai during their celebration of Ganpati. and it makes for a spectacular experience.
Panvel, is fast becoming an outlier of Navi Mumbai, which is becoming increasing connected to Mumbai. Over the next few years, as the new Mumbai International Airport is due to built only 5 km from Panvel, and housing development increases apace, I do wonder how long these traditional festivals, and their connection to the heritage and environment will exist.
The videos below will give an essence of the experience, but still do little justice to the noise and energy of the Panvel Ganpati.