Mumbai : Like every year, this year too, the Gowd Saraswat Brahman Ganesh Mandal (GSB) of Wadala Ram Mandir(temple) has Lord Ganesha adorned with gold and silver, seated on a golden chair decorated with flowers. Devotees line up to seek his blessings and when they are done, Ganesha will not let them go hungry. The mandal ensures that on all eleven days of the festival, those coming to see him are provided a meal – breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Anant Sudham, one of the pujaris, speaking to The Free Press Journal said,” More then 6,000 people visit the place every day and have food as prasad during Ganeshotsav. Usually, devotees after fulfilment of their iccha (wishes) donate foodgrains and other items equivalent to their weight to the Ganesh mandal, which is then cooked and served to devotees as prasad.”
The free food service starts in the morning and continues till late night. On visarjan day, Anant Chaturdashi, 14 different food items are cooked. “Twenty chefs from Udupi in Karnataka come every year, to cook at GSB Mandal. At present, the mandal has three different kitchens to take care of food requirements. In one kitchen, food is cooked for Brahmins, while the second kitchen caters to the public, while there is a third kitchen for mandal sevaks. The eating area too is similarly apportioned,” the pujari explained.
As such segregation may raise eyebrows, Subhash B Pai, a spokesperson for the GSB mandal clarified, “There is no discrimination, the three kitchens are meant to make work easy. An ordinary man is not restricted from having food at any of these places. Only after experiencing the huge crowds who visit every year, space management has been done to avoid any untoward situation.”
“Since the mandal is managed by Gowd Saraswat Brahmins from Karnataka, who are Konkani by origin, the food is usually cooked in Konkani style. The menu includes rice, dal, pumpkin sabzi, rasam, and a jaggery payasam, which is first offered to the lord as bhog and later, to the devotees as prasad,” said the spokesperson.
Acharya Vasant Ramchandra, who has come from Karnataka, told the Free Press Journal, “From 7 am to 10 pm, different poojas are performed. “These include hawans. Also, at night, a shantipath (peace prayer) is done, as devotees come in huge numbers and seek the lord’s blessing, so there is the presence of negativity. According to the Vedas, to keep the idol sacred and remove negativity, such pooja should be performed,” he added.
When one enters the place, large containers filled with prasad, women stringing garlands of flowers and brahmins roaming about in colourful silk dhotis, grab one’s attention. The grand pandal, unlike other sarvajanik Ganesh mandals, is set up in the verandah of the existing Ram temple.