Mumbai: Saturday was an auspicious day for the Maharashtrian community as it marked the first day of Chaitra in the Hindu calendar. On this day, they celebrate Gudi Padwa, also known as the Maharashtrian New Year. The ‘gudi’ symbolises Lord Rama’s victory and happiness on returning to Ayodhya after slaying Ravana and is believed to ward off evil, bring prosperity and good luck into the house. It is a bright colourful silk scarf-like cloth tied at the top of a long bamboo, atop which neem and mango leaves are attached, with a garland of flowers. The arrangement is capped with a silver, bronze or copper pot, signifying victory or achievement. This is set up outside each household through a window or terrace.
On Saturday morning, celebrations began at VP Road, Girgaum, with men, women and children dressed in traditional attire and taking part in the celebrations. There were 200 women dressed in traditional nine-yard Maharashtrian sarees, on bikes. There were tableaus on displayed in open vans. These tableaus mainly comprised of people dressed as Hindu deities and national heroes, like Mahatma Gandhi and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. With the Lok Sabha elections knocking at the door, there were also depictions reflecting the nationalistic ideals of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the ruling government.
Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was held captive by the Pakistani Army a day after the Balakot air strikes and became a national hero overnight for his resilience and bravery also figured in this display. There was a ‘living’ statue of his at the rally. Men and children dressed in Indian Army outfits flaunted the flamboyant, handlebar moustache sported by the Wing Commander. Tableaus also displayed banners reflecting his heroics as an accomplishment of the ruling party.
Although the organisers of the event declared they had no political affiliations, they stressed the event was a “Hindu New Year”. “This event has nothing to do with politics and is not related to any political business either,” said Shailesh Raichura, one of the members of the organising committee. “This is the 17th year that I have been a part of this event and till date, no one has been forced to come here. All the participants come here voluntarily”. Though the organisers said there were stalls of almost every major political party, only the outlets of the RSS, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena were seen. There was no stall of the Congress in the premises.