Mumbai: Koli community stands guard at immersion points

On Thursday, when Vasant Patil went to the Worli Koliwada Bateri Jetty, the day was extended one. He immersed his one-and-a-half day 'navsacha' (wish fulfilling) Ganpati and stayed put.

Ashutosh M ShuklaUpdated: Thursday, September 01, 2022, 10:37 PM IST
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Mumbai: Koli community stands guard at immersion points | AFP

On Thursday, when Vasant Patil went to the Worli Koliwada Bateri Jetty, the day was extended one. He immersed his one-and-a-half day 'navsacha' (wish fulfilling) Ganpati and stayed put. Not because he was out fishing. The Kolis refrain from fishing due to breeding season and government orders. Like every year, Patil was there to avoid any drowning incident or help people if they got stuck mid-way.

“This is the second year of my pledged three year Navsacha Ganpati. We install an eco-friendly idol for one-and-a-half day. On the day of immersion, we immerse our idol and then stay put to help others,” said Patil.

At various immersion points, particularly where the Koli community has a village, they come out voluntarily to help people. Some do free service, while some take whatever is given "happily by people" to some even making a quick buck for their service. “Most do it as a gesture to help people. They may be getting something but that is not the intention,” said Vijay Worlikar, who is the patil or head Worli Koliwada.

Help is mainly tendered when those coming for immersion don't know where the water is shallow and where it runs deep. Some go inside but are unable to come back, while some can't manage the current and tides, and struggle inside water. Mostly those people volunteer who are good swimmers, know of the tide timings and are aware of shallow and deep areas.

“Once we saved a journalist. He was taking pictures and lost his balance. Since they are not aware of the topography, they find it difficult to get back. We pulled him out early,” said Vasant.

Kolis said they normally charge those Sarvajanik Ganpatis that are more than 10-feet tall. “Since they make money from collecting funds from people, we don't see why we should not charge them. From others who want us to take their Ganpatis in deep water, it's up to them what they want to pay,” said Santosh Nizap from Mahim Koliwada.

Almost ninety per cent of Kolis get Ganpati in their homes. “Groups are formed here to aid people. Since this is about bhakti-bhav (devotion), we try to help people,” said Dashrath Mangela from Juhu Moragaon Koliwada.

Volunteers focus on one-and-a-half day, three days, five days, seven days, nine days and eleventh day of Ganpati immersion. From 4 pm till midnight, volunteers hang around for visarjan. “Since we don't know who is a good swimmer, we try to immerse idols,” said Yogesh Tandel, who was earlier part of the group hired on contract by the BMC for the Cuffe Parade immersion point.

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