The one thing that kept Maya going during the arduous lockdown months was her unflinching faith in her Ganesha. So, last year though she couldn’t celebrate Ganeshotsav owing to the worsening COVID-19 situation in the country and ensuing restrictions on movement and social gatherings, the banking professional compensated by showering her love on Lord Ganesha by celebrating the festival in February 2021, during the Hindu month of Magha.
The “now more than 100-year-old family tradition,” is being carried forward by Bengaluru-based Amey Balwally and wife Maya Balwally from this generation of Chitrapur Saraswats. “When I realised celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi won’t be possible during the lockdown last year, I spoke to the family matriarch who lives in Mumbai. She suggested it was okay to postpone the festivities and instead hold them in the Magha month to come. This is the first time in the family’s history we did something like this,” says Ms Balwally.
This year, several families across Maharashtra, Karnataka and Goa observed Ganesh Chaturthi in February as they could not do the same in August last year. Due to the lockdown restrictions, priests were unable to visit homes to perform the puja and gatherings weren’t possible to maintain social distancing norms.
Traditionally, Ganesh Chaturthi or Vinayaka Chaturthi is observed in the Hindu month of Bhadrapada (August/September) followed by the popular 10-day-long Ganeshotsav before culminating in the final visarjan. Maghi Ganesh Jayanti, Ganesh Jayanti or Varad Chaturthi is celebrated in the month of Magha (January/February).
Even before the lockdown, Maghi Ganesh Jayanti was celebrated by select few communities in Maharashtra, mostly across the Konkan belt as Lord Ganesha’s birth anniversary. This year, February 15 marked the celebration of the auspicious Hindu festival of Ganesh Jayanti.
While most feel that Ganesh Chaturthi is the Bappa’s birthday, it actually is celebrated to commemorate the arrival of Lord Ganesha and his mother Parvati from their heavenly abode in Mount Kailash to Earth, and Maghi Ganesh Jayanti is actually the birth anniversary of Ganesha. Yet, according to some, Ganesh Chaturthi is considered the birthday of Lord Ganesha.
“Every year, we would have very elaborate Ganeshotsav celebrations when we would bring the idol at home,” offers digital marketing specialist Amey. “Last year, obviously, things were different but we are fortunate to be able to celebrate during this year’s Magha month. We immersed the idol after one and half day on February 16 and performed all the vidhis as per scriptures.”
The celebrations included preparation of special dishes made only during the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations. “As part of the offerings (also called ‘naivedya’) to Ganpati bappa, we prepared chaklis, nevri (karanjya), modak, special dessert madgane made of rice, jaggery and coconut milk and khotte that is, idlis steamed in jackfruit leaves,” says Maya. The celebrations were restricted to family members, this time around, as opposed to the 30-odd invitees who would be present for the Ganesh Chaturthi festivities.
Mumbai’s Anushakti Nagar-based Shenoy family also observed Ganesh Chaturthi in the Magha month as they couldn’t organise the same during the Hindu month of Bhadrapada last year. In 2020, Ganesh Chaturthi fell on August 22, when COVID-19 cases peaked in several cities across Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka, the region where the festival is mostly observed, leading to most festivities being deferred.
“Several members of our extended family gathered at the Walkeshwar Kashi Math on February 15, 2021 for a long day of festivities for the deferred Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations. We started with a puja in the morning and concluded with Visarjan of the idol at the adjacent Banganga water-tank in the night,” maintains businessman Sharad Shenoy.
“With relatives scattered across the city, we come together to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi at the Kashi Math at Banganga during August-September. This year around, like always, all the rituals were performed, prasad distributed to family members, aarti and bhajans sung and finally the idol was immersed but all on Maghi Ganesh Jayanti,” he added.
For the Shenoy clan this year, the attendance was lesser by “about fifty per cent” from the usual 90-100 members who would gather every year for the festivities during Ganesh Chaturthi. Shenoy’s wife and senior BARC scientist, Niyoti Shenoy, and other members of the family ensured nothing was left unattended and stayed identical to the regular celebrations. “We got the idol made by a murtikar at a workshop in Prabhadevi and took the idol to the Kashi Math at Banganga directly where the members gathered to perform the rituals.”
Walkeshwar Kashi Math Secretary, Hemprakash Shenai says, “For generations, it’s been a tradition that if, for any unforeseen reason such as a death in the family, Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations cannot be observed during the Bhadrapada, the same can be held on Ashwin Shuddh Chaturthi during the Navratri. This time around, even for Navratri in October 2020, the lockdown was not lifted completely leading to a further deferment of the festivities. Hence, the celebrations were held during the month of Magha, in February 2021.”
Kashi Math Managing Committee member and Sharad Shenoy’s brother Vilas Shenoy offered, “We are a big family living in different parts of Mumbai such as Prabhadevi, Jogeshwari, Chembur, Mulund, etc., and all came together for the auspicious celebration.”
Colaba Market-resident Ranjan Ramnathkar, who moved to stay at his farmhouse in Vani in Maharashtra during the lockdown came to Mumbai to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi with his daughter, married and settled in Mumbai during Magha. "For now 12 years, she has been getting Ganesha over for a day at home following her son's recovery from a near-fatal accident, but was heartbroken at being unable to do so last year owing to the lockdown," he says. So, this time, during Magha, Ranjan celebrated the festival with aplomb with daughter Sayali and grandson Rohit in tow before immersing Bappa at Banganga after keeping him at home, complete with puja and rituals, for a day.