Vijay Singh, TNN

NAVI MUMBAI: The popular ‘Navi Mumbai Ka Raja’ sarvajanik Ganpati at Turbhe, which is as old as the city of Navi Mumbai itself, celebrates its 41st year with a historical theme-the importance of preserving local heritage.

The Navi Mumbai Raja is also linked with one of Mumbai’s most famous idols, the Lalbaugcha Raja. The 12-foot stall idol, which stands near the ST bus depot in Sector 20 at Turbhe, is made by the same sculptor, Santosh Kambli, who also makes the Lalbaugcha Raja.

True to its conservation message, the Ganpati pandal’s design focuses on presenting the best of Maharashtra-Raigad, Sindhudurg and Janjira forts as well as Ajanta and Ellora caves. The secretary of the mandal, Ankush Vaiti, said: “This year, when devotees visit Navi Mumbai Ka Raja, they will get the chance to see a bit of our history. This priceless heritage of ours must be preserved and respected. That is our message to the people.”

The heritage theme at the venue is designed by art director Nilesh Choudhary. The pandal depicts Raigad fort at the entrance. According to the mandal’s president Dattushet Pati, every year nearly 12 lakh people visit Navi Mumbai Ka Raja during the Lord’s 11-day stay.

Vaiti commented on the “terrible and heartbreaking” sight of liquor bottles, garbage, empty gutkha sachets and ‘paan’ stains that adorn some of the state’s forts and caves. “Tourists even vandalize these sites and write their names on walls that have survived for centuries. Through our Ganpati mandal, we want to drive home the import our responsibility to our cultural and historical heritage,” Vaiti added.

‘Navi Mumbai Ka Raja’ at Turbhe is one of the satellite city’s oldest sarvajanik Ganes mandals.