Sapna Desai and Maleeva Rebello,
The Bhandarkar Road Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Seva Samiti in Matunga Central believes in giving back to society in more ways than one.
Besides returning to the devotees their offerings of ornaments once the festival is over, the mandal conducts blood donations, medical check-ups, cultural programmes and daily dinners that are open to all.
Thousands are fed every day and the mandal members bear the expenses incurred. So, while others might be satisfied with holding a grand feast for all devotees on the day of the Satyanarayan puja, this mandal has dinner of two kinds on all 10 days of the festival.
“We have a dinner for the members and locals where 1,000 people come, and another one open to the public on all 10 days where 10,000 people are fed,” said Rajesh Gala, committee member. “The idea behind this is that we do not want anyone to go to sleep on an empty stomach during the festival.”
The logic is to make meals available to people who are out for darshans till late in the night and are unable to find a place to eat or have to contend with high prices at the eateries that are open.
On the practice of returning the jewellery offered to Ganpati instead of auctioning it off, Pradeep Sampat, vice-president of the mandal, said they wanted the festival to retain its non-commercial ethos.
“The idea behind returning all the jewellery to devotees after the 10 days of the festival is that we do not want it to be a commercial affair. We want it to be about faith and belief,” said Sampat.
“We have priests, Ambi and Mani Gurukal, coming all the way from Coimbatore. They are the third generation of priests who conduct the pujas and havans everyday.”
Gala added that it was a wonderful feeling to be able to serve people, as through this action they felt connected to God.
“It feels nice to see many people benefiting from the dinner; the presence of God is felt when one sees a happy man after he has worshipped the Lord and then eaten.
God wants every man to be content,” said Gala. “The poor who come to eat at our dinners are satisfied and, seeing them, we also feel happy.”
THE Bhandarkar Road Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Seva Samiti, which is celebrating its 50th year, has retained the look of its idol for the past 25 years.
“We have been making a similar-looking idol for the past 25 years, with Ganesh on a throne that stands at 11 feet,” mandal vice-president Pradeep Sampat. “Sculptor Ashok Parab from Byculla has been making the idol for us.”