Mumbai’s most famous Ganpati, LALBAUG CHA RAJA is back in his seat. Each year, the ‘wish-fulfilling’ deity attracts over two crore devotees—that’s like every single person in Mumbai, or Delhi showing up. In 2018, the iconic Ganesh mandal is celebrating its 85th year of existence. If you’re planning to pay a visit to seek his blessings, you’ll need plenty of time, patience and some super-supple hamstrings.Back in the 1900s, Lalbaug wasn’t as we know it today. In place of the bustling markets, the area was filled with over 130 cotton mills and was called Girangaon or the ‘village of mills’. In 1932, the market took a hit and the livelihood of all vendors and fishermen in the area was severely affected. It was at that time that they prayed to Lord Ganpati for the market to re-open and bless them at this hour of need. In a couple of months, they were granted a plot of land to build a market, which is the present day Lalbaug market.
As a token of their gratitude, in 1934, they established an idol of the lord dressed somewhat as a fisherman (the idol has had many variations since). In the years that followed, the power of Lalbaugcha Raja or Navsacha Ganpati (wish-fulfiller) has piqued the interest of people around the country from all walks of life.Mukh Darshan: Get in this queue if you’re okay with just a quick dekko of the idol from a distance, from a few metres away. The wait time can range from 6-7 hours. The Mukh Darshan starts 6am on 13 September and is open 24×7 all the way till midnight on visarjan day, i.e. 22 September.
Navas or Charan-sparsh darshan: The Lalbaugcha Raja ganpati is also known as Navasacha Ganpati, or the ‘wish-fulfilling Ganpati’. This queue is for devotees who’d like to touch the idol’s feet for blessings. Obviously more popular, wait times range from 12-15 hours. Charan-sparsh darshan starts 6am With over two crore devotees expected to visit Lalbaugcha Raja, there are strict security and crowd-management measures in place. This year, over 180 CCTV cameras have been installed on premises. Apart from police protection, 5,000 trained volunteers will be stationed across the pandal, 1000 of whom are women and 200 trained in firefighting by the Mumbai Fire Brigade. In addition, the Lalbaugcha Raja Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal has created a safety video, that you may want to check out.
Even the rich and famous turn up for the Bappa’s blessings. Some of the regulars include the Bachchans—Senior performs an arati each year—the Ambanis, the Devgns, Sachin Tendulkar, Shankar Mahadevan , Kangana Ranaut and many more. Of course, they have their own VIP access, so it’s unlikely you’ll find them in the queue behind you.