Considered to be the source of wealth and wisdom, Lord Ganesh is highly revered in the Mewar region and is worshiped with great devotion at the beginning of every auspicious occasion and ritual. Mewar is known for its distinct ways of worship and splendid temples of Ganesh.
On Ganesh Chaturthi, the Maharana used to go for ‘Darshan’ to Sunder Vinayakji’ and Pala Ganesh Mandir that were believed to have been built before Udaipur city was founded. At night in the Bada Chouk of Rajmahal, the public gathered to loot coins, coconuts and ‘Laddus’. Children would go round the city streets and were given ‘Laddus’ etc. Students were given sweets by the Maharana.
One gets an inkling of the coming of the big event when artists on the roadside in different parts of Udaipur are seen making idols of Ganesh in various shapes and sizes and then painting them in all the hues of the rainbow to attract buyers who take them home or install them in ‘pandals’ that are put up in different parts of the city.
The festival starts, in fact, a day earlier called Sinjara when young boys and girls get new dresses, sweets and a pair of beautifully painted small wooden sticks called ‘Dandia’ with which they play the next day. Special dishes of various kinds are also cooked.
People get ready early and bathe the Ganesh idol with milk, curds, ghee, honey, sugar, and water. Then it is worshipped with colored thread, sindoor, silver ‘vark’, ‘kumkum’ and rice grains. ‘Dal-Bati’ and ‘churma’ is offered. So also roasted grains covered with ‘gur’. Kathas about Ganesh are related. In the evening ‘aarti’ is waved. Puja is also performed at shops and business houses.
On this auspicious day, idols of Lord Ganesh are brought in a car, open jeep or truck accompanied by devotees, bands and drum beaters to ‘shaminias’ set up in street corners, parks, playgrounds, etc. Sthapana is done with ‘puja’ and ‘aarti’. These places hum with activities like singing, dandia dancing’, Kavi Sammelan, ‘yagnas’, ‘bhajan sandhyas’ and the like for the next ten days.
The festival is being celebrated with great enthusiasm by Udaipurites for a long time. However, it became a public event when in 1991, Jai Maharashtra Ganesh Mandal set up a ‘Pandal’ near Ghantaghar and organized different cultural programs. In the beginning, a clay idol was worshipped but later on, an environment-friendly wooden one was made and the same one is used year after year.
During the festival at Maharashtra Bhawan, Bhupalpura is on display several facets of the art and culture of the state in the form of music, song, dance, handicrafts, ‘rangoli’ etc.
Started in 2009, the Utsav of Topwala Raja Ganesh named after the cannon nearby at Udaipol is a good example of communal harmony where all the traders including Muslims organize the various programmes jointly.
Thronged by a large number of devotees on this occasion are the Ganesh temples located in different parts of the town.
The temple where the largest number of devotees gather, Bohra Ganesh Mandir in Dhoolkot area near Govt. Museum, Ayad was first of all built by the Joshi family in an open field. Believed to be about 350-year old, the ‘pucca’ temple was constructed by Maharana Raj Singh. The Maharana gave gold with which attractive ornaments for the idol were made.
It is said that 70-80 years ago, people who needed money for marriage, business, etc. used to write their requirements on a piece of paper and leave it before the idol. They used to get the amount needed but it had to be returned with interest. Later on, when people did not keep their promise the practice stopped. As money lenders are called Bohra the temple got its name Bohra Ganesh. A day before Ganesh Chauth there is whole ‘night jagran’. Seva begins early in the morning with ‘abhishek’. At mid-day, the time of Lord’s birth special ‘arti’ is waved. There is a ‘mela’ like scene around the Mandir.
Several rituals are performed at the Khatikwada, Hathipol, temple that has the only ‘panchmukhi’ idol of Ganesh in the town. It was said that the idol was brought here from the royal palace by some Brahmins while some others believe that it is was set up in compliance with divine instructions given in a dream.
Situated in Mallatalai, the 400- year old ancient Dudhia Ganesh Mandir draws a lot of devotees on this day Ganesh Chaturthi. The Mandir got its name as a lot of milk products were offered to the idol. Milk sellers while going out of the city and returning home put their milk cans here. Hence the name Dudhia Ganesh.
At the Pala Ganesh Mandir, located between Gulab Bagh and Doodhtalai and built by Vrishabh, grandson of the builder of Lake Pichhola, Lakha Banjara about 450 years ago, attracts a lot of devotees
on this day. Only on this day the idol made with clay and cow dung is decorated with gold ornaments weighing two and a half kilos that were unearthed at the site.
The about 300-Year-old Manshapurna Gajanandji Mandir in Jagdish Chowk also attracts a big number of devotees. It is said that once a Maharana took ill and the Maharani prayed to the Lord for his quick recovery. She offered Laddus to the Lord and from that time Laddus are distributed as Prasad.
The idol of Ganesh carved out of a single rock at 400-year old Jada Ganesh Mandir in Chandpole area needs one-kilo sindoor, one-kilo ghee, and 250 ‘malipanna’ for special dressing up.
The Sankat Mochan Gajanand Mandir in Raoji ka hata is believed to have miraculous power of fulfilling the desires of devotees.
The one-century old Nimadia Ganesh Mandir in Bhatiyani Choutta got its name from a huge ‘neem’ tree that used to exist near it.
The ten-day-long Ganesh festival concludes on Anant Chaturdashi with the taking of the idols in procession to various water bodies like Pichhola, Fatehsagar, Swaroopsagar and Goverdhansagar. In the morning after the performance of special rituals like ‘puja’, ‘yagna’ and ‘’aarti’ the idols are taken in cars, trucks and jeep to the lakes. On the roads leading to the lakes, devotees can be seen singing, dancing and sprinkling ‘gulal’ and ‘abeer’. Akharas display daring feats. The whole town reverberates with the sound of ‘Ganpati Baba Moria, agle baras tu jaldi Aana’.
To prevent pollution, only biodegradable idols are being made. They are not immersed in lakes but are put in special pools near the lakes. Some religious bodies have taken up to the responsibility to keep the idols till their use the following year.
Celebrated with great religious fervor in homes, temples, and streets all over the city, this festival brings joy and happiness for the devotees of Lord Ganesh.