Second of the 3 series posts, It gives me a great pleasure to be able to share my experiences and photographs of Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations across Mumbai and Navi Mumbai.

This post is about a personal experience about my visit to Mumbai’s most iconic and famous Ganesha idol – Lalbaugcha Raja and chance to see the Lord (and touch His feet) after standing in a queue for a little more than a Day ( 24 hrs 9 minutes 59 sec  to be precise 🙂 )[ By the way if you have not already read the first post of this series you can read it Here ]

Ganesh Utsav is one of the most prominent and vibrant festivals celebrated across Maharashtra, especially in and around Mumbai.

Every year new pandals and Idols come up, catering to a wide variety of themes starting from the friendly neighbourhood Spiderman to the recent blockbuster Bahubali.

But that does not really affect the list of Top Ganesha idols to visit in Mumbai – which is being constantly lead by one of the most prominent and celebrityphilic (that’s a new word I guess 😛 )Ganesha Idol – the Lalbaugcha Raja – the king of Lal Baug – a prominent locality in Central Mumbai.

Thanks to His Navsacha’ status (which means the “one who fulfills all wishes“) millions of devotees including our Bollywood arsenal – the Khans, the Bacchans, the Kapoors and more – everyone makes sure they visit the king Ganesha ( But don’t be too excited – they won’t be standing in the queue with you )

To make things more happening – the Lord has His own website with live streaming and Android App  – How Cool is that !! ( Sorry iPhone users … You better get an android for this one )[Featured image source]

Note: at the website you get all the information you need regarding dates, timings, directions etc.

There are 2 types of queues for taking His blessings –  theNavsachi Line – where you get to touch the Lord’s feet and the Mukh Darshanachi Line –  where you only get to see the Lord from a distance.

All this events dates back to 2010. Thanks to my roommate Saikat, who got me addicted to Diary Writing, I can now present to the world a vivid description of the entire event.

So how did it all start??

While on a trip to a Das Kaku’s residence ( a friend and colleague of my father ) in Mumbai, I first came to know about Lalbaugcha Raja.

A few days later the ground work started – the planning 🙂

The First challenge

we did not have a laptop with an internet connection and our only source to Google was ironically ‘Yahoo’ Cyber Cafe – a kilometre away from our residence. Our Phones were not so smart back then and android was in its nascent stages.

Ok.. so let’s get started

Reading from the pages of my diary

September 18 – Saturday

September 18 – Ganesh Utsav was now only a week more before the Visarjans start.  This day being a Saturday we( me, Samir and Saikat) had planned to visit Lalbaug.

But with 3 super lazy guys in single apartment things seldom go as planned.

It was already 9 am and too late to start. (As of now our plan was to take the Darshan Line- which takes roughly 6-10 hours on a normal day)

September 18 – 10am – with the other guys in no mood to wake up – I had a different plan. Make a visit to Joyeta’s ( the only female face in our otherwise male dominated 5 member friend group from school 😛 )  place at Mulund.

I was there by 3.30 pm (late by only 2 hours  😛 ) … had a wonderful lunch .. Kakima’s special Biriyani (Ohh !! I didn’t I mention  – joyeta’s parents were here for a few days).  Met her room mates Debashree, Samadrita and also the boys – Dhiman and Indra, who lived a few blocks away.

With Rajnikant ( as shivaji – the Boss ), Good Food and Gossip  –  time flew just like that .

September 18 – 10.30 pm – Finally I was leaving for home. Biriyani for Lunch and Dinner – ahh !!! what a day 🙂

Since we(me and my roomies) failed to visit Lalbaug today morning we had rescheduled it for Sunday.

Change of Plans

September 18 – 11.00 pm – Returning home this late and coming back to Lalbaug early morning next day seemed impossible at this point for me and so I decided to make the trip at Night– Right then itself.

Got down from the auto and took a bus to Airoli and from there a train to Thane.

(As you can see Mulund and Thane are actually pretty close, but by the time I changed my mind to visit Lalbaug I was already half way towards Airoli, as my apartment was a few stations next to Airoli. So I had to take a long route of Mulund to Airoli and there to Thane)

Route Map

September 19 – Sunday

September 19 – 12.00 am –  Boarded a super crowded train( For those from Kolkata – similar to the crowd in a peak time Bongaon Local) to Curry Road. Everyone seemed to be heading for the King Ganesha .

September 19 – 12.40 am – Finally at Curry Road … the crowd is maddening  … looks like the entire of Mumbai has come down here.

Stage 1 ( Getting to Curry road) cleared. Here lies the next challenge – finding the start of the Queue.

As mentioned before, there are 2 queues – one for touching the Lords feet and one for only Darshan.

I was looking for someone to ask, when out of the crowd came a guy asking me if I was looking for the queue. Probably my confused look caught his attention – good for me, as I followed him for the next 10 minutes before we finally found the ‘theNavsachi Line ‘ and appended ourselves to it.

I had no plans for this line, because I knew it could take up to a day. But based on his previous years experience, he assured me that it won’t be more than 12-14 hours

September 19 – 01.00 am – By this time we had introduced ourselves. He was Anand –  a senior BPO employee and a regular at the Lalbaugcha Raja. His faith in the Lord being reinforced after having  close saves on three different occasions.

In another 10 minutes we had a hundred people behind us and with a common mission like this strangers turn to friends in no time.

We met the brother-sister duo ( Neha and Amit) and the cousins (Abhisekh and Sushant ) – both 3rd year Engineering students.

September 19 – 03.30 am –  It’s already been two and a half hours and we are now a few hundred feet from the main pandal.

September 19 – 06.00 am –   for the last 2 hours we have been going to and fro the serpentine queues inside the main pandal.We have probably covered almost 30 of them  each on an average a few hundred feet and looking forward I only see heads – probably another 70-80 such queues  to go.

September 19 – 01.00 pm – That’s 12 hours  now. In the last 7 hours or more we have not made much progress –the lines have become longer now and the waiting time has also increased. We met a few volunteers and as shocking it was to all of us – it would be probably another 12 hours before we reach the main temple . OMG !!!

On a funny note –

Last night as we were entering the main premises (pandal) I heard volunteers announcing the estimated time to reach main temple was ~ 30 hours – I thought they was trying to frighten us  !!! But now I know they were serious 🙁

September 19 – 04.00 pm – Although Sunday, I had office with a few others . I had a night shift which I was now sure to miss. Thankfully after consulting my lead, I could swap shifts with Saikat. He would be there tonight and I would make up for one of his shifts.

September 19 – 08.00 pm –   As we passed through the queues there were volunteers distributing prasad and water bottles. All I had in the last 19 hours were a 2 packets of biscuit, a handful of Upma(the Prasad) and 2 bottles of water. The excitement of seeing Mumbai’s most famous Ganesha coupled with the company I got from these 5, took most of the pain away.

All this time we could see the live streaming and Arati s from the main temple via the giant LCD TVs hung at regular intervals.

We had Priyanka Chopra and Ranveer Kapoor visiting for the evening Arati- probably seeking blessings for their new film – Anjaana Anjaani.

September 19 – 11.00 pm – Each time I felt I am almost there, I could only be disheartened to find at least a few thousand people leading me.

September 20 – Monday

September 20 – 12.30 am – Almost there and Yes I could see the entry to the main temple, roughly 100 feet now.

Meeting the Lord

 September 20 – 01.00 am –  Finally entering the main temple. I could feel the heartbeats, the thrill and the excitement as I shouted ‘Ganpati Bappa Mourya’ and a hundred others joined me.

The Majestic King of Lalbaug and King of Mumbai – almost 15 feet tall, calm beautiful eyes, big arms – so big yet so peaceful – decorated with real Gold ornaments which post the Visarjans are auctioned for crores.

Lal Baug Cha Raja_Laal Baag Ganesh_Souvik Dutta

Although photography is not allowed inside the premises ( They have a separate photo and Media coverage session prior to opening up the Pandal for the masses ) I could not resist the temptation of a shot, especially after such a long wait.

I am thankful to Anand for this lifetime experience as I saw the devotees in the Darshan line almost 10 ft away – they won’t feel the joy of touching the Lord’s feet .

Devotees whisper their wishes in the ears of the Lord’s Vahan(carrier) – the Mouse hoping for them to get fulfilled. But there’s a catch !!

If you ask for something and your wish gets fulfilled, you have to come back the next year for a visit 🙂

September 20 – 01.30 am –  Finally outside the Mandap, it was one of the best experiences of my life and we all cheered in joy, happy to make it through.

Lal Baug Cha Raja_Laal Baag Ganesh_2_Souvik Dutta
Lal Baug Cha Raja_Laal Baag Ganesh_4_Souvik Dutta
Lal Baug Cha Raja_Laal Baag Ganesh_3_Souvik Dutta

(In the above photo – L->R – Anand, Sushant and Abhisekh)

It was a long way back home.

September 20 – 03.30 am – Finally my back gets to touch the bed after almost 40 hours since the last time I left for Joyeta’s house.

If you have also been to meet the King of Lalbaug and King of Mumbai – LalBaugcha Raja – share your experiences with me as comments below.

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