Have you ever heard about a God having idols in different stages of life? Yes, if a God can have rituals similar to humans, for example can catch cold after bathing, can go to relatives house leaving behind wife and offers sweets to passify her anger on coming back etc. I am talking about Lord jagganath here, but not talking about his famous rathjatra. Here I am discussing about Lord Ganesh, the Agrapujya or Siddhi Vinayak, whatever name you may call him, he has always been an universal symbol of knowledge, wisdom and prudence. On Ganesh Chaturthi every year, we Indians worship the big bellyed idol of Gajanan.
Generally, the idols of Ganesh are emersed a day after the puja. In Mumbai, the idols stay for ten days till immersion. But, there is Bhadrak – small town in Odisha where the idols remain on the pedestal for a month, before bidding farewell to him with much pomp & show.
Here, Ganesh is worshipped in different names, reflecting age and stages of life.
As the folklore goes, Lord Ganesh was being worshipped by the trading community in the old parts of the city, known as Puruna Bazar. The traders used to worship Lord Ganesh before leaving on the trading voyage. In fact the area was predominantly populated by Muslims, for more than two hundred years the Ganesh Puja has been performed by both Hindus and Muslims, symbolizing communal harmony. Bhadrak was a part of Moghul sultenate Bhadrak.
This Ganesh idol was the only permanent idol in the city until 1970, when another group of youth started another large scale Ganesh Puja, a few meters away, in the same locality. Hence, the earlier one was named as “Budha Ganesh” (Old Ganesh) and the newer one was called as “Toka Ganesh” (Young Ganesh). In course of time both the organizers started to showcase each of their Ganesh idol as grand as they could be.
This triggered a spirit of competition among local youth, resulting in advent of another large scale Ganesh Puja in name of “Pila Ganesh (Child Ganesh)” in the year 1993 by the spirited youth brigade of Mukteswar Club in Kuansa area of the town. Later in Goshala Chhaka area of the city, started one “Kuni Ganesh” (Tiny Ganesh) and another in Kadambeda area named “Chhua Ganesh” (Kid Ganesh).
In the mean time, Saheed Club in Nuabazar area of the started to erect a notably large Ganesh idol with a visibly larger belly. Aptly they had named it as “Petu Ganesh” (Big Bellied Ganesh).
In early phase of first few years into 21st Century, some more Ganesh idols came up. Eventually they have been named as “Bal Ganesh” (Child Ganesh) and “Kanchan Ganesh” (Golden Ganesh).
Later a permanent temple solely dedicated to Siddhi Vinayak has also come up in the Kuansh area, which housed a black granite statue of the elephant headed God with his vahan rat waiting outside the temple.
In a nut shell, Bhadrak town now boasts of having more than 10 iconic Ganesh idols placed atop permanent citadels, apart from more than hundreds of earthen idols spread across the city. Amost all educational institutions, be it schools, colleges and even technical institutes place and worship Ganesh idol and an unwritten competition brews among them. Sometimes some youth clubs come up with innovative ideas of idol making from some really uncommon materials like bangles, papers, marbles, blades, vegetables and even different coloured dals.
But all these Ganesh idols stay for a day or two, then immersed in nearby Salandi River, leaving behind the relatively permanent statues. These Ganesh idols are taken in large processions for immersion them after a passage of almost one month. The organizing committees invite artistes of repute from within and outside Odisha to perform in the immersion procession.
Large DJ, colourful disco lights and numerous cultural troupes become a part of the immersion rally which may sometimes elongate for more than two to three kilometers.
Here the Hindu – Muslim unity is a thing to witness, for sure, during the month-long celebration and even during the immersion procession too. Both the communities jointly share all the responsibilities. Be it erection of pendal or managing traffic in crowded lanes and by-lanes of town, there is virtually no difference between a Hindu or a Muslim. In fact, all become one, in the name of “Baba”.. the one and only, Baba Ganapati, the Ganapati bappa.
Have you ever thought where do the citadels/frames go after the immersion? Yes, you guessed it right. The empty citadels are also worshipped all around the year, until another idol is made over them next year. People from far away places too come to see the worship of empty citadels of “Budha Ganesh”, “Toka Ganesh” etc.
Now, isn’t it quite interesting? So, if you plan to visit Bhadrak some time in future, make sure that you come around Ganesh Puja, to witness the festive fever of the town and idols of different stages of Ganesh and flavor of communal harmony.
About the Author:
– The writer, an Odisha Administrative Service (OAS) Officer, is currently posted as a Tahasildar in Basudevpur, Bhadrak.