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Sunday, April 14, 2024

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When Ganesha, culture and food come together


Nandish makes sure that the habba is always a zero waste event
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Ganesha Habba, celebrating the elephant-headed, chubby deity is enjoyed across boundaries with varied degrees of pomp and show. Bengaluru’s Sri Vidyaranya Yuvaka Sangha, is one of the oldest trusts and has been organising the Bengaluru Ganesh Utsava for the past six decades. The celebrations feature pujas, homas, music, art and culture from across the country with food specifically from various regions of Karnataka.

This year is the Sangha’s 61st Bengaluru Ganesha Utsava, and is taking place in three different venues. It started off with a Maha Yagya on September 3 at Shankar Mutt, Shankarpuram. Then, the pandal travelled to Orion Mall at Brigade Gateway, Rajajinagar and between September 6 and 13 there were a series of concerts, featuring reputed artistes including Ricky Kej, DJ Jasmeet and Nakul Abhyankar.

On September 13, the celebrations travelled to the Shankara Foundation, Kanakpura Road, with classical dance and music recitals featuring artistes such as Shobhana, tabla Venu and the Manju Drums Collective.

From September 18, there will be a artistes such as Anup Jalota, Aruna Sairam, Vijay Prakash and Pravin Godkhindi, for concerts beginning at 7pm. The festivities will conclude on September 29 at
Shankar Mutt.

Nandish Mariyappa, Managing Trustee of the Bangalore Ganesha Utsava, talks about the history of the Sangha. “Sri Vidyaranya Yuvaka Sangha was started by the youth in 1962. They were inspired by Bal Gangadhar Tilak who started the pandal culture to bring people together. Ganesha habba is a pan-India festival. No matter where we come from, culture drives each one of us. We are what we are today because of our rich culture and heritage, which is what we continue to promote through our Sangha, year after year.”

“As the youth in every generation took over from their seniors, each one added something unique to the pandal culture. In the ‘80s when the founders wanted to give up the Ganesh habba festivities due to age concerns, the next generation took over and continued with the celebrations. We even organised it virtually during the lockdown with a small audience strictly following COVID-19 protocols.”

The very first pandal, Nandish says, was put up in a bicycle shop on DVG Road and featured concerts and harikathe. “Over the years the footfalls for the habba increased and the pandal moved from the bicycle shop to DVG Road itself. Huge jamkhanas were rented and spread out on the road so people would sit and be a part of the festivities. Finally, when the numbers grew so large as did the traffic, and we could no longer organise a pandal on the streets, we gradually shifted to parks and auditoriums; today, mutts and malls are the venue.”

A file photo from the photo archives of the Sangha where a clay Ganesh-making workshop was held during the habba

A file photo from the photo archives of the Sangha where a clay Ganesh-making workshop was held during the habba
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Nandish’s father was one of the youths who started the Sangha in the ‘60s. “Singer PB Srinivas was one of the first celebrities to perform for us and SP Balasubrahmanyam started singing at pandals
from our sangha.”

Making a point of reviving the dying arts, the sangha promotes artisans at the stalls organised at the pandals. “We serve typical Karnataka cuisine to the visitors.“

The pandals and Ganesha festivities are zero waste, says Nandish. “Our Ganesha idols are handmade with organic clay, which is then immersed in a small pond. The concerts at our pandals are free of cost.”

The artistes, Nandish says, take a nominal fee. “Most of the time, they perform for free and charge us just a rupee!”

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