Lalbaugcharaja is a pilgrimage of sorts. Every year, millions throng its pandal for a darshan of this Rajah of all Ganeshas in Mumbai. They queue in the sweltering heat for hours on end for just a peek of the good Lord.
So long we had been put off by stories of the serpentine queues and the long wait. But this year, I wanted to give it a try. Jayant wasn’t convinced in the beginning though. The poor guy is an atheist. Dragging him to religious places need serious bribing – it was the lure of the sorpotel in the case of Mount Mary’s Fair. Mohammad Ali Road during Ramazan, of course, needs no pleading. But in Lalbaugcharaja’s case, I knew he couldn’t be enticed by the modaks or the coconut savouries. And he vehemently opposed my initial plan of going out at 10 in the night. Said, he’d be game only if I consider going very early in the morning. I didn’t protest. Beggars can’t be choosers. And anyway, he had turned around!!
And so, booked a cab for a pick-up in the morning today (It’s nice when Jayant doesn’t drive to places he isn’t sure of getting parking space — He doesn’t scowl and I do not get mad at him for taking life’s decisions on the basis of parking availability!!!) Ma readily agreed to get Ridi ready for school. What more did we need?! The much-needed flexibility was here in dollops.
Completely driven, we woke up at 4.30 am. Left home at 5 am. And guess what? Reached ground-zero in Parel at exactly 5.34 am. Thanks to the histrionics of the James Bond of our cabbie! He drove like he was struck by Rajnikanth and James Bond at the same time. Reminded him that it was our humble dream to see the Lalbaugcharaja, and not become an offering ourselves. He smirked and drove the deserted roads like he was the king!! Clutching Jayant’s hand and my heart in my throat, we did reach in good shape and time. 🙂 Thanked our stars, Lalbaugcharaja and the cabbie. In that order!
Well, we figured, the good Lord of Lalbaug would have been impressed by our determination. For, even though decently crowded at that early hour, we got a darshan within 10 minutes of our taking the queue, amid chanting of ‘Ganapati Bappa Mouryas’. Unbelievable!!! Whatsmore, despite the crowd, there was absolutely no jostling. It was over before we knew it. And then, basked in the happiness of a day well started.
Lalbaugcharaja is immersed on Anant Chaturthi. That’s the 11th and final day of the Ganesh festival. This means, in case you want to visit the pandal this year, you have 10 more days. Game? If yes, here’s some information that you will find useful –
• How many queues are there for Lalbaugcharaja darshan? Two. One is the Darshan line, which we took. And the Mannat line. Here are the route details for both the Lalbaugcharaja queues
• Can one buy offerings for Lalbaugcharaja? Yes. There are plenty of vendors selling packets of flowers, modaks and coconuts for a meagre 30 rupees a packet.
• Can one carry a camera at Lalbaugcharaja? We did. We carried our DSLR. People were happily clicking the Lord with their mobile phones too. All that the pandal volunteers want is that the queue should keep moving. Hence, not sure if you could do some serious photography here.
• Can one get snacks and water while at the Lalbaugcharaja queue? Yes. Many vendors sell the vada-pavs, packets of wafers and water to devotees lined up in queues.
• When is the best time to go for a Darshan of the Lalbaugcharaja? Very early in the morning as we did. Friends told us that Day 1 and Day 2 of Ganapati festival are also good days. They may have a point there. With most households bringing home their own Ganapati, it is quite likely that the crowd is thinner on the first 2 days. You could also go very late in the night, say after 11pm. But remember, Mumbai doesn’t sleep. So in all likelihood, you may bounce into every Mumbaikar at that hour!!