Ganesh festival, visarjan day in Mumbai

Ganesh Visarjan is the last day of the Ganesh festival. In Mumbai, it’s a day of long processions filled with pomp and splendour when the Ganesh idols are taken to the sea and immersed in the waters there.

Crowded, noisy yet full of life – with order in the chaos, the Ganesh Visarjan is quintessentially what Mumbai is all about!

Devotees gather at the Girgaum chowpatty in Mumbai for visarjan of their favourite deity, Lord Ganesh

Ganesh idol, set for visarjan towering over the devotees

The streets of Mumbai turn into a mega congregation of people, dance, music and colour.

 

Huge crowds of devotees walk for hours in the Ganesh Visarjan procession - at Lalbaug in Mumbai, India

Large crowds join in the procession

As the sun sets into the Arabian sea, more and more Ganesh idols show up for immersion. In the fading evening light, all you see is a sea of people.

The excitement and the energy defy how crowded the beach actually is. It feels like the Ganesh idols, resplendent with their charming demeanour, are showering a bountiful of blessings on the devotees.

Ganesh idols start arriving for visarjan at Girgaum chowpatty in Mumbai, India

Ganesh idols start arriving for visarjan

Performing the final "arti" of Lord Ganesh before immersing it in the water at Girgaum chowpatty in Mumbai, India

Performing the final puja before visarjan

Leading the Ganesh idol to the sea for Visarjan at Girgaum chowpatty in Mumbai, India

Leading the Ganesh idol to the sea

The journey of the Ganesh idol from the beach to the sea is worth experiencing. The wheeled platform on which the idol sits is pulled by the organisers. This makes the idol rush towards the sea at breakneck speeds. However, at times the idol changes direction. A crazy scampering of the crowds follows, to get out of its way!

While the Ganesh visarjan day in Pune – a neighbouring city of Mumbai, is about culture and tradition, in Mumbai it is about the crowd participation and management.

It is also about “Lalbaug cha Raja” – the biggest celebrity of Mumbai.

Frenzy. The only word to describe everything surrounding the “Lalbaug cha Raja” (the king of Lalbaug).

During the ten days of the festival, this particular Ganesh idol is visited by over a million devotees. Those who can not make it in the ten days try to catch a glimpse on the visarjan day.

Devotees shower flowers on "Lalbaug cha Raja" on the visarjan day (this is at 2 AM!) in the bylanes of Girgaum in Mumbai, India

Devotees shower flowers on “Lalbaug cha Raja”. Photo taken at 2AM

Organisers shower garlands on the devotees as blessings of the "Lalbaug cha Raja",  on visarjan day in Mumbai, India

“Lalbaug cha Raja”

As the idol proceeds ahead, the organisers shower the crowds of devotees with garlands and sweets (prasad) as blessings of the Lalbaug cha Raja. Their expressions of sheer bliss on catching hold of these is a sight to be seen to be believed!

It is an unwritten rule that the visarjan proceedings in Mumbai end with the immersion of the Lalbaug cha Raja. At around 5AM on the morning following the visarjan day, after a procession that lasts over 12 hours, the Lalbaug cha Raja is sent to sea.

Managing the crowds of this magnitude (on the entire visarjan day and particularly for the Lalbaug cha Raja) is not for the mild hearted.

Hats off to the police, armed forces and the volunteers for a performing such an arduous job so well.

The convoy of Mumbai's biggest celebrity, "Lalbaug cha Raja" for Ganesh visarjan in Mumbai, India

Convoy of “Lalbaug cha Raja”

Each Ganesh idol has a story to tell

The Ganesh idols come in all shapes and sizes. Each one tells a story. This multi dimensional character of Lord Ganesh is what endears him to his devotees. As the night draws to a close, chants of “Ganpati Bappa Morya! Pudhcya varshi lavkar ya!” (see you soon the next year) fill the air.

Lights, camera, action - Ganesh visarjan at Girgaum chowpatty in Mumbai, India

Lights, camera, action

Every Ganesh idol has a story to tell, at Girgaum chowpatty in Mumbai, India

Each idol has its own story

Lord Ganesh marches to the sea for visarjan at Girgaum chowpatty in Mumbai, India

Goodbye and thank you for all the blessings!

By the glittering lights of Mumbai’s famous landmark, the Queen’s necklace, next to the Arabian sea, the city says its final goodbye to Lord Ganesh.

It is a great atmosphere. An experience we recommend to everyone visiting Mumbai.

Some tips for enjoying the Ganesh festival in Mumbai

  • Be mentally prepared for humongous crowds. You will be pushed around at times. Not necessarily by someone meaning harm.
  • Try to go in a group. And stick together. It is easy to be lost in these crowds and will be difficult to trace your companions if you lose sight of them. It is difficult hear the mobile phone ringing in such crowds.
  • If you feel like joining in the crowds dancing, join in where there are families and women.
  • Dress comfortably (including footwear) and modestly.
  • Do not carry valuables.
  • Carry water and some food with you. The restaurants in the areas surrounding the procession and immersion are closed on the visarjan day.
  • Accept that some customs and practices will sound unreasonable. But in the middle of the festival is not the time to challenge these.

You might also like to read stories on these festivals:

Dahi Handi, Janmashtami Celebrations

Makar Sankranti - Kite flying festival Gujarat

Monastery festivals of Ladakh and Zanskar

Rural Indian bazzar and cattle fair

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Sandeepa and Chetan. Married. Indians. Exploring Travel as Lifestyle. Featured by National Geographic, Yahoo. We hope that through our travel stories we inspire others to make their dream into a reality.

13 thoughts on “Ganesh festival, visarjan day in Mumbai

  1. UCAB

    Hello Sandeepa and Chetan,

    Firstly i appreciate your photography skill.
    Very nice information about Ganesh visarjan in Mumbai. Amazing Photography. Loved It. 🙂

  2. Tina Leggio

    The pictures are incredible as usual and I really enjoyed hearing about the history of the festival as well. I admire you for going into those big crowds, and for staying so long. Your night shots are just as beautiful as your day shots.

    1. sandeepachetan

      Hey Tina, living in a city as populous as Mumbai has probably made us immune to the crowds 🙂 For an event like the Ganesh festival, the large crowds just add so much energy, we didn’t realise the time we had spent there! Thank you once again for your comment and appreciation!

  3. Lynn Esposito

    Hi Sandeepachetan.
    This looks like quite the celebration!!
    Just curious…what are the idols made of, and are they sent to drift out to sea? Or, are they recovered and reused?
    Have a great day. Thanks for the photos.
    Lynn

    1. sandeepachetan

      Hello Lynn, the idols and their immersion in the sea is matter of great concern here. The big idols, like the ones in the photos here are made of plaster of paris. And yes, they are just let to drift off. The smaller ones, the ones that people get in their homes are made of mud. Many environment related organisations are making a 3 pronged effort to reduce the environmental impact of this festival. One, encourage more people to get only the mud idols painted with organic colours. Second is to reduce the height of the Ganesh idols. And thirdly, encourage people to make an artificial lake in their neighbourhoods and use it for immersion. Hopefully the awareness will spread.

  4. Kim

    Your blog is so interesting! I hope you intend to make it into a book. If you do, don’t forget to tell us where we can purchase it. Keep up the good work!