My wife was asking me this morning, how Ganesh Utsav is celebrated in Nagpur (She is not from Nagpur)... and I din't have a good answer till I said - "It was much cuter, much neater than in other places...like Mumbai and Pune.."
I know, I know. This was a weird response. But I did not mean to compare. I just meant to tell her it was "different".
Ganesh Utsav is Maharshtra's signature festival. Like say Durga Puja in Bengal or Navratri in Gujarat. In Nagpur, Ganesh-utsav, is not celebrated on a scale that can be compared to other major cities in Maharashtra, though. It is pretty low key in relative terms. But in it's own little way it is neatly celebrated. Like you'd find a "sarvajanik ganesh mandal" (a cooperative group of people) erecting 'pendals' and putting out devotional songs on loud speakers at every nook and corner.
In 80s it was not unusual to find big white screen cloth with Hindi movies projected on them and people sitting on both sides of the white screen to see movies. I am not sure if it is still in vogue. I am thinking not. The Cable television has killed that thrill.
Apart from movies, the organizers would come up with schedules of indoor and outdoor games, dramas, fancy dress competition (as it was called), music night etc. They would ensure 10 days of community gathering on one or the other programs.
As kids, it was normal for us to visit different "sarvajanik mandals" on our bicycles and compare Ganpatis. The bigger the size of the Elephant God, the more appealing was it for us. I remember when I was in 9th grade, one of my friend even forced me to see "21" Ganpatis in one evening. There was something auspicious about it apparently. So he would make me go to 21 different places and pay a devotional visit to each of them. I never understood his obsession with the number 21 though. So I would count even the smaller insignificant mandals to make that number up, which he din't like. And he made me go all the way to east side of Nagpur (which west nagpuris like me visit only few times in a lifetime) to complete his ridiculous missions.
But we were boys. And we did all sorts of weird things. As we grew up, some of us started having ulterior motives behind visiting the "pandals". The pandals were good forums for meeting or seeing "people" as they would say. (If you are a guy from Nagpur, you have already read between the lines, so I don't need to elaborate).
Last several years, I have not been in Nagpur for all these festivities including Ganpati, Dassara, Sankranti etc. I think I miss them now. Anyways... sigh!