J&K Marathis irked by Pune groups' plan to intrude on Ganeshotsav fest in Kashmir

by IANS |

Pune/Srinagar, Aug 29 (IANS) A move by seven leading Ganesh Mandals from Pune to organise Ganeshotsav 2023 in the Kashmir valley has piqued the local Marathi community of around 150 families living there since over four decades.

The organisations -- barring the Dagdusheth Halwai Ganpati Mandal -- on Saturday announced a joint Ganeshotsav celebration in J&K capital Srinagar and other towns from next year.

However, the Maharashtrian community of J&K, living, studying and working in the erstwhile border state now a Union Territory has balked at the very idea of 'some outsiders' seeking to enter their domain with potential bleak ramifications.

Justifying the move, a trustee of Shrimant Bhausaheb Rangari Ganesh Mandal Punit Balan said that if there can be Vaishnodevi Yatra and Amarnath Yatra or Har Ghar Tiranga from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, they why can't there be Ganeshotsav celebrations in the UT of J&K.

Nevertheless, he later assured that they would take the local Kashmiri Marathis into confidence before embarking on their venture.

None too pleased, the J&K Shree Ganesh Seva Mandal trustee Dattatray Surwayanshi wondered what was the need for "anybody from Pune or elsewhere to go all the way for some tokenism" which could be detrimental for the locals.

"We have been celebrating the Ganpati festival in households for over three decades and a grand public Ganeshotsav at Lal Chowk for 23 years. The local Muslim community fully supports us and more than 5,000 people from other states like Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Assam and Bihar join us enthusiastically," Suryawanshi told IANS.

Concurring, NGO 'Sarhad' founder Sanjay Nahar said that public Ganeshotsav was born in Pune (1892) 130-years ago as a political fest by Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak to unite people against the British Raj.

"It is the Marathi community in J&K which celebrates it in a truly religious style and are also uniting all the locals annually worshipping the Lord Ganesh, the elephant-headed son of Lord Shiva and his wife Parvati with their abode in the snowy Himalayas," Nahar said.

Moreover, he pointed out that Ganeshotsav is very much celebrated in J&K and even the Tricolour is displayed by people there, "but certain politicians attempt to paint a contrary picture" and foment misunderstandings and divisions among the countrymen.

Suryawanshi said that with an average budget of Rs 2,00,000, the SGSM conducts the 10-day fest with pomp in Lal Chowk, on the final day, carries out a solemn 'visarjan' (immersion) and also gives 'prasad' meal to nearly 5,000 people.

"We just collect a small amount of Rs 2,100 per family, there are voluntary donors among us or the local Muslim jewellers. We do not take a single rupee from any private or government sponsors. In the past 23 years, not a single Kashmiri has objected to our annual event and all join us to make it a success," Suryawanshi declared.

The J&K Marathi community comprises more than 125 gold refiners and artisans from Sangli, Solapur and Satara districts of Maharashtra, their children study in local J&K English schools, learn Marathi at home and some even go out to other states to pursue higher education.

The Pune groups plan to instal Ganesh idols for 36 hours (one-half-day) celebrations in Srinagar, Pulwama, Shopian, Anantnag, Baramulla, Kupwara and Khurhan, and in subsequent years hope to make it a full-fledged Ganeshotsav (10-day fest).

On August 31, the Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir Pandurang K. Pole -- incidentally, a Marathi -- will inaugurate the SGSM fest with the 4-feet tall idol of Lord Ganesh brought from Maharashtra this year, and the immersions shall be carried out near the Hanuman Temple on the banks of River Jhelum on September 9.

Besides Suryawanshi and Nahar, other business persons from various communities have frowned at the Pune groups' proposal saying the one-and-half day event can hardly be called Ganeshotsav by any stretch and are optimistic that "better wisdom will prevail", as would be expected by the Lord Ganesha himself -- also revered as the God of Intellect.

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