The festival we wait for the entire year, is finally here! Ganesh Chathurthi, or as we call it, Chavath, without a doubt, is one of the most special festivals of Goa’s, and we would be lying if we said that there isn’t a month of the year that doesn’t make us count down the time left till Lord Ganesh finally arrives in our homes.
As a kid, there always used to be two Chavaths in my mind; the one we celebrated at home, and the other one being ‘sarvajanik’ Ganeshotsav. Having stayed in Ponda my entire life, I cannot say that there was a lack of sarvajanik Ganeshotsavs. The town celebrates three popular sarvajanik Ganeshotsavs, and I have always felt a personal connect to every one of them.
Now, we all know that Ponda isn’t the kind of town with fancy malls or beaches, but it beats most of the other regions of Goa as far as cultural heritage is concerned. People from every corner of the state visit various temples in Ponda which are of religious as well as historic significance.
This year, I decided to peek into the sarvajanik Ganeshotsav celebrated near Ponda Police Station, at Sadar, popularly known as “Fondyacha Raja” which is Ponda’s oldest sarvajanik Ganeshotsav celebration and also one of the oldest in Goa.
The sarvajanik Ganeshotsav of Sadar, Ponda, is celebrating its 46th year, and it just grows stronger every year. After Goa’s liberation in 1961, sarvajanik Ganeshotsav found its way only to a few places like Mapusa, Panaji, Margao, and Ponda’s own Shiroda. It was only in 1972, that a group of socially active youth from Ponda decided to start one in the heart of the town. It began in the same vicinity where it still stays in i.e. near the Ponda Police Station. They started it off with a budget of only two thousand rupees, in donations, and Dr Pandurang Ghanekar led the committee.
Like every good deed, it too had its own share of setbacks. In the first year of celebrations, heavy rains made their way to Ponda. Water accumulated due to heavy rain on top of the pandal would have led to its collapse, however, the members held it up themselves till the water was drained off the pandal.
Facing all odds, the organisers made it a success, and the year after that, and the year after that too. By the fourth year, the sarvajanik Ganeshotsav of Sadar had already become a part of the town and started getting active crowd participation. Even after 46 years, the sarvajanik Ganeshotsav of Sadar still stands strong and has now moved from the space adjacent to the Ponda Police Station to the one opposite to it, on the Kranti Maidan.
The mandal also has a history of organising various cultural programmes that involve every section of the society. With this year’s celebration starting from the 25th of August till visarjan on the 4th of September, various activities have been scheduled including a total of three stage plays, two of which have stars from the Marathi film industry. Being Ponda’s most loved sarvajanik Ganeshotsav, there is no doubt that it has permanently marked itself a place in the history of the town.
Ponda also celebrates two more sarvajanik Ganeshotsavs which are loved by the people just as much; the Zareshwar Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav, celebrated on the Old Ponda bus stand, and Budhwarpeth Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav which is celebrated in the Ponda town market.
If you want to go out of the town and to the outskirts of the Ponda taluka, you can witness some of the best Ganesh idols, decorations and displays at Marcel and Cumbharjua, which host thousands of visitors every year from every corner of Goa.
No matter from where you come, if you want to enjoy the festivities this Chavath, I advise you to come to Ponda because this place will always give you a feeling of being home.
(P.C. SAIDATT KAMAT)