Bombay’s Popular Festivals- How things changed over the years….

It may be hard to believe but just 91 years ago, there was no Ganpati Festivals which we celebrate it with a lot of fanfare today. There was no Lalbaug or Dagduseth, there was no holi and similarly many festivals were not celebrated back then. Yes, Diwali was there since 1864 but it wasn’t celebrated with so much of joy and popularity as it is today. In fact a century ago, the only festival which was popular than any other festival was Muharram.
Muharam is the 1st month of the Islamic calendar & is still a huge event for Muslims as it is one of the four sacred months of the year. Muharram is regarded as the 2nd holiest month followed by Ramadan and people fast for 10 days while on day 10 which is called the day of Ashura, the shia muslims fast and take part in mourning of the muharam. The shia muslims celebrate the 10th day of Asura in different ways with different intentions.
It was Bal Gangadhar Tilak who thought that celebrating a certain festival on a particular period of the year will bring people more closer and make everyone happy and united. It was also a part of his nationalist programme during 1893 when Mumbai was shook by the hindu-Muslim riots he thought that this festival will not only popularize the hindu religion but will also bring people closer. It involved keeping the idol of the Ganesha for a 3 or 5days and immersing it in a pond while conducting various activities of sports, band and dance during that period.
The festival of diwali which is meant to celebrate the return of Rama after 14years from Ayodhya. The festival started gathering steam from 1880 when firecrackers were started to be manufactured. The gold merchants started celebrating Diwali by bursting crackers and soon Diwali became popularized all over India.
Holi was a festival which only became popular from the 1930’s. Initially the government was not in support of this festival because of the filth it carried on the roads due to colors, waste of too much of water and obscenity of celebrating it on public streets. However, the new government did not impose any restrictions and the festival got popular by the day to what is today!

Celebrating the birth of Krishna, it has always been one of the most loved festivals of Bombay. Though it involved throwing curds at each other, since people could not afford it, they started to throw water as a substitute while keeping curd in a pot and tying it atop a top of a building where people would dance & climb in groups to crack the pot filled with curd & prize money.
Garba Puja
Garba Puja which is also popularly called as Navratri means doing puja for 9 days of Devi Durga. Earlier it was celebrated in the temples where people from villages would gather at the temples and dance around an earthen pot with oil lamps which would symbolize Durga Puja. However, this festival was completely commercialized from the early 1990’s after the invention of popular singers like Musa, Preity Pinky and Falguni Pathak. It is humorously said that Navratri is gujarati people’s very own 9day sunburn festival!

– Haineel Shah

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