I only have one planned vacation each year – a trip to my native place Murud-Janjira. It is a coastal town in the Raigad district of Maharashtra, about 160km from Mumbai. My grandfather left Murud to attend law school in Mumbai. 3 generations later, there is still one thing that keeps the extended family together and coming back to our native place – our temple.
A couple of centuries back, one Mr.Joshi had a dream about an idol of Lord Ganesha under a tree. They dug it up and indeed found a stone resembling in shape with a Ganesha idol. It was then handed over to our family to be worshiped. What must’ve started as a small shade in Nandgaon (10 kms short of Murud), is today a popular destination for devotees & tourists alike.
The Ganesh Chathurthi festival in the month of Bhaadrapada was popularized by Lokmanya Tilak as a social event. But Ganesh Jayanti, Ganesha’s birthday if you will, is actually celebrated in the lunar month of Maagh (Jan-end to early-Feb per the Hindu lunar calendar). A lot of temples celebrate the janma or Ganesha’s birth, but its the biggest event at our temple.
We don’t know the exact year it started, but elders say its well over a 100 years old. Since the family was based in Murud, people, food and utensils would arrive in Nandgaon on bullock carts, while teens marched on foot. The 5 day event (could be 4 as per the lunar calendar) has a detailed agenda for each day, with ceremonies, preaching, prayers & finally the MahaPrasad.
The MahaPrasad is offered to the Lord in a large dish which is about 1 meter in diameter, weighs a few kilos and requires at least 4 people to carry when full. Since everyone wishes to make an offering of what they prepared for the Lord, it got to a point of quarrels & overloading. We now have a family-wise manifest of – within the larger Gupte-Chitnis family – who offers what, to avoid excess & duplicates. For next generations to follow & prevent any comprise in the Lord’s service, bill of materials & procedures are both being documented.
All this doesn’t go without mentioning the fact that we still have an enormous family that remains in close contact. While our family tree is in the works, we have ancestral detail of the last 10 generations or so. And its not just theoretical. We know most family members by name, and the genealogy behind the relation. Each year, this festival brings together 200-300 of us, keeping memories fresh and everyone in touch.
Throughout the year, we keep meeting at weddings and parties. Of the 800 or so invitees to my wedding, 300 alone went out to the paternal family, and we’re happy most turned up. (Btw, have you seen the wedsite?) Like in good times, the kinsfolk will personally attend to sickness & bereavement. Its a large support system that I really feel proud about. And I’m sure that this Utsav will keep us together for generations to come.