Ganesh pandals in the city are drawing upon Indian mythology as they put up elaborate tableaux in a bid to offer devotees something different

On any given day a life-sized Hanuman flying through a crowded market street is bound to be startling. But if this happens to be at the Ashok Vyayamshala street in R.P. road, don’t be surprised. It’s a part of the elaborate tableau put up by organisers of a Ganesh pandal in the area. With the festival getting bigger and better with each passing year, theme-based pandals are a huge hit this year with several Ganesh Utsav Samithis. Taking a break from last year’s trend of having idols inspired by the likes of Anna Hazare, Utsav Samithis this year are focussing on giving devotees something new to look forward to.

“We wanted to offer devotees something different this year and chose the Lanka Dahan scene from the Ramayan,” says Dharamraj Choudhary, member of the organising committee for the pandal erected on the Ashok Vyayamshala street. “Last year we put up a tableau of Kumbhakaran being woken up. We hire the idols and equipment for the tableaux from Mumbai and the technicians come down a few weeks in advance to set up everything in time for the festival,” he adds.

At the other end of the street is another pandal with an elaborate tableau depicting the life and work of Shirdi Sai Baba. “We want the devotees to experience something more when they visit our pandal. Besides, this attracts people as well as educates them,” says D. Raju, general secretary of the Ashok Vyayamshala Utsav Samithi. He adds that usually the pandals in the area see a footfall anywhere between three to four lakh during the 10-day festival.

The pandal on R.P. Road boasts of scenes from heaven and hell. While the first chamber depicts the tortures meted out to sinners in hell, the second reflects the peace and serenity people enjoy in heaven.

Other pandals in the city are working towards spreading social awareness. Take for instance the pandal at Ram Darbar in Siddiamber Bazaar. With the intent of spreading word on the need to be eco-friendly, the pandal organisers opted for a design that uses material like jute, paper and leaf cups. The entire pandal is made up of jute sheets, with paper and leaf cup cut outs to decorate its exterior. At the pandal near Balram Nagar in Neredmet, there is a Krishna inspired idol replete with a flute and a smaller idol of Meera by his side.

The Lal Darwaza pandal on the other hand houses a massive idol with five heads. “We usually opt for different avatar-based idols. So this year we had the Panchmukhi (five-headed) Ganesh idol made at Dhoolpet. The previous year we had a Krishna-avatar idol. It piques the interest of devotees who come in hordes to see the idol every year,” says S. Dashrath Lal, one of the pandal organisers.

However, work on most of pandals in the city is still on,despite the festival having already begun. “The recent bandh and constant rains have led to a delay in completion of works,” says Raju, even as a technician scurries to protect the electric cables as the downpour begins again.