From aesthetic, eco-friendly pandals to the ostentatious, the city is witness to many forms and moods of Ganesha. Sangeetha Devi Dundoo reports

A conservative estimate by Bhagyanagar Ganesh Utsav Samithi puts the number of Ganesh pandals in the city at 50,000 (this excludes countless installations in apartment complexes, malls and multiplexes). This year, the pandals have grown larger so that the respective committees put on their thinking caps much ahead of the 10-day festival. Artisans from Kolkata, famous for the impeccable designs of Durga puja mandals, were hired a month in advance.

Makeshift temples

According to organisers, creating a pandal is no less a task than erecting a makeshift temple. A pandal on RP Road put up by Old Bhoiguda Friends Association houses one large and several small idols of Ganesha, an installation of Ganesha paying obeisance to Shiva, and an idol of Shirdi Saibaba. Its ceiling and walls, draped in lavender, fuchsia and white, bear statues like traditional temples. Across the road stands another tall pandal erected by a group from Ashok Nagar where Ganesha is flanked by Shiva and Parvati. The ostentatious pandals here draw curious visitors and protect the idol from the overactive monsoon, organisers note.

Skyrocketing budgets

The budget for pandals has risen considerably this year with pandal owners in each locality trying to outdo one another. “We spent Rs. 80,000 for this 50-feet tall pandal,” says a spokesperson of Vivekananda Friends Association, Musheerabad. The more elaborate pandals, we learnt, cost up to a few lakh of rupees.

Avatars of Ganesha

Ganeshas clad in white and donning Gandhi caps are popular this year in Mumbai and Pune in tune with the support to Anna Hazare. In Hyderabad, though, the forms vary from Ganesha on a peacock, Ganesha as Krishna accompanied by Radha, to a sporty Ganesha playing basketball, table tennis, chess and carom at Sultan Bazaar. In Marredpally, a pandal has an installation of Vishnu besides Ganesha. A pandal near Kalamandir, Ameerpet, has a thatched roof and a clay Ganesha coloured with natural dyes. A Shiva ling serves as a water fountain. Ganesha on Adisesha and Panchamukha Ganesha have been common over the years.

Rice, tea cups, dry fruits and sand

The growing impact of the green drive is evident this year. At Durgam Cheruvu, a 57-feet clay Ganesha draws celebrity devotees. Inorbit mall houses an idol made of yellow pulses and basmati rice at Hypercity and another made of sand by Sand Art Company. At Gulzar Houz, a Ganesha carved out of dry fruits stands tall. At Babanagar, a white Ganesha made of paper cups vies for attention. The pandals are an opportunity for branding as well. UTV Action Telugu channel has associated itself with the famous pehalwaan Ganesha in Begum Bazaar!

Online darshans

The pandals come alive each evening with music, contests, pujas and multi-coloured LED lights. A number of pandals have their own websites that are updated regularly with photographs and a facility to make requests for online darshans.

Meanwhile, the countdown to the nimajjan on September 11 is keeping the city police on tenterhooks. In the midst of all this are a few heart-warming tales of communal bonding. The famous Balapur laddu auctioned at the end of the festival, for instance, is made by family members of Mohammad Muazzam Ali. Shoppers in Koti, Marredpally and Patherghatti are familiar with the camaraderie of Muslim shop owners who sell puja items and wished shoppers for both Eid and Ganesh Chaturthi. Shall we say aye to that?