How Ganesha Chaturthi celebrations in Bengaluru today are a pale shadow of yesteryears

Orchestra singer Bharath said, “Earlier, starting with the Ganesha festival, we would be booked well until Kannada Rajyostava in November. But now, there are no live orchestras.”

September 16, 2023 02:02 pm | Updated 02:04 pm IST - Bengaluru

Ganesha idols being sold on R.V. Road in Bengaluru.

Ganesha idols being sold on R.V. Road in Bengaluru. | Photo Credit: Bhagya Prakash K

Not long ago, Ganesha Chaturthi was eagerly awaited by not just households, but residents of various streets and localities, as they came together to participate in the festivities that included stage shows that often acted as a talent hunt of sorts.

Today, the festival is a pale shadow of yesteryears. It is limited to the installation and worship of the idol, procession, distribution of prasada and immersion of the idol, for the most part. Apart from big associations and organisations, the number of people organising musical nights and other cultural events has come down significantly.

Stepping stone for artistes, aspiring politicians

“Earlier, various organisations would organise cultural events by State and national-level singers, dancers, musicians and actors for the Ganesha festival. Orchestra by Manjula Gururaj, B.K. Sumitra and others were really famous. There was a huge crowd for dramas of Master Hirannaiah, Harikatha programmes ofGururajulu Naidu and his daughter Shobha Naidu, and others. But these days, we do not see any crowd pullers like them,” said T.R. Mohan, an ex-serviceman and resident of Srinivasanagara.

Ganesha festival was also the stepping stone for various political and social leaders.

“But even this has dwindled. Politicians only misuse the festival for political gains and the public tend to show disinterest due to this,” said Umashankar, a member of Panchamukhi Vinayaka Yuvakara Balaga, Hanumanthanagar.

“Earlier, on the occasion of Ganesha festival, we used to conduct not only cultural programmes, but also social service activities, such as eye and health check-up camps, blood donation camp, and tree planting. We used to invite writers, actors and achievers in society. But now all these things have stopped, and are limited to only a few cultural programmes,” he added.

While Shashidhar Kote, a singer, said that the number of cultural events has reduced drastically compared to earlier years, singer M.D. Pallavi is not seeing a dearth of events. She is booked for seven programmes.

“According to me, Ganesha festival means cultural events. However, in the recent days, price rise has become a major challenge to organise cultural events,” she said.

Orchestra singer Bharath said, “Earlier, starting with the Ganesha festival, we would be booked well until Kannada Rajyostava in November. But now, there are no live orchestras. Events are dominated by instrumental music programmes. There is no demand for signers. The glory of old style Ganesha festival will never come back.”

Stage for young talent replaced by reality shows

Old-time residents say that they miss the ‘golden days of yore’.

Ravi, a resident of Jayanagar, said, “In those days, public Ganesha festival celebrations were the talent hunt stages for children who showed off various hidden talents on stage, including dancing, singing, mimicry, and drama. But, after reality shows became popular on TV, this has died. Parents and children prefer to sit in front of the TV or surf social media.”

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