Welcome to my Pune series.
I decided to start my collection of posts on Mumbai’s less glamorous neighbour with the story of the above deity, Dagdusheth [Halwai] Ganpati. It reflects, perhaps most aptly, the depth of Pune’s cultural heritage in its seemingly commonplace everyday places—a heritage which is felt many times over at a pan-national level. Don’t believe me? Read on. 🙂
At first glance the effigy appears to be merely an oversized kindly Ganpati, Maharasthra’s most loved god, and the remover of obstacles. Covered in 8 kilograms of gold, and insured to the tune of US$150,000, the Ganpati is a devotee’s gift to the city and birthplace of the annual Ganeshotsav [Ganesh festival].
Back in the late-1800s, there was once a wealthy sweetmeat seller [halwai] in Pune called Dagdusheth who lost his son to the plague epidemic. To overcome his grief, his guru advised him to build a temple dedicated to the ancient elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesh, also known as Ganpati. Completed in 1893, the result is what you see. The original sweetmeat shop still stands, now under the name Kaka Halwai near Datta Mandir.
Lokmanya Tilak, the Indian nationalist leader, was a close friend of Dagdusheth. It is said that Tilak got his brainwave right here to have an 11 day Ganeshotsav as a way of getting around the British Raj order which banned public meetings, and at the same time spur patriotic sentiments. The rest is history. We, as a free nation, are 70 years old this year. The Ganpati festival is a landmark event in the country, celebrated with maximised grandeur in Maharashtra and the city of dreams, Mumbai.
Photography is not allowed within the temple, so I took the above shot from across the street. After which I went in and prayed that the obstacles in my life’s course may also be removed, both those outside and inside of me. 😉