Maximum city celebrates coming together of religions

September 1st, 2009 - 2:07 pm ICT by IANS  

By Quaid Najmi
Mumbai, Sep 1 (IANS) Fasting Muslims gather for puja at a marquee set up for the Ganesh festival and Hindus delay their aarti till the evening namaz is over — the scenes of amity and different faiths coming together in this festive season are being played out all over this bustling Indian metropolis.

And nowhere is this syncretic tradition more in evidence than amongst residents of Saurabh Apartments in northwest Mumbai’s Versova area where a huge marquee for Ganesh Chaturthi is situated right next to a massive enclosure set up for namaz.

The Hindu residents of the colony have gone a step further to accommodate the sentiments of their Muslim brethren - they start the evening aarti at 9.45 p.m. instead of the regular 9.30 p.m. since the namaz gets over by then. They also switch off the loudspeakers when the Muslims are offering their prayers, said a society resident.

At the eastern end, in the downmarket Kurla suburb, fasting Muslims make it a point to participate in the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations and gather for puja at a Ganesh Mandal.

The L.Y. Market in Kurla is also abuzz with the twin festivities of Ganesh Utsav and Ramadan.

On one side of the huge marquee, there is a four-feet tall idol of the elephant-headed Hindu god. Right next to it is a small enclosure where verses from the Quran are recited and namaz offered daily as Muslims gather to break their day’s fast.

“Both Hindus and Muslims own shops in this market. We live and work together all round the year. So why can’t we observe or celebrate our respective festivals together?” asked A. Yadav, one of the organisers of the celebrations.

Even here, they take care to time the evening aarti only after the namaz… and then members of the two communities mingle like family members.

According to Yadav, such joint celebrations help cultural fusion, enable the youth of both communities understand each other and their rituals better and lead to broad-minded approach in day-to-day matters.

Members of both the communities also come together for the Ganesh immersion, which is scheduled for Thursday. After the traditional Ganesh ‘vandana’, the traditional hymn, is completed, the loudspeakers blare out qawwalis, he said.

As the immersion procession winds its way to Juhu every year, all the Ganesh devotees offer prayers and a ‘chaddar’ of flowers at a Muslim mausoleum en route and then continue to Juhu Beach.

In another instance of the lines between religions blurring, the popular Ganesh pandal of Bhandari Street Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal at Kapad Gully in south Mumbai has been completely built by a group of Muslim artisans directed by Anand Sawant.

According to mandal (association) joint secretary Shashikant Chavan, the artisans have done a “splendid job” and they worked for half the normal pay since it was for a religious cause.

Sawant’s group of Muslim artisans has also designed a huge Ganesh pandal in Fort area in south Mumbai.

Asif Khan, a 22-year old Muslim youth from Navi Mumbai, has carved and painted minute images of Lord Ganesh on two grains of pepper.

“We all have seen how the big Ganesh idols are made, but even these tiny ones which I carve and paint on pepper grains are equally tough to make,” said Asif.

The Ganesha with all its details on pepper can only be seen with a large magnifying glass.

But Mumbai’s traditions of cultural fusion are there for all to see.

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