Mumbai, Sept 18: The countdown for the celebrating Lalbaugcha Raja has begun and only one day remains for the grand celebrations to take off.
This is the 90th year since it was established and, poignantly, the pandal is being seen as a tribute to the late Nitin Desai, the art director and production designer, who died on August 2 in Karjat.
Desai was the chief decorator of the pandal housing Mumbai’s largest and most famous Ganpati. In an interview with the Spice Enquirer, President of Lalbaugcha Raja Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal, Balasaheb Sudam Kamble, said, “Before he died, he had done 80% of the paper architecture and 20% of the groundwork. On July 4, he attended the mandap pooja in Lalbaug”.
On August 2, he was found dead in his studio in Karjat.
Desai had been a sevak with the Mandal since 2008, which was also the 76 anniversary of the establishment of the idol. As the chief decorator, he was famous for his relevant designs and his lavish use of detail to bring various themes to life.
For this year, Desai has re-envisioned the coronation day of Shivaji Maharaj as the theme to mark its 350th jubilee. While the design works are complete, a large part of the work on the ground is yet to be completed.
“He always brought a high level of creativity to his designs,” said Kamble, “He spent a couple of hours with us on the previous Sunday, discussing the project, he went over the work done and the plans ahead.
“Part of the structure of the main gate has been done by Desai. He had also designed the statue of Shivaji Maharaj. Now Desai’s team will complete the work this year, although his absence at crucial times will be felt for he has become a part of our family”, added Balasaheb.
The Mandal has also set up a memorial fund in his name to support young artists and designers.
The decoration materials this year will be eco-friendly. Flowers, leaves, and other natural materials will be used to make the chariot and the pandals look beautiful, said Kamble.
The idol this year is 18 feet tall and will be unveiled in the pandal on the eve of Ganesh Chaturthi next week.
Last year nearly 2 crore devotees visited the Lalbaugcha Raja from all parts of the country. This year, according to the official website, even more are expected and the Mandal is taking all necessary measures to ensure their safety. “There are 5000 plus volunteers for security arrangements during the festival. Crowd management has been entrusted to a private agency, to help for VVIP and smooth functioning of the event”, added Kamble.
To avoid any inconvenience due to the crowd, multiple gates have been incorporated. To handle the two main queues. The first queue comprises those who are content with Mukh Darshan, the other one is for those who want a closer encounter with the Lord, or Charan Sparsh Darshan. The first gate is for devotees for Mukh Darshan, another gate will be for Charan Darshan, and a third gate is for VVIPs.
A booth has been made for the media to cover the event. Kamble said they have also set up checkpoints at strategic locations to prevent any untoward incidents. Besides security, other arrangements such as toilets, drinking water, parking, ventilation, firefighters etc will be provided for the devotees.
The mandal has also started a website on which all information is given, regarding access, online darshans, and aarti timings. Login to https://rajneetug2022.in/lalbaugcha-raja-darshan/ In addition, a social media campaign is on to promote the festival. Besides, there is the LalbaugchaRaja Official app and an Instagram account.
Last year, 7,09,43,022 devotees from all over the world visited Lalbagcha Raja online, and 1,67,69,320 devotees participated in the Lalbagcha Raja Visarjan ceremony online.
Just before he died, according to audio recordings accessed by ABP Mazha, Nitin Desai is reported to have said, “Lalabaugcha raja la maja akhir cha namaskar”. This year his presence will surely be felt.
Written by: Vaishnavi Rasanbhaire, Premsimran Saini and Mariyam Shaikh
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