Saturday, September 03, 2011

Lord Ganesh Festival 2011 - Ganesh Visarjan

Yesterday at about 6:00 pm, my father performed 'Puja' and 'Aarti' to worship the Lord Ganesh idol and at 6:30 pm, he lifted the idol and we drove to Pawai Lake for immersing the idol.

My father performing the final 'Puja' and 'Aarti'
My father taking the Lord Ganesh idol out of our home
On the way, we could see a lot of idols being taken to Pawai Lake, some in cars just like us and many in open tempos with ardent devotees dancing on the road to the beats of fast devotional songs. Due to these processions, there was lot of traffic on the way.

We finally reached Pawai Lake and I parked our car with help from the traffic police who were managing the traffic very well. There was a huge crowd at the Lake with hordes of devotees performing the final 'Puja' and 'Aarti' infront of the Lord Ganesh idols.

The idol immersion venue - Pawai Lake
Devotees performing the final 'Puja' and 'Aarti'
My father also performed the 'Puja' and 'Aarti' and we handed over the idol to one of the many helpers present at the Lake who were authorised to enter the deep waters of the Lake to immerse the idols.

Our Lord Ganesh idol ready to be taken for immersion 
The helper posing with our Lord Ganesh idol before immersion
Our helper took our idol and placed it on the raft that took it along with other idols to the deep waters for immersion.

The helper placing our Lord Ganesh idol on the raft
The raft with our Lord Ganesh idol (2nd from left) going into deep waters
Finally another helper took our idol, went below the water and immersed it.

The helper going below the water to immerse our Lord Ganesh idol
As per tradition, the first helper then gave us some clay on the 'Paat' (a wooden slab meant for sitting) on which the idol was mounted.

My father (Bhau Mahadik) holding the 'Paat' with clay on it
We then drove back home. This is how we bid adieu to the almighty Ganesh - the lord of beginnings and the remover of obstacles!

गणपती बाप्पा मोरया! पुढच्या वर्षी लवकर या!
Ganapati Bappa Morya! Pudhchyaa Varshi Lavkar Yaa!

Friday, September 02, 2011

Lord Ganesh Festival 2011 - Ganesh Chaturthi

Yesterday was Ganesh Chaturthi, the first day of the Lord Ganesh (Ganapati) festival. My father, Bhau Mahadik, had taken an oath last year to bring Lord Ganesh to our home for 3 consecutive years.

We had selected and booked the Lord Ganesh idol about a month back from Mr. Vinay (+919833029313) in Thane near Ghantali Devi Temple. As our contribution towards an eco-friendly environment, we had booked an idol made out of clay which can dissolve easily when immersed in water unlike the idols made out of Plaster of Paris (PoP). The idol depicts the Titwala Ganapati which is identified by its unique sitting posture.

The Lord Ganesh idol that we had selected

At 11:00 am yesterday, we took the idol from Mr. Vinay and drove home to Ghatkopar with it. After reaching home, we established the idol under a small dome, again made out of eco-friendly thin cardboard [instead of Thermocol (Polystyrene) that's popularly used yet hazardous to the environment].

The Lord Ganesh idol after establishing it at our home

All the family members gathered and we performed 'Puja' and 'Aarti' to worship Lord Ganesh and to receive His blessings. Post the 'aarti', we were treated to a feast of yummy 'modaks' (the favourite food of Lord Ganesh) and 'nevris' prepared by my mother and a delicious meal.

Performing the 'Puja' and 'Aarti' to worship Lord Ganesh
वक्रतुण्ड महाकाय सुर्यकोटि समप्रभ
निर्विघ्नं कुरु मे देव सर्वकार्येषु सर्वदा

Vakra-Tunndda Mahaa-Kaaya Surya-Kotti Samaprabha
Nirvighnam Kuru Me Deva Sarva-Kaaryeshu Sarvadaa

(O Lord Ganesha,) with Curved Trunk and Large Body, who has the Brilliance of a Million Suns,
(I pray to you O Lord to) please make all my works free of obstacles, always.

In between, we went down to our neighbouring building, Prabhasa to take 'darshan' of the Lord Ganesh idol over there. They bring the idol every year to celebrate the Lord Ganesh Festival and keep it for 10 days before immersing it. This time they had got a big, standing Lord Ganesh. The idol was pretty huge.

The standing Ganapati at Prabhasa

In the evening, we performed the 'Puja' and 'Aarti' again. We would be keeping the idol at our home for 1.5 days. So today, we will gather once again at about 5:00 pm to take the idol for immersion at Pawai Lake.

Performing the 'Puja' and 'Aarti' in the evening
गणपती बाप्पा मोरया! मंगल मुर्ती मोरया!
Ganapati Bappa Morya! Mangal Murti Morya!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Mount Kalsubai Trek - Part III - The Descend

...continued from my previous post - Mount Kalsubai Trek - Part II - The Summit...

At about 9:05 am, we started our descend from the Mount Kalsubai summit. We reached the small village house and asked the villager to make some tea for us. But we dropped the idea after realizing that we weren't carrying any money with us.

At about 10 minutes ahead of the house, we met the first of a group of trekkers who asked me how far the summit was. At this point, I thanked God that we had started early in the morning or else we would have been a part of a crowd on the summit. I told him that it was about 20-25 minutes away and that they should try pulling the chain. Soon a few other trekkers joined him and they were all thrilled to know about the chain. They all thanked me and told me that they all would be attempting to pull up the chain.

After descending for about 40 minutes, I came to the table-top that had railings for safety. This is where I shot another video of the areas surrounding the mountain. And I thought that this is how the Marathas would have been keeping a watch on the surrounding areas.

Video shot after descending for about 40 minutes from the Mount Kalsubai summit [Length: 0:38 minutes]. It captures the view surrounding Mount Kalsubai. Bari village can be seen in the valley from 0:25 to 0:34. This is how the Marathas would have been keeping watch on the surrounding areas in the past.

After capturing this video, I literally ran down the trail stepping on the right areas with Dadabhau following suit. This was because I wanted to reach my friends as fast as possible. We met a lot of other trekkers on the way. The trail had become a bit slippery now because of them. Dadabhau had warned me about this even before we started on the trek. At one point, my foot did slip, but I managed to balance myself. Anyways, the fall wouldn't have been fatal since it was a safer part of the trail with lots of ground around it.

The mobile signal was intermittently appearing on the trail. The signal was maximum on the ladders and I had got smses of missed calls from Pankaj and Raju. I tried calling them back but the calls weren't going through. Then suddenly, I received my wife's call. I told her that everything was going well and to tell Pankaj and Raju that I should be there with them in about 45 minutes.

At about 10:25 am, I reached the Kalsubai temple but didn't find Pankaj and Raju over there. They had gone down to the Bari village shop where we had parked our car.

So, I quickly came down the rest of the trail into the rice fields on the plains and back to the village shop at about 10:45 am where  my friends were drinking tea. I was so glad to see them again. They immediately congratulated me on my unique feat. I drank some tea at the shop and we embarked on our return journey to the MTDC Resort.

At the MTDC Resort, my wife and all my other friends and their families congratulated me (and even Pankaj and Raju for attempting the trek and reaching the 'half trek' point). It was a unique feat indeed because of the following reasons:
1. It was my first trek ever and a successful one too!
2. I conquered the highest peak in Maharashtra and the Sahyadri range.
3. I completed the trek in under 4 hours (2:15 hours to climb and 1:40 hours to descend) when mostly other trekkers generally take about 6:30 hours (3 to 3.5 hours to climb and 2.5 to 3 hours to descend).
4. We just needed 1 bottle of water and took just 3 breaks of 2-3 minutes in between.
5. I had the summit all to myself (except for Dadabhau of course).
6. I managed to pull up the heavy chain on the summit.

The entire trek was successful partly because of the encouragement of my friends and Dadabhau, partly because of my mental toughness, partly because of the strong desire to conquer the peak and partly because of the fitness training that I undergo at Bala Shetty's Total Combat Fitness Academy of Muay Thai and Mixed Martial Arts thrice a week at his Dadar East centre that includes plyometrics for muscle endurance, aerobics, boxercises and combat training (+919833216866). Physical fitness is very important when you undertake such treks and probably the reason why I could complete the trek in under 4 hours. Despite this, my thigh muscles were aching for about 3 days after the trek. But it was a sweet ache, the ache of achievement, which I didn't mind at all! I have also got a slight tan courtesy of the trek and it could have been worse had it been a sunny day.

I would like to thank all the people behind the success of this trek including my beloved wife, my friends especially Pankaj and Raju, our guide Dadabhau Pawar and Bala Shetty sir!

I would strongly recommend this trek to each and everyone. Everyone should try and climb the highest peak in Maharashtra atleast once. Because of the safety measures taken by the forest department, this trek has become a safer one which an ordinary fit person can surely attempt.

Mount Kalsubai Trek - Part II - The Summit

...continued from my previous post - Mount Kalsubai Trek - Part I - The Climb...

The small temple on the summit of Mount Kalsubai housed the Kalsubai Goddess idol. There were a couple of Trishuls (Tridents) stuck in the rocks outside the temple and a few bells hung on an iron pole.

The wind was so strong that the bells were tolling on their own! Dadabhau Pawar (my guide) informed me that a fair is held on the summit during Navratri (a nine night's Hindu festival, celebrated in the honor of Goddess Durga) every year when many villagers climb to the summit and take the blessings of Kalsubai Goddess. I removed my shoes that were completely soaked, took the blessings of Kalsubai Goddess and captured a video of the entire summit.

Video of the Mount Kalsubai Summit [Length: 1:36 minutes]. It features the Kalsubai Temple. You can hear the bells tolling on their own from 0:59 onwards. Towards the end, my guide Dadabhau can be heard explaining about the heavy chain kept outside the temple.

The surroundings weren't visible because of the fog. As per Dadabhau, one can see as far as Nasik on a clear sunny day, standing on the summit along with the nearby Bhandardara Lake and Dam, Ratangad and Harishchandragad forts. This is why the Marathas used Mount Kalsubai as a watch tower in the past.

There was a heavy, long, coiled chain tied to the iron pole on the right hand side of the temple. Dadabhau then informed me that if I lowered the chain down over the rocks through a gap in the rocks, made a wish and managed to pull the entire chain back, then my wish would be fulfilled!

I thought to myself that I have already achieved a tough feat of climbing to the top of the mountain, so might as well give this feat a try. So, I sat down on the rocks and Dadabhau lowered the chain on the rocks. Then I took the chain in my hands and started pulling it up. As such it was heavy in the first place and since it was lowered down the rocks, it had become all the more heavier. I had to use all my strength to pull it up foot by foot. Finally, with the blessings of Kalsubai Goddess, I managed to pull it up entirely and it must have taken me atleast 2 minutes to do so. Now, I am really hoping that my wish comes true.

...continued in my next post - Mount Kalsubai - Part III - The Descend...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Mount Kalsubai Trek - Part I - The Climb

I had been to Bhandardara with my friends and their families last weekend. Little did I know that this trip would turn out to be a significant chapter in my life, for I conquered the highest peak in Maharashtra - Mount Kalsubai!

Bhandardara is a serene weekend getaway located about 185 kms from Mumbai (about 137 kms from Thane). It's at its best during the monsoon season when the entire stretch of land is painted in different hues of green. We stayed at the MTDC Resort which is the only resort located on the banks of the Bhandardara Lake (also called as Arthur Lake). We didn't have any plans to go for a trek on Mount Kalsubai till we reached there. After eating our lunch on Friday, 05 August, 2011, we met a local guide - Dadabhau Pawar who promptly agreed to take us on the trek. So we planned to start at 5:30 am the next morning from the resort.

I was supposed to go on the trek along with my friends Pankaj Mokal, Raju Bhilare and Narendra Pawar. However, Narendra had to drop out since he had swollen feet. This was the first ever trek for Pankaj and me. Raju had been on a successful trek to the Shivneri fort about 3 months back.

On Saturday, 06 August, 2011 morning, Pankaj, Raju and I assembled at the resort gate at 5:30 am but Dadabhau managed to reach there only at 6:10 am which is when we started our 10 km drive in Pankaj's car to Bari village located at the base of Mount Kalsubai. My wife had lovingly and thoughtfully packed a first aid kit and water bottles for us.

We reached Bari village at about 6:30 am and parked the car in front of a village shop. Dadabhau knew the shopkeeper very well who in turn agreed to look after the car. We started our trek at 6:35 am. Initially, we walked on the muddy roads of the village, through rice fields and even through a small waterfall where the water was knee-high.

[Note: Click on the snaps to enlarge them]

A dog was accompanying us on our journey and as per Dadabhau, she has even climbed to the summit along with trekkers many a times before.

After about 15 minutes, we started to climb and in about 20 minutes, we reached the Kalsubai Goddess temple which is also called the 'half trek' point though it's located at about quarter the distance of the entire trek.

At this point, Raju called it quits since he was wearing rainy shoes that were constantly slipping on the muddy trail. Pankaj also decided to stay back and accompany Raju. But they encouraged me to continue and offered to wait there till I come back. I really appreciated this gesture of theirs. I took the blessings of the Kalsubai Goddess, bid adieu to my friends and continued on the trek along with Dadabhau. The dog stayed back with my friends.

People say that the Kalsubai trek is not one of the toughest treks since the forest department has built 4 ladders and steps with railings at the steeper points of the trek in order to attract more trekkers to attempt climbing the mountain. Despite these 'amenities', it was always going to be tough for a first time trekker like me, especially when it was raining all the time.

The trail was pretty conspicuous but uphill with a couple of table-tops on the way. Dadabhau was climbing at ease as compared to me though he was wearing rainy chappals and was carrying the water bottles. The views of the mountains, waterfalls and the valley along the way were simply breathtaking and since I had a camera with me, I didn't miss on the opportunity of capturing these amazing natural scenes. There were rice fields as well on the way and as per Dadabhau, the villagers from the nearby villages climb the mountain along with their bullocks to carry out farming in these fields. There was also a small village house beside the fields with a small stall to sell refreshments. However, the stall was not manned at that time.

Dadabhau was constantly encouraging me on the way by saying that there's only 30%/25% distance left to the summit when actually there was more distance left to cover. After taking exactly 3 breaks of 2-3 minutes each and finishing a bottle of water on the way, we reached a well that's about 10-15 minutes from the summit. People say that the water in this well has never gone below 3 feet, but Dadabhau begged to differ. He climbs the mountain at least once every month and he says that he has seen the well go completely dry in summers. There was a small village house beside the well and we could see a villager sitting inside.

The visibility from the well onwards was a bit poorer because of fog and the wind was stronger. There were beautiful flower beds surrounding the trail starting just before the well and filled with small white and blue flowers.

Just ahead of the well, the last of the steps were visible. As we started climbing these steps, we could see the summit silhouetted against the sky because of the fog.

And then there was the final ladder standing on the sharp edged rocks of the summit.

I was so eager to reach the summit that I climbed this ladder real fast. Half way on the ladder, I could see a flag pole standing tall on the summit.

Slowly, the dome of a temple started becoming visible surrounded with railings.

Finally, I reached the summit and I was on top of the world! The feeling of laying foot on the summit and that too alone was heavenly. The entire summit was to myself. It was like as if I had attained Nirvana! My watch was showing 8:50 am, so it took me just about 2:15 hours to climb 1,646 metres (5,400 feet) to reach the summit of the highest peak in the Sahyadri range of the Western Ghats!

...continued in my next post - Mount Kalsubai Trek - Part II - The Summit...