A festive atmosphere has begun to envelop Hyderabad and Secunderabad ahead of the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations that commence on September 17 with the installation of 100,000 idols across the metropolitan area. The festivities culminate in a grand immersion ten days later on September 27.
Thousands of devotees have already begun performing puja at temples ahead of erecting specially decorated pandals – makeshift platforms that are frequently financed by politicians, neighbourhood associations, trade unions and persons of local influence. Among those expected to perform puja at the idol at Khairatabad this year are Andhra Pradesh and Telangana Governor E.S.L. Narasimhan and his wife, who made a similar commitment last year at the landmark idol near Raj Bhavan, the governor’s official residence.
Last year, huge numbers of the faithful (VIPs included) made for the largest idol in the metropolitan area. At 50 feet tall in 2014, the Khairatabad Ganesh is expected to go even bigger this year. Governor Narasimhan mentioned last year that he prayed “for the happiness and prosperity of people of both the Telugu states.” That theme is likely to continue this year as Andhra Pradesh and Telangana each continue to flourish following bifurcation.
Last year’s festival was significant in that it was the first after the formation of Telangana. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu famously performed puja at the Telugu Desam Party headquarters in Hyderabad, again praying for peace and prosperity in both states for the benefit of all. Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao also performed a similar ceremony at the Telangana Rashtra Samithi headquarters. This year, though Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have their differences in the political arena, it is expected that the festival will unite all Telugu peoples as it always has done.
As per statistics supplied by the Bhagyanagar Ganesh Utsav Samithi, more than 50,000 idols were installed in and around Hyderabad in 2014, and the prediction for this year is that the figure will nearly double. However, it is unsure if BGUS is taking into account idols in relatively small catchment areas such as housing societies and outside small temples. What is certain, though, is that the pomp and gaiety with which Hyderabad celebrates Ganesh Chaturthi will be stronger than ever.
Speaking of the idols, they are known to come in many shapes, colours, sizes and forms. Installed on streets, in major markets and across residential neighbourhoods of the Twin Cities, these Ganesh idols take on a variety of themes ranging from Superman to popular movie stars and politicians. One of the flavours of the season is none other than the supremely successful fantasy film Baahubali.
Filmmaker S.S. Rajamouli’s magnum opus has earned nearly Rs. 600 crore in global collections. The movie is high on visual and graphic feel, serving as a source of inspiration to the new breed of filmmakers who value aesthetic appeal and craftsmanship as much as substance and characterisation. The movie has also inspired idol sculptors who are modelling Ganesh on the hero of the movie, portrayed by Prabhas, in the Old City locality of Dhoolpet.
With grocery stores, markets and sweet shops set to experience some of the most lucrative financial days of the year, it is expected that by September 17 the Telangana Police will have made significant security arrangements, particularly in communally-sensitive parts of the state capital. Similar arrangements, along with modified traffic patterns, are expected for when the immersion takes place on September 27.
And it’s not just laypeople who are preparing for the festival. Mumbai and Maharashtra at large celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi with greater gusto than any other part of the country, so it’s little wonder that one of the world’s most famous movie stars is going to go the extra mile to make this day memorable. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s father-in-law Amitabh is a Mumbai and Bollywood icon, and is also one of the most fervent fans of this festival. Little surprise, then, that his bahu is jetting off to be part of North America’s largest gathering for the holiday.
Zee TV, in partnership with 1947 Media, is throwing the largest Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations in the western hemisphere. Across five days and with an expected footfall of more than 150,000 people from all parts of North America, the celebrations will commence in New Jersey on September 17 and conclude four days later on September 21, the date chosen for the visarjan. It is being promoted as “North America’s very first and biggest sarvajanik (community) Ganesh Utsav”.
The idea behind the event is to allow people in the US and Canada to experience Ganesh Chaturthi the same way they would in India. Some of the highlights for the five-day cultural bonanza include performances by Indian talent show contestants and winners, as well as television and movie stars. The icing on the cake is Jazbaa star Aishwarya interacting with fans and participating in religious and cultural activities.
In all the cultural fanfare and happiness that come with Ganesh Chaturthi, there is also another side to the holiday. As we all know, Western ideologies influence India to a considerable degree. A complaint among many people in countries like the U.S., Canada and England is that Christmas has become too commercial. While the best parallel for Indian society would be Diwali, Ganesh Chaturthi doesn’t lag too far behind.
Sales and promotions abound if you open your eyes. Dell is offering hefty discounts on laptops in the name of the elephant-headed Hindu deity’s birthday, while Amazon and Snapdeal are both running a series of promotions intended to drive up sales volumes. And of course the other major players in Indian e-commerce, such as Flipkart and eBay, are offering their own discounts and deals to entice buyers.
Global publicity major Edelman provides lessons from Ganesh Chaturthi that can be applied to marketing and branding. The first is what they call “the importance of storytelling”. Because many noteworthy stories are associated with the deity, he becomes relatable for the average layperson, and so is what they refer to as “the god for every man”. Edelman further states that in “navigating complexity, Ganesh is known for many powers, including the ability to overcome obstacles. When faced with seemingly insurmountably complex challenges, PR professionals can learn from Ganesh that they should use intellect, be creative, and be nimble”.
What with the beautiful feelings of generosity and happiness that festivals foster in this country, it’s no surprise to see retailers cashing in on the general mentality of being all too ready and willing to spend. Combined with India’s ever-growing ability to splash out the cash, there is likely to be no slowdown in marketing efforts in the days and weeks before a major festival. If anything, the push will get more aggressive as time goes on. This is why it’s important now more than ever to hold onto and cherish the substance of why these days are so special.