Once the Ganesh Chaturthi festival is over in Mumbai, the beautiful statues of Lord Ganesh that were created for the event are placed in a body of water and left to disintegrate in a process called visarjan (immersion). In Mumbai alone, more than 150,000 statues are immersed each year. Read on to discover how and where to see this iconic event.
Do note that Ganesh festival celebrations are curtailed this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Large idols and public processions aren't permitted. The maximum height of idols is restricted to four feet, and only five people are allowed to participate in the idol immersion process. Although idols can be immersed in the ocean, immersion in purpose-built artificial ponds is encouraged.
Watch Now: What is Ganesh Visarjan?
The largest Ganesh statues on display to the public are immersed on Anant Chaturdasi —10 or 11 days after the first day of the Ganesh festival— which starts on August 22, 2020. Many people who keep a Ganesh in their homes choose to perform the immersion much earlier than this. There are no hard and fast rules as to when it's done though; rather it's up to personal preference. However, the immersions do follow a schedule and are only performed on selected days:
- One and Half Day Ganesh Visarjan: August 23, 2020.
- Third Day Ganesh Visarjan: August 24, 2020.
- Fifth Day Ganesh Visarjan: August 26, 2020.
- Gauri Visarjan: August 27, 2020.
- Seventh Day Ganesh Visarjan: August 28, 2020.
- Anant Chaturdashi: September 1, 2020.
Gauri idols—commonly taken home on Gauri Avahan (August 26, 2020) and worshiped along with Lord Ganesh in Maharashtra—will be immersed on Gauri Visarjan. Goddess Gauri is another name for Goddess Parvati, the mother of Lord Ganesh.
Anant Chaturdashi, on the other hand, is the last and biggest day of Ganesh Visarjan when the immersion typically takes place. Anant means "eternal" and chaturdashi is the fourteenth (in this case the fourteenth day of the bright waxing moon). Anant is also the name of Lord Vishnu, the Hindu god who is the preserver of life, in his immortal form. Devotees spend the day worshiping him.
Visarjan Locations and Vantage Points
If you want to see the largest and most famous Ganesh statues, you'll need to head to Girgaum (Girgaon) Chowpatty on Marine Drive in South Mumbai. It's a good idea to stay at a hotel in the area, so you don't have to go far to get back to your room. The roads become jammed with people and vehicles, and you'll find it hard to move! These hotels near Girgaum Chowpatty are recommended. Juhu Beach in Mumbai's western suburbs is another popular place of immersion (here are the best hotels on Juhu beach), as too is Versova Beach. Additionally, Powai Lake in Mumbai's central suburbs receives a lot of smaller states that are immersed by families before Ananta Chaturdashi.
The processions follow set routes, with details of the major ones outlined here. The following places offer the best vantage points across Mumbai:
- South Mumbai: JSS Road and Kennedy Bridge Road from Nana Chowk, both leading to Girgaum Chowpatty
- Central South Mumbai: Veer Kotwal Garden in Dadar West as well as Dr. Ambedkar Road
- Juhu: The roads along the beach near Palm Grove hotel
- Versova: Fishermen's colony
- Powai: Adi Shankaracharya Marg
Mumbai Police has divided the routes into three separate parts – a route for immersion processions, a route for the public who is returning from immersion points, and regular traffic routes. Detailed maps with diversions and updates are available from @MumbaiPolice on Twitter before the event.
Mumbai Ganesh Visarjan Tips
The large Ganesh statues take a long time to reach the ocean and be immersed. The slow moving processions commonly start out mid morning and go throughout the night, with the statues only being placed in the water early the next morning.
Many roads are closed to traffic, so do take the Mumbai local train where possible if you're not staying within walking distance. If you come by train, try and arrive at Grant Road railway station by 1-2 p.m, then make your way slowly to Girgaum (Marine Drive) Chowpatty. It really starts getting crowded around sunset, from 6.30 p.m. onward. Expect hundreds of thousands of people to still be there at sunrise too! The most famous idol, the Lalbaughcha Raja, gets immersed at 8 a.m in the following morning.
The streets are filled with loud music, drumming, dancing, and fire crackers. If you have sensitive ears, do wear ear plugs.
Special Arrangements for Foreign Tourists
Maharashtra Tourism sets up a special elevated air-conditioned pavilion for foreign tourists at the immersion point at Girgaum Chowpatty. It has facilities such as mobile toilets, wireless Internet connection, and clean drinking water. Transport to and from designated pick-up points is also provided.
Foreign tourists need to register in advance with Maharashtra Tourism for a pass.
Mumbai Ganesh Visarjan Tours
The huge crowds mean that experiencing the immersions can be daunting. Therefore, it's a good idea to go on a tour if you're feeling concerned about it, which is what I did with Grand Mumbai Tours. Here are the details of their Ganesh festival tours.
Reality Tours and Travel also offer super interesting and informative Ganesh Chaturthi tours on immersion days. The tours visit a public Ganesh display in the Dharavi slum potter's colony, and a number of family homes in Dharavi, as well as the community that originally started the Ganesh festival. It concludes at Girgaum Chowpatty, where the immersions of the idols take place.
Why are the Statues Immersed?
Find out more in this essential guide to the Ganesh festival.