How to Experience Mumbai's Epic Ganesh Festival

It's a Massive Street Party with a Spiritual Meaning!

Ganesh festival in Mumbai.
••• Ganesh festival in Mumbai. SJPailkar/Getty Images  

Mumbai's Ganesh festival is the biggest celebration in the city. If you want to experience in Indian festival on a grand scale, this is it! It's a massive street party with a special spiritual meaning. How did Ganesh Chaturthi become so popular in Mumbai though?

History indicates that the famed Maratha ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaja introduced Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations to the state to promote culture and nationalism.

However, it was freedom fighter Lokmanya Tilak that transformed it into an organized public event in 1893. His reasons for doing so were to bridge the gap between the castes, and build unity against British colonial rule. Lord Ganesh, as the much loved remover of obstacles and god for everybody, served this purpose.

The tradition has carried on, and nowadays there's great competition among local communities to put on the biggest and best display. These 5 famous Mumbai Ganesh mandals are among the most popular in the city. However, there are plenty of other well known ones that are worth visiting. Some of them, in south Mumbai, are:

  • Ichhapurti Ganesh Mandal, near Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in the Fort district.
  • Fort Vibhag Ganesh Utsav Mandal, opposite the GPO in the Fort district.
  • Sarvajanik Utsav Mandal, near the east side of Chinchpokli railway station on the Central line.
  • Rangari Badak Chawl Mandal, near the east side of Chinchpokli railway station on the Central line.
  • Kamatchawl Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal, Opposite Zaoba Ram Mandir, Thakurdwar Naka, Thakurdwar. (This one is one of the oldest Ganesh mandals in Mumbai).
  • Akhil, Anjeerwadi Mandal, located at Dr. Mascarenhas Road, Mazgaon.

Girgaum, known as the heart of old Mumbai, is a must-visit place during the festival (and especially on the last day of immersions).

It's divided into small neighborhoods called "wadis". Some of the significant idols in that area are the ones at Khotachiwadi heritage precinct, Fanaswadi, and Jitekarwadi. There's also a large eco-friendly Ganesh idol, known as the Girgaumcharaja (King of Girgaum) at Nikadwari Lane. Visit the very old Akhil Mugbhat Ganesh in Mugbhat Lane for a dose of culture. These places are all covered on Maharashtra Tourism's special festival package tours (see below).

Don't be concerned that you might not be able to find the festival. There are statues in streets all over the city. In fact, it's hard not to come across a display of Lord Ganesh!

If you're in Mumbai up to three months before the festival, you can see the Ganesh statues being made.

Special Ganesh Festival Tours

Maharashtra Tourism conducts special Mumbai Ganesh Darshan Group Package Tours to see many of the famous Ganesh idols. The great thing about these tours is that you don't have to wait in long lines to see the idols. The price includes meals, bus transport, cultural performances, and guide. Dates for 2018 are to be announced. The tours can be booked online here.

Grand Mumbai Tours offers daily Ganesh festival tours. The tour on the last day is a special tour of the Ganesh idol immersions.

Mumbai Magic runs a range of tours daily during the festival. These include visits to the idol workshops to see people buy and take home statues, visits to the public displays of the statues, and sampling of sweets. Email to find out the options. You can either join an existing tour or take a custom private tour. 

Reality Tours and Travel conduct super interesting and informative Ganesh Chaturthi tours. 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. The cost is 1,200 rupees per person.

Where and When to See the Immersions (Visarjan)

The festival ends with the parading and immersion of the statues into a body of water, usually the ocean in Mumbai.

Find out more about how Ganesh Chatuthi is celebrated.

Where to Stay for the Mumbai Ganesh Festival

"Ganpati Bappa Moriya, Pudcha varshi loukar ya" - Hail Lord Ganpati, come soon again next year.