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Top 8 festivals in Mumbai and why you should not miss them

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Mumbai is a city of numerous societies, beliefs, convictions and religions flourishing together into one major glad assembly of Indians. From the Hindus to the Muslims, from the Sikhs to the Christians and many other prominent religions revel their fiestas together with the same passion. Mumbai has 50+ festivals from different religions, below listed are the top most remarkable festivals which you must never miss if you happen to be in Mumbai during the festive period. This article will give you a mesmerizing impression of the general population living here, and the festivals they celebrate with so much dedication.

Ganesh Chaturthi

Month: Bhadrapada (mid-August – September)

Duration: 11 days

“Vinayak Chaturthi” or Ganesh Chaturthi, as popularly known in India, is one of the biggest celebrations in Mumbai.  As the popular beliefs quote, this festival was brought into action by the famous Maratha ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji Bhosle to celebrate the birth anniversary of Lord Ganesh, son of Parvathi and Lord Shiva. Although, the origin dates and the founder of the festival have been lost in jungles of unrecorded history. The notion of introducing this festival was also to encourage culture, chauvinism, and peace among the kingdoms. With the fall of the Maratha Kingdom, Ganesh Chaturthi lost state patronage and became a private family celebration. Today, it is celebrated with great amount zeal in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Goa.

 

On the other hand, with the help of Lokmanya Tilak, the famous freedom fighter, Ganesh Chaturthi revived as an open occasion in 1893. But, this time, the purpose was fabricated to serve the immediate need: overcome any hindrance between the castes and to draft blueprints of conquering the colonial British rule.  Lokmanya effectively set-up Ganapati “Pandals” to gather people under one roof and allow execution of their plans. Lord Ganesh, the God to all and the problem solver (Vigna-Harta), helped them in this thoughtful purpose.

 

Ganesh Chaturthi is undoubtedly an important event around Maharashtra. During this festival, the complete state is adorned with beautifications and lighting. In Mumbai, on the first day of the happening, the Pooja begins with the idol being retained more than a pedestal that symbolizes a throne. It is accompanied by a priest undertaking the rituals and Puja focused on the idol. Then, he dips the idol in holy water. Modak, Ganesh’s favorite sweet, is a manufactured from sugarcoated grains and coconut flour and then offered to the almighty as well as the worshippers as a “Prasad”. For all of those other days, the idol is worshiped and devotional music is chanted each day and nighttime. People install idols of Lord Ganesh in their houses as well.

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Lalbaugcha Raja is one of the biggest and the busiest Sarvajanik idol of Lord Ganesh in the city. There are 300-400 employees every year to organize the event and this figure may help you scrutinize the passion among people for Lord Ganesh. Around 1.5 million People from all over India come for a visit at this Pandal in Lalbaug, a prominent locality in Mumbai. With these many Bhaktas (devotees) waiting to get closer to their master, it gets tough to handle the crowd. Hence, the management has set-up 2 Lanes (cues) for the followers:

  • Navsachi lane: for bhaktas who wish to get their wants fulfilled. In this line, you can continue the level and touch your feet of Lalbaugcha Raja and take his blessings so that your entire wishes get satisfied. However, this lines attracts huge open public and it requires around 25 – 30 and sometimes up to 40 hours to get Darshan in this line.
  • Mukh darshan lane: for the bhaktas to obtain a view of Lalbaugcha Raja Ganesh Idol from some distance without heading onto the stage itself. This lane also draws in a huge community on weekends especially. It requires around 5 – 8 hours and sometimes up to 12 – 14 hours to get darshan in this assembly as well.

If you ever happen to be in Mumbai during Ganesh Chaturthi, missing out Lalbaugcha raja’s darshan is highly not recommended.

 

 

Diwali

Month: Kartika (mid-October – mid-November)

Duration: 5 days

“Diwali” or Deepavali the “festival of lights”, is a prehistoric and significant festival.  The celebration profoundly means the triumph of light over dullness or great over fiendishness, information over obliviousness, and trust over misery. During the festive period of 5 days, countless lamps shine together on houses, windows, doors, around temples and other building as a decoration.

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In Hindu religion, the five days of Diwali have their own importance and different rituals to be followed on each day. First day is dedicated to Dhanteras (the Goddess of wealth – Lakshmi is worshipped to seek success and welfare in return), next follows Naraka Chaturdashi (Narakasura was slain on this day by Lord Krishna and Kali) on the 2nd day, 3rd comes Diwali, 4th day is entitled “Diwali Parva” devoted to passionate relationship between wife and husband. Festival ends with Bhau-beej focused on sister-brother bond on the 5th day.

 

However, In Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra, preparation of Diwali starts a week ahead of the main event. ‘Faral’, a spicy appetizer is prepared by the people along with sweets. Chakali, Karanji, Chiwada, and Laddu are also among the favored snack’s list.

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Queen’s Necklace, or its popularly alternative name Marine Drive, is considered one of the best places to be at during the Diwali night. There are many reasons for this recommendation, however. Marine drive being a high profile and posh residential locality, results into an absolutely stunning show of fireworks. On the other hand, these fireworks are so expensive that in many cases, you might only see such a huge fireworks display in Mumbai on Marine drive during Diwali fest. The beautiful night sky fills with shining sparkles of fireworks and street lights of the Marine drive add special effects to the scenic. Hundreds of people gather on Marine drive this night just to observe the lighting and to feel the refreshing aura of this glorious festival.

 

Moharram

Month: Moves from year to year

Duration: 2 Months 8 days (lunar Calendar)

 

The first month of the Islamic calendar is ‘Muharram’ or Moharram. It happens to be one of the four sacred months and the second hallowed month after Ramadan. The word “Moharram” means “forbidden” in Arabic. Both Shias and Sunnis celebrate the festival, the only difference being the reason behind the celebration. Shias (a Muslim caste) mourns the death of Imam Hussain (A.S), his family and his followers in the battle of Karbala. Legends quote, Imam Hussain (A.S) and his followers, a small assembly of 72 fought against a massive war-band of 1 million enemies. Whereas, Sunnis (also a Muslim caste) celebrate the victory of Prophet Musa (Moses) and his troop over Pharaoh in Egypt. Shia Muslims perform “Matam”, an act of self-harm to signify pain suffered by their beloved who died. Sunni Muslims fast during the 10th day of Moharram popularly known as Tasu’a. Unlike Sunni Muslims, Shiites do not fast and they also boycott any joyous activity during the period of 2 months and 8 days.

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Due to a large population (about 20% of the total) of Muslims residing in Mumbai, Moharram is celebrated at an enormous level. Streets of Sandhurst Road, Mohammad Ali road, Byculla, and Bandra are fully occupied by Shia Muslims in Black and Dark colored dressing. They all meet at specific spots in the area to gather for “Majalis” which is followed by Matam. On the 9th and 10th day, however, Shiites pick up blades, knives, Zanjeer (knives tied to steel chains) in extreme cases a sword and perform Matam resulting in Blood flowing down their bodies. The best sight of this festival can be seen in Kesar Baug, a School in Dongri, South Mumbai.

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Janmasthami

Month: Shraavana (August-September)

Duration: 1 day

“Janmashtami” or its widespread substitute names Krishnashtami, Saatam Aatham, Gokulashtami, Ashtami Rohini, Srikrishna Jayanti, Sree Jayanti and Krishna Ashtami, is a prominent Hindu festival. This festival is celebrated all over India, Fiji, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and other countries of the world on the occasion of Hindu deity Krishna, the eighth avatar of Vishnu’s Birth. It falls on the 8th day of Ashtami of the month Shraavana.

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Urban myths rely on the fact that Krishna was born at midnight and hence, the special prayers are offered at specific times, mostly middle of the night. Hindus also practice fasts, stay awake until midnight and worship Krishna. Bhagavad Gita, the Holy book of Hindus, is recited by Hindu priests at temples, whereas people express their devotion by gathering around a special cradle with Krishna’s photograph or idol in it. They also carol religious songs and exchange gifts as a figure of happiness.

In Mumbai and Pune though, Janmasthami is popularly known as “Dahi Handi”. The idea behind this name is the practice which goes into action on this occasion. A group of “Govinda” (people representing friends of Krishna in his childhood) and “Kanha” (a person representing Krishna) together form a human pyramid of variable heights. They then, try as hard as possible to break the “Handi” (a clay pot) filled with “Dahi” (buttermilk) tied at a significant height with ropes. Whereas, the spectators try to prevent Govindas from breaking the Handi by throwing water on them. The entire event symbolizes a notorious act of stealing which was then performed by Krishna and his friends when they used to snip buttermilk off Handis from several homes.

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The best place to realize this interesting event in Mumbai is Jambori Maidan in Worli. It is considered to be one of the richest Dahi Handi in the city. The reason for its unparalleled popularity happens to be the surprise celebrity appearances during the main event. Govindas from all over Mumbai compete every year to break Handi in this Maidan (ground) in exchange for a whopping cash prize.

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas

Month: December

Duration: 1 day

“Christ’s Mass” or Christmas is arguably the most celebrated festival in the entire world with the participation of over a billion people each year. Christmas honors Jesus Christ’s birthday on 25th December. Conversely, the original birth date of Jesus Christ is mysterious. On the other hand, the Western Christian church publically announced that Christmas should be celebrated on 25th of December. This notion was later accepted by almost every church in the East.

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Christmas Eve, i.e.  24th December, grabs more attention than 25th December in many countries. The fact behind this philosophy is the exchange of gifts, the traditional meal, and the large family gatherings. Midnight mass, which takes place in the middle of the night at 25th of December is of great interest in India. Indian Christians, Catholics to be specific, pay great importance to the decoration of their homes and the food which is served during the big traditional family buffet.

 

Mumbai is the home to one of the largest, Christian communities (mostly Roman Catholics) in India. Many of these happen to have migrated from Goa, which holds 26% of the total Christian population of India. Celebration patterns in Mumbai and Goa are a lot similar. The decorations, the rituals, the carols being some of the similarities between both the states’ celebration style.

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There are many localities in Mumbai where you can experience the midnight mass like the Colaba, Mahim, Vasai, Fort and much more. Nothing compares to one of the most expensive areas of SoBo, Bandra. The Mount Mary Basilica, Bandra, is reportedly the best place to celebrate midnight mass in Mumbai. With over 3,500 people attending the event every year, this is not by any chance a tiny carnival. However, the mass winds up by 11:30Pm due to noise restrictions in the zone. This 100-year-old church is the center of attention as it is located on a small hilltop with an enormous sea facing view of Bandstand. Neighboring this historic church reside many dignities like Shah Rukh khan, Salman khan, Sachin Tendulkar and Amitabh Bachchan to name a few.

 

Ramadan Eid

Month: Ramadan (changes every year)

Duration: 29 to 30 Days

“Eid-ul-Fitr”, commonly known as Ramadan is an important religious occasion for Muslims worldwide. People fast till the final day of Ramadan after which, on the first day of Shawwal (Islamic Month) “the” main day occurs. During the month of Ramadan, Roza (fast) are broken in Iftar (evening party) for 29 Days. Iftar consists of delicious meals, sweets, meats and much more. It is observed that in many places, a new dish is cooked for Iftar party every day for 29 days. The mouth-watering meals attract huge attraction of people from other religions too. People from many religions await the holy month of Ramadan just to experience the sensational taste bud adventure over and over again for the entire month.

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It is not very rare to find a free buffet of lip-smacking dishes, which on common days would sell for whopping 1000 to 1500 bucks. Recipes like Biriyani, Nihari (mutton curry), Kebabs, Haleem (semi-solid mutton dish), Naan, tikkas and sweets like Sheer khurma, Gulab Jamun, Jalebi, Kheer etc. are the center of attention for every person who imagines an Iftar get-together anywhere in the world.

 

Mumbai being home to an enormous amount of Muslims and meat loving general population, the month of Ramadan is beveled over other months of the year. Nobody who decides to celebrate Ramadan in Mumbai can ever make a mistake of not visiting Mohammed Ali Road. Commonly referred to as the “heaven of foods” during the month of Ramadan, Mohammad Ali road is the hub of one of the yummiest dishes which generally no 5-star hotel can ever imagine to make available. With a-mile-long Iftar buffet,, Ramadan to the streets of this locality is no ordinary gig. Here, it is also very common to spot luxury cars like BMWs, Audi, Merc, and Ferrari, to name a few, near a small charcoal grill, waiting for their share of food. For a meat-lover, Mohammed Ali Road is the best place to hang-out during Ramadan.

 

 

Navaratri

Month: Ashvin (September- October)

Duration: 9 days

The celebration of 9 nights and 10 days, or religiously referred as “Navratri”, is a festival dedicated to the Hindu deity Durga. During these 10 days, 9 different forms of Devi (goddess) are worshiped. Every day for nine days, women wear different but specific colored clothes as per the requirements of the rituals. Sharad Navratri (Maha Navratri, the most famous of the 5), falls on the 1st day of the lunar month Ashvin. Different colored apparels are worn every day to pay respect to Durga Ma’s different avatar. People also install Durga Ma’s idol in their homes for 9 days and garnish the idol with fresh garlands every single day. Below is the table consisting of the form of goddess worshiped, color to be worn and all the other details for the schedule of 9 nights.

 

Navaratri Day Day (Name) Form of Goddess Tithi Pujan Color
Navaratri Day 1 Pratipada Shailaputri Maa Ghatasthapana Shailputri Pujan Red
Navaratri Day 2 Dwitiya Brahmacharini Chandra Darshan Brahmacharini Pujan Royal Blue
Navaratri Day 3 Tritiya Chandraghanta Sindoor Tritiya, Sowbhagya Teej Chandraghanta Pujan Yellow
Navaratri Day 4 Chaturthi Kushmanda Varad Vinayaka Chauth Bhouma Chaturthi Green
Navaratri Day 5 Panchami Skandamata Lalita Panchami Upang Lalita Vrat, Lalitha Gauri Vrat, Skandamata Pujan Gray
Navaratri Day 6 Shashthi Katyayani Maha Shashti Saraswati Awahan, Katyayani Pujan Orange
Navaratri Day 7 Saptami Kaalratri Maha Saptami Saraswati Puja, Kalaratri Pujan, Utsava Puja White
Navaratri Day 8 Ashtami Maha Gauri Durga Ashtami, Maha Ashtami Saraswati Mata Pujan, Mahagauri Pujan, Sandhi Puja Pink
Navaratri Day 9 Navami Siddhidatri Khande Navami, Durga Visarjan, Maha Navami Ayudha Puja, Kanya puja Sky blue

There are a set of different formalities to be followed thru 9 days. Folks along with their family fellows indulge in “bhajans” all night long. 9 diverse ranges of seeds are ingrained to delight the 9 worlds. Wearing dull or black colored clothes is a big no-no during this fest. 9 girls, signifying Durga Ma are summoned at home, they are then honored with specially cooked meals. Men do have to abide by the rules too. They are not allowed to shave of trim their hair during the 9-day stretch.

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Kora Kendra Ground, an open public ground in Borivali West, holds the privilege of being the much loved and also the most jam-packed gathering of people for Navratri celebrations in Mumbai. You will be awe-struck by the ambiance this arena has during the events. However, there aren’t any major celeb involvements, but, one can surely expect to see many Gujarati singing groups.

 

 

 

Holi

Month: Falgun (February – March)

Duration: 2 days.

 

“Holi” is a festival extensively celebrated by the Hindus in India its nearby countries. The name “Holi” originates from “Holika”, the malicious sister of the demonic king Hiranyakashipu. The evil king demanded his people to worship only him as their God. People fearful of destruction did what was commanded. However, his own son, Prahlada, refused to do the same and was persistently worshipping Lord Shiva. The king tried multiple ways to kill his son, none of them happened to work effectively. As the last option, Holika, wrapped in a fire-proof cloak, sat with Prahlada in a bonfire. As the fire raised stronger, the cloak flew off Holika and rested on Prahlada’s entire body making him invulnerable to fire’s calamity. Holika died very soon. The whole event represented the triumph of good over evil. Today, the same procedure is followed, except for the fact that no live being is burned in the fire, only piles of bushes and sticks.

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The next day, people celebrate this victory by exchanging gifts, applying colors on their faces and spraying water on each other. This complete episode extends till the evening, after which people return to their homes for freshening-up and later the family gathers for a feast. Big events are organized in order to allow mass gathering and celebration of Holi at an incomparable level of craziness. Random people unite, forget their identities, enemies, past and merge into one giant blissful assembly.

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