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Bal-pandits/panditas set to welcome Bappa

Wednesday, August 10, 2011
By Shwetha Kannan

Citing the severe crunch of pandits or purohits to perform the day one poojas during Ganeshotsav, BMSGS Samiti is training 700 kids to fill the dearth

With almost two lakh households and 12,000 sarvajanik Ganeshutsav mandals all set to welcome Ganpati Bappa, the demand for purohits or pandits performing the prathishsthapana pooja, the first one performed after the installation of Ganesh idol has skyrocketed. Families eagerly waiting for their hired pandits, who are busy wrapping up their previous poojas, are not at all an uncommon site.

Hence, taking a note of this ‘pandit crunch’, Brihan Mumbai Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Samanvay Samiti decided to teach Std VIII and IX students rituals of the pooja and make them purohits at a time when the demand for them is at an all time high.

“The number of purohits in comparison to the number of sthapanas in the city is very less. There are just 2,500 to 3,000 purohits. This inevitably leads to a delay in the poojas and the purohits in their attempt to reach several places have to hurry with their poojas. So, this year, we decided to train children who have learnt Sanskrit in school to perform these poojas and try to fill the gap between the number of pandits available and the number required,” said Advocate Naresh Dahibhavkar, President of the Samiti.

The training commenced in July at Samiti’s Kalachowkie office and after a month-long training on August 15, there would be a final rehearsal to examine how well the children have learnt the rituals.

The response to this initiative seems to be quite good. According to Dahibhavkar, 388 students got enrolled on the very first day of the training and the target is 700. What is more interesting is that, girls who are generally never seen in the role of a pandit have shown great interest in the training.

“Eighty per cent of the students who have enrolled with us are girls. This is very surprising. For the very first time, girls would be performing poojas at houses,” said Dahibhavkar.

BMC makes COTPA mandatory
This year, the BMC has officially made the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, (COTPA) 2003 applicable to the Ganesh Mandals. Though a similar ban on advertisements from tobacco and cigarette companies was adopted by the mandals last year too, it was on a voluntary basis. But this year, the civic body has made it mandatory.
“Last year, we had 90 per cent success and this year, we expect it to be better because the ban is now official. If any mandal violates the norms, it will be issued a notice and will be asked to pull down the advertisement. If it fails to comply, then its licence will be cancelled by the BMC. Rules are very stringent now,” said Dr. Surendra Shastri from Tata Memorial Hospital, which has been strongly advocating the ban.
As per statistics, each Ganesh mandal earns about a minimum of Rs.2 to Rs.2.5 lakh from tobacco and cigarette companies via advertisements.

Doing their bit for the cause
To encourage the initiative taken by the BMC and Ganesh Samiti, the Smokefree Mumbai Campaign has announced a Tobacco-Free Ganesh Mandal Competition 2011, wherein those mandals that adopt ‘tobacco control’ as a theme for educating people during the festival can win prizes of Rs.1,00,001, Rs.50,0001 and Rs. 25,000 for first, second and third places respectively. The main objective of the contest is to heighten public awareness on health hazards of tobacco consumption. India has the highest numbers patients suffering oral cancer in the world, which is directly attributable to tobacco use.

Last year, 54 mandals had participated in this contest. This year, the expected number is about four to five times more. Till date, 50 entries have already been registered.

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