This time i was too sure that i had to visit the much talked about Lalbaugcha Raja in Mumbai. I was even sure that i had to take a special line - which means i had to ask for a wish (I had a long list) which he is famous for fulfillment. I had heard from various sources that the special Line is very long and it takes an average of 8/9 hours to cross it and reach the Raja. So thinking that i am very smart, i decided to go there in the night so that the crowds would be less and the line thus shorter. Little did i know that there are atleast 10000 more who are smarter then me and were already in line at 2.30 in the night.
So it all started, me armed with my husband left my nerul home at 1.30 and reached lalbaug at 2.00 am. The road leading towards the gate had been closed for vehicular traffic and so we parked it in a lane after Bharatmata cinema, and then it was atleast a km of walk from there. Even for the line that only offered Mukh Darshan - there one cannot climb up the stage, so the name; there must have been a 4 km line which might have easily reached J.J flyover. We found out that there was a separate entrance for special line and that was a little bit on the inside.
As mentioned above we stood in the line at 2.30 am. There were many who were joining their relatives, friends in between, i even saw four ladies who were ahead of us trying to do some setting, which they finally managed as they went ahead and got further into the line and disappeared. We, at that time did not have an inkling as to how far we were away from the Lord and how much time it would take for us to reach him. There were lot of volunteers on the road; we were standing on the footpath in the line which was made by barricades. The line was moving at very slow pace and none of the volunteers were committal of what time would we get the darshan. We were assuming that we would have to wait a minimum of four/five hours to get the darshan though. How wrong we were, only god knew because it took us 5 hours just to cross a distance of 1 1/2 km or so, with the entrance of pandal nowhere in sight.
Ultimately we took a turn into the road leading to the pandal at around 6.00 am in the morning. We were already tired a little bit and all smelly because of the sweat. After the turn we were escorted into a series of completely covered barricades which were formed on the footpath in sets of three. So after many turns at intervals of 100 mts, we reached the stair case which would lead to the pandal. I managed to get out of the serpentine queue and bought the offerings from vendors lined up there. It was around 10.30 by then, almost 4 hours since we entered the zig-zag route.
Finally....came the staircase to go towards the pandal, 45 minutes away from the Lord, though it was a complete mess. Exactly opposite to the discipline of the queue, everybody must have waited atleast for 8/9 hours for the darshan but could not wait for those two minutes without pushing each other to reach the lord's feet.
Nevertheless we gave the offerings to the volunteers who gave it back to us and we could touch the lord's feet too. It was a wonderful experience and you forget all the tiredness of waiting so long as you start to admire the hugeness of all that is in the Pandal. Even with this experience, i might go even next year, albeit a little early at the start of the festival.
So here after all this, is the good and not so good part of taking the lord's darshan.
The organisation was superb; they had marked all the lines very well, the volunteers, the police, the commandos, all were ensuring that the lane discipline was being followed. The devotees in general also ensured that nobody jumped the line.
The ambience and the atmoshpere of lalbaug in the whole were vibrating with lot of enthusiasm and there were mostly 80% of people who waited and waited till they got the darshan without cribbing.
Free food/water - a lot of booths offering water along with volunteers passing them on to the line of devotees was one of the best thing that was done. Even free tea was offered along with one plate of samosa/vada was given to each devotee. When at night we joined the line, we were given a packet of glucose biscuits too. This was a good gesture on the part of the mandal. Then there were also vendors selling tea/coffee and some snacks too. There were many shops which were open throughout the night, so there was not a problem of getting anything which was required urgently.
Not so good
There was a lot of settings with the volunteers going on because we saw many people jumping the line to get the darshan earlier. They might have been accommodated thru special entries, which I have not seen except I saw a group of youngsters getting in near the staircase before us without standing in the line even for a minute. I think next year on they could as well start the pass system which will enable them to issue passes for a specific time, atleast for the Special Line.
The way crowd was handled on the stage was really bad in comparison to the way it was handled all through the queue. It could have been much better if they would have two lines for men and women, each one could touch one foot and get on with it. I also think the devotees could be treated with little more respect when on stage.
They could have more of ventilation in the zigzag line which had absolute lack of fans and it was getting really uncomfortable to stand in line, which was so near that it was getting all smelly. May be they could close that lane for vehicular traffic and make better distanced barricades.
These are few of my views, and i am happy that i have started my blogging venture with a write up on the Great Lord Ganpati.
Hope you all like it