This Ganesh Chaturthi was very special for Amrita Rao and husband, RJ Anmol as they introduced their son Veer to Bappa. Like every year, the actress and her family got together to host Lord Ganesha at their abode in Mumbai. In an exclusive chat with Bombay Times, Amrita took us through all that went into making the one-and-a-half days of celebrations a memorable one.
Since the time you got married, Anmol and you have been bringing Bappa home during the festival. Who takes the lead in prepping for the festival and planning the other details?
Even before we got married, we would talk about bringing Ganesha home. It was a mutual desire that came true in 2016 and since then, it’s been a one-and-a-half days of celebration that we look forward to annually. Between the two of us, I am the one who organises the decorations and prasad. Anmol does his bit by getting fresh flowers early in the morning, preparing the diya baatis for the aarti thali and doing all the puja rituals with me.
This was your son Veer’s first Ganpati celebrations. How did he react to the festive atmosphere at home?
This year we were excited to introduce Veer to Ganu Bappa. His little eyes were very excited looking at all the decorative distractions around the idol. Veer was already familiar with the concept of praying as we have been taking him to the altar every morning and evening for lighting the lamp and doing a small prayer.
Tell us more about how the festivities at home unfolded.
Like every other festival, I look at this one as a reason to express gratitude to the Lord and celebrate not just the divine, but also family, food, coming together and an overall bonhomie in the society. I enjoy spending time in the kitchen, getting busy preparing the bhog myself. I make gajar ka halwa and sheera for sweets. But the ukadiche modak that my mom cooks makes every Ganesh Chaturthi special. When we bring Bappa home, we enter the house with the high energy song Deva Shree Ganesha (Agneepath, 2012) playing in the background. We then bring him into the puja room and start the puja with my parents and relatives in attendance, followed by a homely lunch. Everything we eat, including the tea and snacks, are offered to Ganpati Bappa. The farewell is the most emotional part of the celebrations. This year I prayed to God for riddance from the pandemic and the freedom to live normally again. The COVID times have taught us the importance of good health and to value family like never before.
What are your childhood memories of Ganpati celebrations? Did you ever go pandal hopping across Mumbai?
I have very special childhood memories of celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi at my grandparents’ house. Alongside the community pujas, the community centre used to organise a variety of entertainment programs and we actively participated in putting up dance performances, dramas and even fancy dress competitions. Going to visit the
community GSB Pandal in Matunga has been a continued childhood tradition. I’m so proud that the murti is eco-friendly!
You have always been vocal about celebrating the festival in an eco-friendly way. Personally, what measures do you and your family take during these days?
To begin with, we keep the decorations simple and organic, mostly flowers, fruits and puja items only. Our Ganpati idol is a silver murti which we have been using every year. The idol was a gift to me from the owners of a school I visited in Delhi. What makes it special is the timing of the year I received it, coinciding with the year of my marriage and our first Ganpati puja. We do the visarjan in a bucket of water at our home and the water is offered to plants. The statue is then wiped dry and kept back in a secluded area of the altar only to come out next year.
I am a stickler for celebrating festivals in an eco-friendly way. In 2019, I worked on an initiative, Eco Bappa Morya. I made a pre-awareness five-minute film, wherein I interacted with murtikars, beach activists and an oceanography scientist to understand the flipside of certain negligence observed during the celebration. I think festivals should be sensitive and kind towards infants, senior citizens, animals, birds and the environment at large. I hope to continue with every possible effort in the future to promote an environmentally friendly Ganesh Chaturthi celebration.