The Shree Siddhivinayak Ganapati Mandir attracts millions of devout visitors every year. Fortunately, the temple has been able to organise the large number of visitors in a disciplined way, especially on Wednesdays, when celebrities also converge
WORDS: N.B. RAO
When football legend Ronaldinho came to Mumbai last month, one of the first things he did was to visit the Siddhivinayak Ganpati temple at Prabhadevi in central Mumbai and seek the blessings of the lord.
Ronaldinho, who consecutively won the FIFA World Player of the year awards in 2005 and 2006, represents the Delhi Dragons team and is in India to participate in the second edition of Premier Futsal.
He is one of the latest in a long list of celebrities – both Indian and foreign – who visit the unassuming temple in the heart of India’s financial and commercial capital to pay their tributes to Lord Ganesh.
Other recent international celebrities visiting the temple include Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple Inc, who began his India trip last year with an early morning visit on a Wednesday to the temple.
Bollywood celebrities including the Bachchans – the entire family led by Amitabh – Sanjay Dutt, and a host of actors and other famous personalities are regular visitors to the renowned temple.
Like hundreds of thousands of devotees, a number of celebrities often walk barefoot from their homes in the distant suburbs of Mumbai to Prabhadevi to pray at the temple.
The Shree Siddhivinayak Ganapati Mandir, dedicated to Lord Shri Ganesh, was built by a contractor, Laxman Vithu Patil, for a rich woman, Deubai Patil in November 1801.
The childless Deubai wanted a temple built for other such women who were desperate for a child.
For many years it was an insignificant structure in Bombay, measuring less than four sq m and had a brick dome. Today, the Siddhivinayak temple is one of the richest in the country and also one of the busiest.
Long queues are evident round-the-year, but especially on Wednesdays, when hundreds of thousands of devotees throng the temple from early morning.
TEMPLE CARVED OUT OF SINGLE BLACK STONE
The Ganesha idol at the temple was carved out of a single black stone and has the elephant god’s trunk to the right
(instead of the left). In 1952, an idol of Hanuman, which was found nearby while doing road repairs, was also brought and installed in the temple.
Over the years, as its popularity grew, five more floors were added to the temple complex, located in what is today one of Mumbai’s busiest hubs.
ONE OF THE RICHEST TEMPLES
Today, Shree Siddhivinayak is one of the richest temples in India, with hundreds of million rupees pouring into its coffers.
The wooden doors feature images of the ‘ashtavinaak’ (eight manifestations of Ganesha) and the inner roof of the temple is gold-plated.
The temple also has had its controversies.
About 15 years ago, there were accusations
that the temple trust was mismanaging the huge donations that were being collected. The Bombay high court appointed a committee to investigate the allegations.
The probe panel was shocked at the manner in which it was being mismanaged by a committee that was packed with nominees of ministers and other political heavyweights.
It was quickly replaced.
The temple, however, continues to be the most popular in Mumbai, attracting hundreds of thousands of devotees every week.
It has also adopted eco-friendly techniques of rainwater harvesting and has its own solar unit, making it self-sufficient in energy.
And the tons of flowers that devotees offer are collected and recycled as compost.
On July 26, 1982 actor Amitabh Bachchan had a near-fatal accident on the sets of Manmohan Desai while shooting for the film Coolie. With serious injuries suffered from mistiming a jump during a fight scene, he was rushed to the Breach Candy Hospital in Mumbai after initial treatment in Bangalore.
Thousands of his fans maintained a vigil praying for his survival and one of his fans, Arvind Pandya, from Vadodara, vowed that he would run backwards from the Siddhivinayak temple in his hometown to the one in Prabhadevi in Mumbai.
A determined Pandya began his ‘run,’ even as Amitabh’s health deteriorated in the Mumbai hospital. He ran almost for a month; his pace quickened in the second half, as the actor’s health began to improve.
“I prayed for him and vowed to run backwards from Vadodara to Mumbai for his well-being,” recalled Pandya much later. “When doctors declared him out of danger, I completed the run in 13 days.”
He recalls that the reception at the Bachchans’ house was overwhelming. Pandya now interacts regularly with the superstar