In India, we have a lot of festivals. There is a droll analysis that should one consider all national holidays, festivals, one’s birthday, sick leaves and weekends, one could exhaust the three-hundred and sixty five (six, every four years) days without working and still having a ‘legitimate’ reason (read: ‘excuses’ if you please).

These festivals are all (almost) religious in nature. It’s a celebration; with a different deity ‘in the limelight’ for every one of them. It is fine, the sentiment is understandable.

Religion, the concept of God and consequently these festivals, although misplaced from the original intent of being guidelines to now becoming commanding protocol – do invoke a sense of unity amongst people. For them to come together and make merry, if nothing else, though this often happens at a loss of most civic sense.

One might wonder at the scale of these festivals. We have had three very affluent festivals in the recent past; that of Ganpati, Navratri and Diwali. The amount of money to remember one’s deity is astonishing. The Mumbai Lalbaug Raja, I heard had exceeded 200 kilograms of gold in the idol itself.

Now, the price of Gold is around 300k per kilogram. That’s around 62 million rupees. Again, I accept that the sentiment is understandable, but gold? What is the future of the extravagance? What does one do of it after the immersion?

This was in the Times of India, in the month of September:

MUMBAI: Ganpati mandals say they trust nationalized insurance companies over private players for purchasing festival policies. In fact business is so competitive that the insurers have a no-poaching agreement with one another.

Mumbai’s prize account is that of GSB Seva Mandal, Kings Circle, which has insured itself for Rs 223 crore this year. Spokesperson Satish Nayak says, “I will not reveal the winning bidder or the premium we pay because we call for tenders and then select the proper bid. But we always choose a nationalized firm. Private companies may or may not honour a claim. Settling claims with a private firm depends on the liaison officer you get, but nationalized insurers follow time-honoured regulations.”

Lalbaugcha Raja has settled on two public insurance companies for separate policies. The first covers immersion processions citywide. “We have taken a Rs 20 crore policy from United India Assurance to insure all devotees in the Mumbai metropolitan region. This covers people who suffer permanent disability during visarjan or die by drowning at any immersion site. The policy covers important visarjan days, that is the second, fifth, seventh and tenth day of Ganeshotsav,” says mandal president Ashok Pawar.

For itself the mandal has sought a Rs 51 crore policy from New India Assurance, Rs 6 crore more than the previous year. This spans public liability of Rs 30 crore, third party insurance of Rs 10 crore and ornaments for Rs 7.5 crore. Lalbaugcha Raja’s property and set is insured for Rs 3.5 crore. — Sep 7, TOI.

 Is the Ganpati festival commercializing? One can imagine the expense incurred for the entire setup to have an insurance worth Rs. 223 crores.

If one thinks that the Lalbaug Raja is an institute in itself in Bombay, we could consider of an example from the locality where I live. They blocked an entire side of the road and ‘constructed’ an entire temple at a height for the Nine-day Navratri. I expect a lot of money was spent into that.

Couldn’t all this money be put to better use? Hospitals, schools, colleges, infrastructure… Forgive me if I sound too naïve, but maybe even try settling India’s international debt?

Does celebration always come with extravagance?
This isn’t a religious or an economic lecture. Just something to ponder upon.