On August 15th 2005, Mandar Deo and Rajashree Deo moved from Penn State to Columbus to work for Cummins. At Penn state, Mandar had led Ganesh Utsav celebration for 5 years. They were unsure how to carry on that tradition in this new unknown Midwestern town. As they were shopping, they heard a family talking in Marathi amongst themselves and approached them. After introductions they asked the Marathi family if they had any ideas on celebrating upcoming Ganesh Utsav in Columbus. The head of the family, Anand Gangal suggested Mandar to approach Rajesh Patil, Sanjay Ursal, Mr Kolaskar, Nitin Kulkarni, and Arvind Ambedkar. That weekend, a meeting was pulled together between these KPIT employees and other volunteers to discuss plans.
Since there were less than 3 weeks left till Ganesh Utsav, things had to move fast. Columbus Ganesh Utsav Mandal was formed on September 1st 2005 with Sanjay Ursal appointed the First President. Fundraising, looking for a venue, decoration, and other activities – there was a lot to do. The Mandal had no funds but had to rent a decent sized venue for 5 days. After several rounds of failed attempts, the management of Parkview Apartments heard that we were struggling to find a place for our religious activities. They approached us and offered the use of their community hall to Mandal for 5 days free of charge! Considering this as a blessing and the will of Ganapati bappa, the volunteers moved quickly to celebrate the utsav.
2006 Ganesh Utsav saw a significant step up. Cummins Plant Manager Amit Soman, Global Manufacturing Leader Roger Lang and other leaders provided funding through their Local Diversity Councils. Volunteers went door to door to raise money. Sameer Samudra helped with renting Yes Cinema Hall at The Commons. Mandal rented Columbus East High School auditorium for a Hindi Orchestra from Chicago. All the entertainment programs were free of charge.
From 2007, year after year, the Mandal has built on these activities. In 2007, Mandal also decided that it will no longer seek corporate sponsorship and fund its programs solely on individual contributions. In 2013, the Mandal acquired new Ganesh Murti, Palakhi and made other significant capital investment in Visarjan ( Procession ) equipment.
Key events during Columbus Ganesh Utsav
On the first day of Ganesh Utsav – Bhadrapad Shudh Chaturthi, Lord Ganesh is invoked into a clay idol (parthiv murti) . This ritual is called pran pratisthapana or Ganesh Sthapana. On the last day of the festival, the idol is put in a palanquin and is carried to a close by water body in a procession . A smaller biodegradable idol is immersed in the water – this is called Visarjan. The procession is a key attraction for youngsters and kids.
One day during the festival, Ganapati Atharva Sheersha is chanted 1000 times in a large group. This ritual is called sahasravartan. Every evening, individuals get an opportunity to perform guided Ganesh Puja followed by Aarati and prasad. The mandal has also started Public Satya Naryan puja. For this puja, Mandal provides all the necessary items for the puja. The devotees are guided through each step of the Puja and the meaning is explained. This satya Narayan puja is then followed by Katha reading and Vishnu Sahasra Naam chanting.
Cultural activities include kid’s talent show, variety show performed by local artists, classical musical program, cooking competition, drawing competition, and creative eye-catching decoration.