People of Lucknow are aware of the Bada Mangal festival and all that it entails. Bada Mangal is a holistic part of Lucknow- a part that is as inseparable from the culture as the nawabiyat or the tehzeeb. The festival that starts with the Hindu month of “Jeth” or “Jyeshta” is celebrated every Tuesday of the month (somewhere between May and June).
For us Lucknowites, Bada Mangal marks the beginning of summer and a month-long ritual, which is not simply something that we do but is a sacred habit that we cherish.
There are a lot of theories revolving around why the festival is celebrated and what exactly is the festival about.
Let’s begin with “what”!
Bada Mangal is a festival dedicated to lord Hanuman, a Hindu God, and on the roads of Lucknow, you will find pandals adorned with his idol or a portrait, a few incense sticks and devotional songs playing in the background.
The devotees of lord Hanuman line outside temples and offer the God, flowers, clothes and laddoos. Besan ke Laddoo are probably one of the most iconic things about Bada Mangal.
Lord Hanuman’s idol at the Purana Aliganj Mandir and at the Aminabad temple are offered colossal amounts of flowers and sweets which is truly a sight to behold!
Moving on to the “why”, legend has it that in 1718 queen Alia Begum laid the foundation of two statues of Lord Hanuman which were found during the construction work of her mahal. Alia Begum got the statues placed somewhere in the corner of the construction area and apparently the next night in her dreams, she heard -‘install these statues and you will have a child born to you’.
Within few days Alia Begum got the statue installed and it is the temple that is now known as ‘Purana Hanuman Mandir’ in Aliganj. Alia Begum was also ‘blessed’ with a son and she named him, ‘Mangat Rai Firoz Shah’.
For anyone who lives in the city, Bada Mangal is not just a “Hindu” festival- it is so much more. The festival, in its essence, celebrates the true spirit of Lucknow.
All over the city in crammed lanes and busy roads, people build pandals that serve Indian delicacies ranging from aloo-puri, boondi, kachori, chana, pulao, sharbat, lassi and much more. People arrange for clean cold drinking water outside their houses, on roads and on streets and anyone and everyone can go and ask for some!
People line outside pandals from all walks of life, irrespective of their religion, cast, economic status or belief. People stop worn out rickshaw pullers and tired masons to offer them a cold drink through the extremely hot summer days. During the entire month, especially on Tuesdays, the aim is to keep everyone around the city fed and quenched! The beauty and the harmony that the city has, comes alive during Bada Mangal and we see Lucknow in a new light every time.
For Lucknowites, Bada Mandal is not about how many flowers you offer to God- it is more about making sure that no-one goes hungry. It teaches us the delicate art of sharing and it is a substantial steps towards making our world a better place.
In the second happiest city of the country, know that in our hearts we are one and the same, regardless of our varied identities.