How COVID-19 has dialled down Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations across India

For the first time in 127 years, Pune's Dagdusheth Halwai Ganpati will hold the 10-day Ganeshotsav inside the temple premises.

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How COVID-19 has dialled down Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations across India
A priest wearing a protective face mask conducts a puja in front of idols of Hindu God Ganesh. (Photo: Reuters)


Amid the clouds of the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of people in India on Saturday warmly welcomed the popular elephant-headed God, Lord Ganesha, cutting across religious lines.

Though the usual frenzy, glitter and glam were missing, it was sufficiently balanced by the people's enthusiasm as they looked forward to the cheerful 'Vignaharta' (Remover of Obstacles) answering their prayers and setting humanity free from the coronavirus.

Notably absent from the 10-day festivities are the famed Lalbaugcha Raja and other gigantic idols in Mumbai, the Dagdu Seth Ganeshotsav in Pune, and other prominent ones across Maharashtra owing to the pandemic restrictions.

For the first time in 127 years, Pune's Dagdusheth Halwai Ganpati will hold the 10-day Ganeshotsav within the temple premises instead of its traditional location at the Kotwal Chawdi. The decision was taken keeping in mind the health of thousands of devotees who visit the place during the celebrations.

The Lalbaug Sarvajanik Utsav Mandal, one of the prominent mandals in Mumbai, is celebrating the Ganesh Chaturthi festival in smaller scale this year due to COVID-19 this year.

According to the organisers, the faithful have been urged to take an online glimpse of Lord Ganesh from their homes. However, proper arrangements of sanitisers and temperature measurements have been made by the mandal for visitors.

Image: People take home idols of Ganesh ahead of Ganesh Chaturthi in Chennai on Friday. (ANI Photo)

With limits on the height of the idols this year, between 2-4 feet, various public mandals, housing complexes and families, in small groups with physical distancing, carried the idols during the auspicious 'murti sthapana' timing before starting the worship with aartis marking the birthday of Lord Ganesha, the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.

Revered as the God of Wisdom, the pot-bellied Lord Ganesha - who relishes 'Modaks'- is said to bring prosperity and good fortune, and marks a new beginning.

As huge crowds will be kept at bay this year, a majority of the public Ganeshotsav mandals have decided to convert the celebrations into 'Aarogyotsav' (health festival) with blood and plasma donation camps, launching various pandemic-related initiatives, said BrihanMumbai Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Samanway Samiti (BSGSS) President Naresh Dahibhavkar.

"There are various other concerns this year... Health, hygiene, physical distancing, people have borne pay cuts or job losses, companies are in losses. So all mandals are practicing austerity measures," Dahibhavkar told IANS.

Though the pandemic and downpour have stopped people from venturing out, many temples like the Siddhivinayak Temple in Mumbai have arranged online 'darshan' and 'aartis' for the devotees, said the temple Chairman and Marathi filmstar Aadesh Bandekar.

A few who dared to step out, could get 'darshan' only from outside as temples and other places of worship have not opened up during the 'Unlockdown' phases.

Image: Devotees visit Shidi Vinayak temple on the first day of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival, at Dwarka sector 12, in New Delhi on Saturday. (ANI Photo)

As in the past, politicians starting with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, ministers, industrialists, film stars and Bollywood personalities, sportspersons, businessmen, celebs and commoners will celebrate Ganeshotsav at their homes this year with the doors thrown open to all.

Rain clouds may hamper the festivities over the next couple of days with the IMD Deputy Director-General K.S. Hosalikar predicting heavy rain in the north coastal districts of Raigad, Mumbai, Thane and Palghar.

President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari, the Thackeray family, state Congress President and Minister Balasaheb Thorat, Nationalist Congress President Sharad Pawar and other personalities greeted the people on the occasion of Ganesha Chaturthi.

(With agency inputs)

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