Maha: For 2nd year, austere Ganeshotsav, sans crowds amid Covid fears
For the second consecutive year, millions of people in Mumbai, the coastal Konkan region and other parts of the state on Friday cheerfully welcomed Lord Ganesha amid stringent restrictions to ward off the lurking threats of the Covid-19 'third wave'.
The state's biggest public festival's lowkey celebrations were further hit by an abrupt change in the rules -- banning all physical 'darshan' at the 2,400-odd public associations which have erected marquees (pandals) for devotees -- disappointing the organisers.
"We were all geared to conduct the festival with full Covid-19 protocols but at the last-minute, the new rule with Sec. 144 has been clamped. This has come as a shock to all, but we shall strictly adhere to the government norms for public safety," the BrihanMumbai Sarvajanik Ganeshutsav Samanway Samiti (BSGSS) President Naresh Dahibhavkar told IANS.
The missing crowds could entail huge losses of over Rs
100-crore for the public associations which had hoped to collect devotees offerings in their coffers besides sponsors and advertisers, for carrying out various charitable services round-the-year, rued Dahibhavkar.
Undaunted, the ordinary folks lustily chanting 'Ganpati Bappa Morya', started bringing the idols of their beloved lord since last night to their homes, housing societies, public or private complexes and associations, and virtually every household in villages, for the low-key but highly devotional celebrations over the next 10 days.
This morning, lakhs of families performed the 'sthapna poojas' followed by traditional 'aartis' to mark the birthday of Lord Ganesha, the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.
On Saturday, a majority of the households would give the first send-off and perform the immersions of the Ganpati idols marking the one-and-half-day celebrations of the fest ending on September 19.
Considered the God of wisdom, the pot-bellied-elephant-headed Lord Ganesha brings in prosperity and good fortune and drives away obstacles ('vigna') and ill-luck.
This year also, the idol height is restricted to 4 feet for marquees and 2 feet for home worship -- a significant drop from the pre-pandemic era when some of the majestic Lord Ganesha idols benignly stared down at devotees from 20-feet plus pinnacles.
Hoping to make the best of the austere celebrations, the BSGSS have decided to enhance their Covid-19 volunteer forces by at least 20 per cent to grapple the potential 'third wave', said Dahibhavkar.
"From tomorrow, we shall launch health campaigns, organise blood donations and other social activities in a planned manner to avoid crowds," he added.
Celebrated across the country, the Mumbai-Pune-Nashik-Konkan quadrangle is the main epicentre of the festival with some of the biggest celebrations witnessed here annually.
Not willing to take any chances with the 'third wave' apparently round-the-corner, the government has permitted only 'online' darshans since even temples and other places of worship are shut as per the Centre's directives.
"We have made all necessary arrangements for online darshans," said actor Aadesh Bandekar, the Chairman of Shri SiddhiVinayak Mandir Trust, Mumbai, who is accorded the Minister of State (MoS) status.
The curbs notwithstanding, lakhs of idols of Lord Ganesha came to the homes of people, ranging from Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, ministers, Leaders of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis and Pravin Darekar, NCP President Sharad Pawar, state Congress President Nana Patole, city unit chief Bhai Jagtap, leaders of various parties, lawmakers and activists.
Lord Ganesha is also visiting top industrialists, film stars like Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Urmila Matondkar, Nana Patekar, Madhuri Dixit-Nene, the Kapoor clan, the Dutt family, and many more - IANS
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