INDIA. Mumbai. The “Ganeshotsav” ten day festival of the elephant-headed Hindu god Lord Ganesh, got underway with subdued atmosphere amid COVID-19 induced restrictions in Maharashtra and neighboring states on Saturday.
Due to both indoor and outdoor height restrictions of the idols (domestic: 2 feet, public places: 4 feet), many groups have curtailed the days of the festival, while some groups have canceled the celebration altogether. But most households have continued the age-old tradition and have installed the idols in their homes.
In Konkan region alone, comprising Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane, and Raigad, over 3 lakh idols have been installed. In the rest of Maharashtra, including Pune, the households have installed the idols as per the annual tradition.
Every year, this festival has been the epitome of social gathering, piety, joy, and sharing. It involves huge pomp and gaiety. But this year the containment measures against COVID-19 pandemic have necessitated heavy restrictions on all social activities.
Although this year “Ganesh Chaturthi” is a low-key affair, the virus has failed to dampen the festive spirit as people thronged to the markets to purchase idols, sweets, lights, and decorations.
Bollywood brings Lord Ganesha home
Most of the Bollywood personalities including Shilpa Shetty and Ekta Kapoor brought home Lord Ganesh and performed puja as usual.
Scenes based on public themes
Most of public groups have continued the tradition of building replicas of historical importance and also the custom of raising scenes of public themes. A public group in Bandra in northwest Mumbai has built a replica of the palace of veteran freedom fighter Lokmanya Tilak as it exists at Chikhali in Ratnagiri district, under the guidance of BJP MLA Ashish Shelar. The replica has been built given the ongoing death centenary of Lokmanya Tilak. The group here will celebrate the festival for 10 days.
Similarly “Swapnakshay Mitra Mandal’ located at Andheri West, in North West Mumbai led by former Corporator Devendra Amberkar has erected the scene of medical facilities provided by local authorities to honor healthcare workers fighting COVID-19. The Ganesh idols have been installed in the backdrop of Mumbai city.
The festival is celebrated by devotees for one and a half days, 5 days, 7 days, and 11 days depending upon convenience and tradition. After the idols are installed on “Ganesh Chaturthi”, the idols are immersed into artificial ponds, lakes, or into the sea.
This year public processions have been banned and strict social distancing norms are observed as per the directions of Maharashtra Government. All public groups have been asked to abide by the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) already in effect, such as the Aarogya Setu app, social distancing, use of masks, sanitizers, etc.
Besides Maharashtra, the authorities in Delhi, Goa, Andhra Pradesh, Telengana, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka have also stipulated strict social distancing norms to avoid the spread of the novel coronavirus.