INDIA. Mumbai: The 10-day long Ganeshotsav, a festival of elephant-headed god began on a subdued note in Maharashtra on Friday, following the State Government’s fresh restrictions given the surge in COVID-19 cases in Mumbai and Pune.
Ganesh Chaturthi, also known as Vinayaka Chaturti, is a Hindu festival, which is celebrated to mark the arrival of Lord Ganesh to earth from Kailash Parvat (Kailash Mountain) with his mother Goddess Parvati. It is believed that Lord Ganesh wards off evil.
The father of Indian unrest Bal Gangadhar Tilak “Lokmanya Tilak” was the man who turned the private, household “Ganesh Chathurthi” celebration into a public celebration, to unite people against the then British regime. The staunch nationalist and one of the greatest leaders of the 1857-rebellion organized the Ganesh festival publicly in 1893 in Pune in Maharashtra.
By doing so, Tilak transformed the traditional festival into a National festival. It served as a meeting place for common people of all castes and communities at a time when public social, political gatherings were banned by the British. Two of his followers who resided in Keshavji Naik chawl, Girgaon, in South Mumbai, were among the first to respond to his call to celebrate the festival publicly. Tilak visited the celebration for the first time at the Chawl in 1901.
Earlier there had been around 11,000 Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandals (groups celebrating festival publicly) in Mumbai including nearly 3000 roadside mandals. Over 450 gigantic idols used to be installed in the public marquees within the prescribed height limit of 18-feet earlier, especially in Mumbai. There were over 40,000 Mandals across Maharashtra.
Now for the second year in a row, the coronavirus pandemic has put a halt to large-scale celebrations for devotees in most parts of the country.
The state government on Tuesday issued restrictions stating that “Mukh Darshan” (seeing Ganesh idols by visiting pandals in person) will not be allowed and the devotees will have to have “darshan” only online. The government has already restricted the height of idols to two feet for households and 4 feet for idols installed in public pandals.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said that there should be no procession for the arrival of Ganesha idols and immersion rituals. The BMC in its order stated that it is necessary to celebrate Ganeshotsav only by protecting oneself and one’s family from this scourge. Besides, there shall be 10 people at the time of arrival as well as the immersion of public Ganesha idols. They will be required to wear masks and observe the social distance. These people should be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and the second dose should have been taken before 15 days, the BMC stated.
Mumbai Police Commissioner Hemant Nagrale made it clear on Thursday that there should not be more than 5 people in Ganpati Pandals in public places. Cautioning Mumbaikars about the possibility of a third wave of COVID-19, Nagrale through a video address said that no one will be allowed to crowd the Ganpati pandals in Mumbai and darshan would have to be online for everyone.
Mumbai Police have also issued an order stating that assembly of more than five people will not be allowed in any public place, during the 10-day Ganpati festival (September 10 to September 19) and FIR will be registered under Section 188 of IPC against those violating the order.
To avoid being caught in a crowd, most of the people, including Bollywood celebrities brought home the idols two to three days in advance. Some of the major mandals also brought their idols and installed them in pandals well in advance
In Andhra Pradesh, the state government has decided not to allow Ganesh pandals and immersion processions this year due to COVID-19.
In Goa, the state government has said that the ”sarvajanik Ganeshotsav”, or public festivities, may be permitted by local bodies on a case to case basis with adherence to all COVID-19 norms, including the use of masks and sanitizers, deployment of thermal screening equipment, and maintenance of social distancing.
In the meanwhile, in Maharashtra 4154 new patients were admitted, 4524 patients recovered and 44 patients died. In all 49812 patients were under treatment as of Friday. 62.99 lakh people have been recovered so far and the recovery rate is 97.05 percent and the fatality rate is 2.12 percent No patient was detected in Dhule, Hingoli, Parbhani, Akola, Yavatmal, and Washim districts in the last few days. Similarly, 43,263 new cases and 338 deaths were reported across the country on Friday, with Kerala registering 125 deaths.