INDIA. Mumbai: Given the COVID-19 restrictions, like last year, the 11 days long Ganesh Festival, the most sought after festival of Maharashtra, will be a low-key affair his year too, with the state government banning processions and restricting the height of idols between 2-4 feet.
Ganesh Chaturthi, also known as Vinayaka Chaturti, is a Hindu festival, which is celebrated 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 the evil. “Ganeshotsav”, the festival of an elephant-headed Hindu god, is scheduled to begin on September 10 this year. The idol makers have begun work much earlier and some of them have also exported the idols to foreign countries including Dubai and the USA, where the festival is celebrated by the Indian diaspora.
In the guidelines issued on Tuesday, the Maharashtra government asked those organizing festivities to keep the height of public idols at four feet and the domestic ones at two feet. The government has also urged the organizers to celebrate the festival simply amid the anticipated third wave of Coronavirus and detection of the Delta Plus variant in some districts. The festival was celebrated without much festivity due to similar restrictions last year too.
1)For Ganesh madals (the pandals where the festival is celebrated publicly) prior permission will have to be obtained from municipal corporation/local administration, 2) Only limited people should be allowed at pandals, 3) There should be no extravagance decoration, 4) People should ideally install metal or marble idols, while those made of “shadu” clay must be immersed at home or in artificial tanks.
5) Nobody should be forced to donate. The organizers should display health-related advertisements to give out a social message, 6) The Mandals have been advised to hold blood donation and social awareness camps, and avoid bhajan-kirtan and other mass programs at the festivity site, 7) there should not be crowds for aarti, bhajan and noise pollution should be avoided. 8) Arrangements should be made for the live telecast of the aartis on cable TV and other mediums, 9) Thermal screening and sanitization should be done at manuals, and 10) There will be no procession while bringing the Ganesh idols and while immersing them. The restrictions already imposed to contain the outbreak of COVID-19 will remain in force and there will be no relaxation during the Ganesh festival. Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) such as the Aarogya Setu app, social distancing, use of masks, sanitizers, etc. is already in place.
But the organizers, are unhappy with government guidelines, saying they were not kept in the loop while the norms were being formed. BJP MLA Ashish Shelar slammed the government saying that it was giving concessions to clubs, discos, and pubs and was giving punishment to people.
Objecting to the notification, the president of the influential BrihanMumbai Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Samanvay Samiti (BSGSS), Naresh Dahibavkar, termed it as “a rude shock” for the second year running. “The organizers and idol-makers are surprised. We had sent several letters to the state government but they remained unacknowledged and now suddenly this unilateral and one-sided decision has come,” Dahibhavkar said in a statement. He appealed to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to convene a meeting of the BSGSS and others in the state to discuss and jointly finalize the norms for the 2021 Ganeshotsav.
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, he 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.
In Maharashtra, for around 500 years, people had been making small idols of Ganesh to worship in their homes during the month of “Bhadrapad” as per the Hindu almanac. The oldest is the Kasba Peth Ganpati mandir, which was established by Jijamata, mother of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, the great Maratha warrior. In Hindu culture, all work begins with an invocation to Ganpati. It is in keeping with the tradition that Jijamata and Shivaji began their mission of taking back Maharashtra from the Mughal king Adil Shah. Shivaji believed that all his success was due to Lord Ganesha’s blessings.
Earlier there had been around 11,000 Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandals in Mumbai including nearly 3000 roadside Medals. Over 450 gigantic idols used to be installed in the public marquees within the prescribed height limit of 18-feet earlier, especially in Mumbai. Besides, there had over 40,000 Mandals across Maharashtra. However last year the number of Mandals who approached the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, for registration came down drastically. By and large, over one lakh Ganesh idols including domestic and public are installed in Mumbai, while the number of idols is over three lakh across the state. Besides Maharashtra, the festival is also celebrated with gaiety in Delhi, Goa, Andhra Pradesh, Telengana, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka. The presence of Ganesh is not only in India but also in Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, and Tibet, among other places.