As the festivities for Ganesh Chaturthi are set to begin from Friday, devotees across the country geared up to celebrate the ten-day festival with less pomp and more vigour amid COVID-19 restrictions and protocols. Like last year, the ongoing pandemic has again put a halt to large-scale celebrations in many parts of the country this year too. In Mumbai, where Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the biggest celebrations of the year, the police on Thursday imposed Section 144 in the city from September 10 to 19 to curb the public celebrations in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“No processions of Ganpati will be allowed and more than five persons can’t gather at a place,” said the Mumbai Commissioner’s office. Devotees in the city will have to take the darshan of Lord Ganesha online and they cannot visit mandaps across the city. “It’s an important festival for us. We were not able to celebrate last year, so this time we’re very excited. We are taking all precautions,” said a Mumbai resident.
In Pune too, this year all Ganesh mandals will do the immersion at their pandals, said Ravindra Shisve, Joint Commissioner, Pune City Police on Thursday. He said people can use ‘mobile visarjan’ (immersion) vans for the immersion of idols. In Andhra Pradesh, the state government has decided not to allow Ganesh pandals and immersion processions this year due to COVID-19.
Meanwhile, Telangana High Court directed the state government not to allow idols of Lord Ganesh, made from plaster of Paris, to be immersed in Hussainsagar lake in Hyderabad. The court has also asked the state government to construct special rubber dams for the immersion of eco-friendly idols. After the order came, the markets in Hyderabad witnessed an increased demand for eco-friendly Ganesh idols.
The Karnataka government last week also released the guidelines for Ganesh Chaturthi which allowed the celebrations only in place in districts where the Covid positivity rate is less than 2 per cent. It further said, “Only eco-friendly Ganapati idols are allowed. Not more than 4 feet tall Ganesha idol should be installed anywhere in the state. Not more than 2 feet tall Ganesha idol allowed to be installed inside homes. No processions are allowed. Immersion is only allowed in mobile immersion tanks, tubs.”
On Thursday, Ganesh Utsav Seva Samiti along with other organisations staged a protest earlier in the day at BBMP head office demanding the withdrawal of guidelines restricting mass gathering on the festival. “The government in Karnataka is allowing other festivals with large gatherings but they are setting guidelines for us. We ask the BBMP and the state government to withdraw the guidelines,” Shashikanth Sharma, a protestor told ANI.
However, people in Bengaluru welcomed the government’s directives and said the decision is in favour of the environment. “The PoP idols are not good for the environment. Also, the COVID-29 pandemic is still not over, and going to public gatherings for celebration and emersion is dangerous for us. We are going to buy a small eco-friendly idol and immerse it in a bucket at home,” said a local.
In Odisha, a Puri-based artist Saswat Sahoo has made a Ganesha idol using matchsticks. “It took me 8 days to prepare this 23 inches long and 22 inches wide idol using 5621 matchsticks. I will follow COVID protocols and offer prayers at my home,” he said.
Ahead of Ganesh Chaturthi, people throng markets of Delhi to buy Ganesh idols on Thursday. “We will celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi at our home. I am very excited about it. I have been celebrating it for 7 years,” said a resident of Delhi. Uttar Pradesh government also advised the citizens to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi at home only, and not install idols in public places. “All COVID-19 protocols should be followed during the celebrations,” the government said.