Corona takes the fun out of Ganeshotsav, but faith remains

Prohibitions on large congregations mean devotees celebrate at home with technology support

Ganesha
A devotee wearing a PPE kit offers prayers at a Ganesha puja pandal in Kolkata | Photo: PTI

Vighnaharta – the one who removes all obstacles – arrived this year to a muted welcome across the country amidst Covid-19 pandemic.

The health crisis though has failed to dampen the spirit of devotees, who brought home the country’s most adorable deity with full enthusiasm and with a wish that the coronavirus may go forever.

Revered as the God of Wisdom, Ganesha – the son of Shiva and Parvati – is said to bring prosperity and good fortune to the devotees.

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As per the guidelines of the Ministry of Home Affairs issued on July 29, cultural and religious functions and other large congregations will continue to remain prohibited.

Mumbai and Pune, which see the most frenzy, marked the biggest change. Amidst the crisis, technology has come handy for devotees and pandals who are using social media to offer virtual darshan of Ganesha. Families are using apps to connect with their family members and friends, as the viral outbreak has restricted physical movements of people.

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Householders, mandal workers, and members of housing complexes looked busy right from the morning as they hurried to bring home their ‘bappa’ in time (muhurat) and celebrate his ‘birthday’ with aartis and bhajans.

The sellers of idols, decoration paraphernalia, sweets, mandap operators among others are facing the heat as a subdued celebration means they won’t get much business this year.

Health camps replace celebrations in Mumbai, Pune

health camp
Volunteers donate blood at Lalbaugcha Raja Ganesh Mandal | Photo: PTI

“To keep huge crowds at bay, most public Ganeshotsav mandals have decided to convert the celebrations into ‘Aarogyotsav’ (health festival) with blood and plasma donation camps, launching various pandemic-related initiatives,” BrihanMumbai Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Samanway Samiti (BSGSS) President Naresh Dahibhavkar told IANS. “There are various other concerns this year… Health, hygiene, physical distancing, people have borne pay cuts or job losses, companies are in losses. So all mandals are practicing austerity measures,” Dahibhavkar said.

The idols of the five ‘Manache Ganapati’ (pre-eminent Ganeshas) were installed in Pune on Saturday as the historic Ganesh festival began under the shadow of coronavirus.

For the first time in 127 years, Pune’s Dagdusheth Halwai Ganpati will hold the 10-day event on the temple premises instead of its traditional location at the Kotwal Chawdi.

The Lalbaug Sarvajanik Utsav Mandal in Mumbai is celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi on a relatively small scale. Organisers said the faithful have been urged to take an online glimpse of Ganesha from their homes. However, arrangements of sanitisers and temperature measurements have been made by the mandal for offline visitors.

“We are receiving a robust response to our plasma donation camp with 100 donations and 250 registrations so far,” said Mangesh Dalvi, treasurer of Lalbaug Sarvajanik Utsav Mandal.

Ganesha
Devotees carry an idol of Lord Ganesha for installation in Karad, Maharashtra | Photo: PTI

Temples like the Siddhivinayak Temple in Mumbai have arranged online ‘darshan’ and ‘aartis’ for the devotees.

Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray urged people to not to forget their social responsibility of wearing masks and avoiding crowding while welcoming Ganesha. Thackeray also said he prayed to the Lord to rid the world of the coronavirus pandemic on the first day of the 10-day festival.

Bollywood stars Amitabh Bachchan, Akshay Kumar, Karan Johar, Madhuri Dixit-Nene and others sent their best wishes to fellow countrymen at the beginning of the 10-day Ganesh Chaturthi festival.

Rains may hamper celebrations in the Mumbai region though as the Met department forecast heavy rain over the next couple of days in the north coastal districts of Raigad, Mumbai, Thane, and Palghar.

No large idols in Tamil Nadu

Ganesha
Priests and devotees offer prayers at state BJP office in Chennai | Photo: PTI

Ganeshotsav celebrations began across Tamil Nadu with usual fervour, but without the trademark large idol, following a government directive in the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic. Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami held prayers at his residence in his native place Salem.

As is the usual practice, priests offered prayers to Ganesha at Meenakshi Amman temple in Madurai.

For violation of festival restrictions, as many as 25 cases were registered in Coimbatore on Saturday. According to a statement released by the Coimbatore police, idols kept in public places were seized and taken for immersion.

The state had on August 14 passed an order banning Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations at public places. The Madras High Court too had issued a similar direction in this regard.

Meanwhile in Karnataka…

Floods and coronavirus have taken the sheen out of the Ganeshotsav celebrations in Karnataka this year. Devotee turnout was poor at the Ganesha temples and very few installations of the idols at public places this year in the state.

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Karnataka chief minister BS Yediyurappa offered prayers to Lord Ganesha at his residence in Bengaluru.

The Madhya Pradesh government has banned processions during Ganesh Chaturthi this year. In Goa too, people preferred to keep the celebrations to home.

Modi-Shah wish countrymen

“Greetings on the auspicious festival of Ganesh Chaturthi. May the blessings of Bhagwan Shri Ganesh always be upon us. May there be joy and prosperity all over,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tweet read.

Union home minister Amit Shah tweeted, “Heartfelt greetings to all countrymen on the occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi”.

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