Amid the coronavirus pandemic and restrictions on public movement, the 10-day Ganesh festival started in Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra on Saturday, although the usual pomp and glory was missing this year.
The Maharashtra government has issued guidelines regarding Ganeshotsav celebrations, saying that processions should not be taken out before installing and immersing the idols of the deity.
It also said that the heights of Lord Ganesh idols installed by sarvajanik (community) mandals and at household-level should be limited to four feet and two feet, respectively, this year.
As a result, the number of people coming out in the market to buy Ganpati idols for installation in their houses, housing societies and sarvajanik pandals, was limited. The usual spirit and fervour of the festival was relatively low this year.
Due to the subdued celebrations, small businesses of that thrive during the festival, like flower vendors, sweet shops, outlets selling decoration items, imitation jewellery, transporters took a hit. The pandemic also affected several others, including artistes and transporters.
However, in some popular market places like Dadar in central Mumbai, people still came out in large numbers to purchase material required for decoration, puja rituals in the last couple of days.
Lalbaugcha Raja, Mumbai's best-known sarvajanik Ganeshotsav mandal, cancelled the festival this year in view of the pandemic, while Wadala's GSB Sewa Samiti, considered one of the richest mandals in the metropolis, postponed the celebration to 'Magh Shudh Chaturthi' in February next year.
The usual pandal decorations in the city are missing this year and cultural events have been replaced by public awareness programmes and health camps by the mandals.
Mumbai and the neighbouring areas have been witnessing heavy rains since the last few days. The downpour continued on Saturday morning, but people stepped out to bring home the idols of the deity amid chants 'Ganpati bappa moraya'. In some areas firecrackers were also burst to welcome the Lord.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray also welcomed Lord Ganesh at his official residence 'Varsha'. Some celebrities and political leaders also installed the idols at their places.
The installation of the deity was done as per the rituals in the morning.
Meanwhile, security has been beefed up in the city for the festival. Apart from the local police, a company of Rapid Action Force (RAF), three companies of State Reserve Police Force (SRPF), local arms and riot control police have been deployed.
Quick response teams, bomb disposal squads and anti-terrorism cells have also been put on alert to prevent untoward incidents and police will monitor the happenings in the city with the help of 5,000 CCTV cameras and also use drones for aerial surveillance, a police official said.
The festival of Ganesh Chaturthi is also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi, marks the birth of the elephant-headed God. It begins on the fourth day (chaturthi) of the month of Bhadrapada, the sixth month of the Hindu calendar. It concludes after 10 days on the day of Anant Chaturdashi, when the idol is submerged in the nearest body of water.
Lord Ganesh is considered an embodiment of wisdom and widely revered as the remover of obstacles.