The Maharashtra government issued guidelines restricting the height of Ganesh idols, and containing other stringent regulations, for the 11-day Ganeshotsav festival starting from August 22.
While the height of all Ganesh idols in public celebrations across the state shall be restricted to four feet, those in homes will be limited to only two feet this year in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The government has also recommended people to use marble or metal idols, and if clay or other materials are used, then perform the 'visarjan' (immersion) ceremonies either at homes or in artificial ponds, as per the notification by Principal Secretary, Special, Home, Amitabh Gupta.
The guidelines further said that wherever possible, people should postpone the immersion ceremonies to the Maghi Ganeshotsav coming up in February 2021 or the next year's Ganeshotsav, starting from September 9, 2021.
All processions have already been banned, either for welcoming the elephant-headed God or for his immersion ceremonies, besides barring immersion at any public place like beaches, rivers, lakes, ponds, etc.
The public organisers have been urged to make all arrangements possible to provide online Ganesh darshan, puja, arti, etc. through cable, websites or social media networks.
The guidelines stipulate cleanliness, fumigation, sanitisation, no crowds at all venues - public or community or private - with special attention to the health of children and senior citizens.
Last month, following an appeal by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, all the top public organisers had voluntarily decided to reduce the height of their gigantic Ganesh idols to around four feet this year, and others had committed to no-frills, subdued, simple celebrations focusing on faith rather than pomp. (IANS report, June 23).
Some, including the organisers of the famed Lalbaugcha Raja, decided to forego the celebrations and instead will convert Ganeshotsav into an 'Arogyautsav' (health fest) with special health campaigns, blood and plasma donations and other social activities, the committee members announced.
These and other developments are "unprecedented in the 127-year old history of Ganeshotsav in the state, a tradition started in a modest way by Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak in Pune in 1893", according to BrihanMumbai Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Samanvay Samiti President Naresh Dahibhavkar.
However, all the organisers have decided to adhere to the norms, given the extraordinary circumstances created by the pandemic this year, and earnestly hope that the situation will be different in 2021.
Maharashtra's biggest public festival - which attracts people cutting across religious lines and tourists from around the world - is celebrated all over, but the celebrations in Mumbai, Pune and the coastal Konkan are among the chief attractions.