The Lalbaughcha Raja Ganpati pandal wears a deserted look this year due to the pandemic.
The Lalbaughcha Raja Ganpati pandal wears a deserted look this year due to the pandemic.
BL SONI

MUMBAI: The Coronavirus outbreak has been a real party-pooper for the Ganesh Chaturthi festival this year. As the city welcomes Lord Ganesha, the face of the festival in Mumbai has shrunk beyond recognition. While some mandals have opted out of celebrating the event altogether, some are forging ahead with a slew of precautionary measures.

For the first time in decades, the Lalbaugcha Raja Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal has decided to not hold the festival. The Lalbaugcha Raja mandal has in the past seen serpentine queues and people waiting for darshan of the Lord for nearly 10-15 hours.

The mandal has instead given away the space to BMC to install artificial ponds for immersion. It also plans to organise health camps.

Many of Mumbai's popular Ganesh mandals have decided to offer online darshan to devotees. While some plan to stream the aarti or enable darshan through video conferencing apps such as Google Meet and Zoom, others will be streaming important ceremonies live on social networking sites.

King's Circle's GSB Seva Mandal for example has been urging people to keep watching for the updates on their social media handles to seek Bappa's blessings. The organisation has also put up a link via which people can book puja or seva bookings. Note that Seva has to be booked a day in advance.

Meanwhile mandals and their umbrella body have been warning people to stay indoor and help the government and civic administration. “People should not ignore social distancing norms while shopping for the Ganesh festival," appealed Naresh Dahibavkar, head of Brihanmumbai Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Samanvay Samiti (BSGSS), an umbrella body of sarvajanik (Public) Ganesh Mandals in Mumbai.

Dahibawkar added,"People should have faith in Lord Ganesha, but also take preventive measures to keep coronavirus at bay. Crowding will not only risk their lives but the lives of many others around them." The Samiti represents mandals or groups which organise and celebrate the festival in public pandals.

But this doesn't seem to be happening. However in the last four-five days, a section of people seems to have forgotten social distancing norms at vegetable markets or flower markets in the city. Government's norms must be followed completely and people should cooperate," he said.

The Maharashtra government and BMC have issued guidelines on the celebration this year, which includes capping the height of idols and ban on processions. Despite the restrictions, the BMC received 2,350 applications from Ganesh Mandals seeking the civic body's permission to erect pandals. The BMC has granted permission to 1,820 mandals, while permission to 256 mandals have been rejected.

”We are scrutinising remaining applications. Our focus will be on if these mandals are following the pandemic guidelines issued. Those flouting these guidelines will face action,” said a senior BMC official.

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