Ganeshotsav is just around the corner and no one would have thought few months back that the celebrations would be quite different as compared to previous years. As India continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, the celebrations, any festival for that matter, will be slightly muted this year and may continue to be the same for the first few months of 2021 as well.
Any festival in India is celebrated with fervor and fanfare. And in Maharashtra, Ganesh Festival commemoration has always been a time when people come together and worship their Gannu Bappa. Probably this is the first time, the festival will be different ever since Indian freedom fighter Lokmanya Tilak put forth a public appeal to celebrate the festival and championed it as a means to circumvent the colonial British government ban on Hindu gatherings through its anti-public assembly legislation in 1892.
Now, as we are slowly trying to come to terms with the 'new normal', Maharashtra government has taken proactive measures to ensure that the people's sentiments are kept in mind while ensuring that the spread of the virus is contained. The maximum idol height has been capped at 4 feet for public Ganeshostav and 2 feet for in house celebrations.
Uddhav Thackeray government has issued detailed guidelines asking all Ganesh mandals to keep the 10-day festival a low-key affair. Mandals will have to take prior approval from BMC and they have been asked to organise health camps, blood and plasma donation camps in order to create awareness about cleanliness and hygiene. Further, the government has asked mandals to take the online route and organise Ganesh darshan online or through cable networks, websites, and Facebook and refrain from allowing visitors.
The Mandals have been asked to keep the decoration simple this year. The government has suggested worshiping metal or marble idols at home and the immersion of eco-friendly idols. Idols made of shadu mitti should be preferably immersed at home.
The mandals have been asked not to display advertisements to avoid crowding and strictly follow pollution control norms. It will be mandatory for all Mandals to put in place disinfectants and thermal screening and they will allow the visitors by adhering to social distancing rules.
In Mumbai, to manage the crowd during the time of immersion, the city's civic body BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has constructed 167 artificial bonds in 24 wards falling under the civic body's jurisdiction.
Additionally, the civic body has launched a website www.shreeganeshvisarjan.com, and mandals can book time slots by providing basic details.
The civic body has also said that only ten people will be allowed from a mandal during the immersion and for idols at home, a maximum of five people would be allowed.
Devotees living one or two km away from the beaches can immerse their idols in the sea. However, others who live far away should preferably immerse their idols at home or in artificial ponds.
For residents from containment zones, BMC will organise metallic tanks in which the immersion would take place and those who are living in sealed buildings would be required to immerse the buildings at their homes only. However, the official also maintained that ward offices at local level may also do doorstep collection for immersions.