Mumbai bids farewell to Ganpati Bappa without fanfare this year

It was a farewell free of fanfare for Ganpati Bappa this year. Visarjan processions without band-baaja, with only five masked people adhering to social distancing norms, was how devotees across Mumbai bid adieu to their beloved elephant-headed god on Tuesday. In fact, the entire 10-day celebration, which began on August 22, was a piped down event, a far cry from the grand, opulent and cacophonous Ganeshotsavs of yore.

This year, devotees were not allowed to perform final aarti and pooja at the visarjan site. Pandemic regulations currently in place required all rituals had to be performed at home and the idols to be taken for immersion by a maximum of five people. Around 250 benches were set up at Girgaum Chowpatty, where devotees could leave their idols with volunteers and return. Social workers and volunteers roped in by the BMC were at hand to accept idols for visarjan.

The visarjan started at noon on Tuesday and was expected to go on until 6am on Wednesday. Upto 6pm on Tuesday, a total of 6,015 idols were immersed, of which 369 were from sarvajanik (public) mandals while 5,626 were household idols; 2,603 of these were immersed in artificial ponds. No untoward incident occurred, according to the BMC's immersion report.

With the number of household Ganesh idols reduced by a third, there was a five-fold increase in sarvajanik Ganesh idols on Day 1 of visarjan this year. However, a large number of immersions took place at homes or on housing society premises and were not accounted for in the BMC's figures.

Last year, 76,171 households and 249 sarvajanik Ganesh idols were immersed on Day 1, while this year, the numbers were 39,845, and 978 respectively.

On average, Ganesh idols from over 1.5 lakh households and over 20,000 sarvajanik murtis are brought to natural and artificial spots for immersion over 11 days, every year. Last year, 2,11,691 household and 12,621 sarvajanik idols were immersed.

The civic body had set up 445 immersion points this year, in all the 24 wards of Mumbai --- including 170 idol collection centres, 168 artificial ponds, 37 'mobile' collection centres (for door-to-door pick-up of idols) and 70 natural immersion sites. There were 368 nirmalya kalash (receptacles for flowers, garlands etc), along with 467 dumpers as also collection vans for nirmalya.

More than 35,000 police personnel were deployed across the city on visarjan bandobast and over 5,000 CCTV cameras were in place for security on Tuesday.

Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar said, "In every artificial pond, we had kept flowers and other puja items needed for visarjan. Our social workers / volunteers were instructed to immerse the idols in the sea/ artificial ponds on behalf of the devotees, to prevent people from crowding the site."

Crowding at Ganesh Gully, Lalbaug

While Anant Chaturdashi was a low-key affair across Mumbai, there was plenty of fanfare and crowds in the Mumbaicha Raja Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal's visarjan proceedings on Tuesday evening.

Crowds danced to 'Agle Baras Tujhko Aana Hi Hoga' from Don, the Shahrukh Khan starrer. Later, the crowd gathered around an artificial pond where the idol was immersed. Social distancing norms were blatantly violated in the process.

"Yes we have got reports of crowding at Ganesh Gully and immediately our staff rushed to the spot. The issue of crowding is to be handled by the local police. I had personally informed local police and our staff contacted the mandal secretary too. We are awaiting a report on the matter," said Swapanaja Kshirsagar, Assistant Municipal Commissioner of F South ward (Kalachowki, Lalbaug, Parel).

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Free Press Journal