People would not be allowed to visit Ganesh pandals during the coming festival in view of the coronavirus pandemic, the Maharashtra government said on Wednesday.
Only online 'darshan' or telecast from pandals would be allowed, said the state home department.
Earlier, it had said in a circular that social distancing should be followed strictly inside the pandals during the Ganesh festival.
The new circular said that "(people) are prohibited from visiting any Ganesh pandal." Organizers should instead provide the facility of online 'darshan' or telecast for the benefit of devotees, it said.
The decision has been taken to discourage people from venturing out and exposing themselves to the viral infection, said an official.
In the face of strong demand from Ganesh mandals to allow visarjan in natural water bodies, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is standing firm, prioritising Covid safety protocol.
Aiming at preventing crowds during immersion, after Ganeshotsav begins from September 10, the BMC has said that no processions will be allowed and mandals must deposit idols at collection points assigned by ward offices. Following this, BMC staff will carry out the immersion of the idols in natural water bodies.
The organisers had asked the state government and the BMC to allow 10 members from each mandal for visarjan. But just like it did last year, the BMC has banned welcome as well as visarjan processions in the wake of the pandemic.
Mandal volunteers will not be allowed anywhere near Chowpatty or other waterfronts and will have to hand over the idols to the BMC volunteers or civic staff who will take over from that point.
Last year, the BMC had asked citizens and mandals to give preference to the artificial ponds in each of the 24 wards.
The BMC and the state government in June had issued general guidelines on the festival, mandating residents and sarvajanik mandals to have smaller idols (2ft-high for households and 4ft-high for sarvajanik mandals), similar to last year.
(With inputs from PTI and Dipti Singh)