Ganesh Chaturthi is a much-loved and much-awaited festival across India. This year, because of the hold that the pandemic has established over the people, celebrations are bound to be scaled down.
Perhaps this is the time when people are feeling the most affected by the lockdown, as they are not able to celebrate the festival with customary fervour.
For the first time in 86 years, the famous Lalbaug Cha Raja of Mumbai will not have a Ganpati idol. But the innovativeness of people knows no limits. It has been decided to conduct blood donation and plasma therapy drives for the entire duration of the festival.
Here’s a look at how Maharashtra and other places across the country are adapting to the changed situation and yet keeping to the spirit of the auspicious occasion.
It is the time of the year when Lord Ganesha is welcomed into homes, temples and roadside pandals as a guest. Devotees start preparing for the 10-day-long festival weeks in advance.
The pandals have themes and the decorations get more elaborate with each passing year.
But the festive mood has been hit by the pandemic. With strict government guidelines in place, people are trying to find ways to celebrate with undimmed fervour, starting from August 22.
Tinsel Town tones it down
Bollywood celebrities, who normally celebrate Lord Ganpati’s birthday in style and bring elaborate idols into their homes, are toning down the celebrations this year.
Shilpa Shetty Kundra, who is known to host Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations on a grand scale every year, will keep it modest this time. She brought an idol of Lord Ganesh into her home on Thursday.
Chak De! India actress Vidya Malvade will be bringing the idol home after performing poojas with her family, while keeping the celebrations muted.
“We have been bringing Ganpati into our homes for generations, but this year will not be the same. We will be doing everything with devotion though. We generally invite 20 people every day during this time, but this year, we will not do so, and we will miss it,” says the actress, adding, “Only family members will be present.” Actor Sonu Sood too has welcomed Ganapati Bappa into his home.
“This time it will be a more controlled celebration among family members, but yes, the feelings will be the same,” he avers. “We would like to make Ganpati feel special in our own way,” says the Simmba actor. Sood also urged people to follow the prescribed norms. “This time, try and help people in need with some medical, education requirements. Try to use the money you would have put into the celebration for someone’s heath. I think that’s the best way to celebrate Bappa this year,” he said.
While Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated with the greatest fervour in Mumbai, other places don’t lag far behind. Though the festivities will be necessarily low-key this year, the devotion for the elephant-headed God will be the same.
While some have planned online celebrations rather than inviting people home, others have ordered eco-friendly idols so that they can be immersed in water bodies at home, thus avoiding public gatherings.
“The eco-friendly Ganesha idol is smaller this year, so it can easily be immersed. We have created an artificial pond in our building where residents can immerse idols,” says Sneha Anil Bharati. “It’s a new experience. My friends and relatives have decided to do an online celebration. We will be visiting each other’s Ganpati through Zoom or video calls. There will be no noise and environmental pollution this year, and women will have a little rest because they don’t have to entertain guests the entire day,” says Bharati.
Ganesh Chaturthi is a festival where we ask Lord Ganesh to bless us with wealth and prosperity. But to enjoy these, we need to have good health,” points out model and actress Mehreen Kaur.
“Considering the current pandemic, this time, we wanted the prayers to be directed at the health and wellbeing of the people. We pray that we win the battle against the virus,” she adds.
“Every year, we invite a lot of friends and celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi, but this time, the celebrations will be restricted only to my family at home. I will not be visiting any of my friends’ places either. Even close friends and extended families are wishing us digitally,” Mehreen shares, adding that a fan has sent her a ‘Seed Ganesha’ from Vijayawada and that’s the idol they will be worshipping at home.
However, Surekha Gawande, who has been bringing an idol home for over three decades, is sad that she won’t have the opportunity to meet her friends and extended family.
“We usually have many friends and relatives visiting us. This is the only time when we get to meet everyone. We will be missing it this time. We will have a small celebration at home with only family members in attendance. There won’t be much decoration but we will follow all the rituals from beginning to end, as per our family tradition,” shares Gawande.
For KGF star Yash, “This year our celebrations may not be as grand as it used to be in earlier years. Nevertheless, our spirits are not dampened. Let this festival of Gowri Ganesh Chaturthi bring an abundance of happiness, good health and joy! Have a fun-filled festival and make sure you enjoy the modakas.”
A supportive hand from officials
Several government bodies across the country are also trying to do their best to ensure that people in cities are able to take part in the festivity.
Maharashtra being a hotspot for both the festival and COVID-19 cases, the Mumbai division of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) has launched an initiative to help senior citizens to perform the Ganpati Visarjan ceremony easily.
BJYM will arrange for large trucks with inbuilt artificial ponds to reach the doorsteps of senior citizens, so that the elderly can perform the rituals from the safety of their homes.
Similarly, the Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority (HMDA) has announced that it will procure and distribute 80,000 clay idols as part of efforts to ensure that people are able to celebrate the festival at their homes.
l Celebrate the festival at home
l No installation or immersion of idols in public places
l Public celebration of the festival is prohibited
l No large congregation, community celebrations or idol immersion at public places
- All the mandals have to take prior permission from the concerned municipality or local authority for celebrations
- Maximum idol height should be four feet for pandals and two feet for homes
- Processions to mark arrival and immersion of idols will not be allowed
- No crowds during daily aarti. Noise pollution norms must be followed
- One Ganesh Pandal is permitted per ward or village
- Not more than 20 people are allowed at a time in pandals
- No processions or immersing of idols in wells
- Idol should be immersed at home
- Devotees have to wear face masks and follow social distancing norms...