Mumbai: While almost one-and-a-half months is still left for the Ganeshotsav, Maharashtra government has decided that it will be a low key affair even this year, keeping the pandemic in mind. For the second consecutive year, the Maharashtra government has decided to ban gigantic idols of Lord Ganesha and mega public celebrations for the upcoming 10-day Ganeshotsav festival starting September 10, even as the organisers cried foul. As the country is fearing a 'third wave', the state government on Tuesday (June 30) issued a detailed notification restricting the height of the idols to up to four feet at public events and two feet for idols at home.
The government has also stipulated simple, unostentatious celebrations, without crowds and strictly following all COVID-19 protocols during the 10 days which mark the state's biggest public festival.
No processions will be permitted for the start of the festival on September 10 or for the visarjan (immersion) ceremonies on various dates till the final adieu on September 19.
Meanwhile, objecting to the notification, the president of the influential BrihanMumbai Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Samanvay Samiti (BSGSS), Naresh Dahibavkar, termed it as "a rude shock" for the second year running. "The organisers and idol-makers are surprised and stunned. We had sent several letters to the state government but they remained unacknowledged and now suddenly this unilateral and one-sided decision has come," Dahibhavkar said in a strong statement. He appealed to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to convene a meeting of the BSGSS and others in the state to discuss and jointly finalise the norms for the 2021 Ganeshotsav.
As in 2020, the government has recommended giving priority to health camps or blood donation drives or health awareness campaigns for coronavirus, malaria, dengue etc., with highest levels of cleanliness maintained by all the public mandals and organisers of the mega Ganeshotsav groups.
The authorities have made it clear that the restrictions will not be eased during Ganeshotsav and directed the public mandals to ensure that there is no overcrowding during the daily aartis, pujas and darshan. The state government has asked the public mandals to switch over to online darshan or relaying the celebrations in the marquees through the local cable television networks, websites or social media platforms, as per the notification issued by Sanjay D. Khedekar, Deputy Secretary, Home Department.
For the visarjan, children and senior citizens must avoid stepping out and as far as possible, the immersion ceremonies should be performed at artificial ponds which will be created by various public and private bodies, as in 2020, at the height of the first wave of COVID-19.
Last year as well, the celebrations of the festival were subdued due to the rampant surge in COVID cases in the state. For the first time in history, Lalbaughcha Raja Ganeshotsav Mandal had decided not to hold the festivities in the wake of the pandemic. Maharashtra has reported more than 60 lakh COVID cases so far and has been one of the worst hit states amid the pandemic in India.
(With Agency inputs)