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Cap on the idol’s head, online darshan: For the second year in a row, Maharashtra is planning a low-key Ganeshotsav amid COVID.

Mumbai: With almost a month and a half until Ganeshotsav, the Maharashtra government has decided that it will be a low-key affair even this year, in light of the pandemic. The Maharashtra government has decided to ban gigantic idols of Lord Ganesha and mega public celebrations for the upcoming 10-day Ganeshotsav festival, which begins on September 10, for the second year in a row, despite protests from organisers. As the country prepares for a ‘third wave,’ the state government issued a detailed notification on Tuesday (June 30) limiting the height of idols at public events to four feet and two feet for idols at home.

During the state’s largest public festival, the government has also mandated simple, unobtrusive celebrations with no crowds and strict adherence to all COVID-19 protocols.

There will be no processions allowed for the festival’s start on September 10 or for the visarjan (immersion) ceremonies on various dates until the final adieu on September 19.

Meanwhile, the president of the influential BrihanMumbai Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Samanvay Samiti (BSGSS), Naresh Dahibavkar, objected to the notification, calling it “a rude shock” for the second year in a row. “The organisers and idol-makers are taken aback and stunned. We had sent several letters to the state government, but they went unanswered, and now this unilateral and one-sided decision has come as a surprise “Dahibhavkar stated unequivocally. He urged Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to call a meeting of the BSGSS and others in the state to discuss and jointly finalise the Ganeshotsav norms for 2021.

As in 2020, the government has recommended giving priority to health camps, blood donation drives, or health awareness campaigns for coronavirus, malaria, dengue, and other diseases, with all public mandals and organisers of the mega Ganeshotsav groups maintaining the highest levels of cleanliness.

The authorities have stated unequivocally that the restrictions will not be relaxed during Ganeshotsav, and have directed public mandals to ensure that there is no overcrowding during the daily aartis, pujas, and darshan. According to a notification issued by Sanjay D. Khedekar, Deputy Secretary, Home Department, the state government has asked the public mandals to switch to online darshan or relay the celebrations in the marquees through local cable television networks, websites, or social media platforms.

Children and senior citizens must avoid stepping out for the visarjan, and immersion ceremonies should be performed as much as possible at artificial ponds created by various public and private bodies, such as in 2020, at the height of the first wave of COVID-19.
Last year’s festival celebrations were also subdued due to the state’s rampant increase in COVID cases. In the aftermath of the pandemic, Lalbaughcha Raja Ganeshotsav Mandal decided not to hold the festivities for the first time in history. Maharashtra has reported over 60 lakh COVID cases so far, making it one of the worst-affected states in India during the pandemic.

(With Agency inputs)

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