Coronavirus effect: Mumbai gears up for a subdued Ganesh Chaturthi as pandals move prayers, proceedings online

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Updated: August 22, 2020 1:47 PM

Maharashtra has been among the worst coronavirus-affected states in the country.

The larger pandals usually see over 400 visitors a day.The larger pandals usually see over 400 visitors a day. (File image)

Ganesh Chaturthi 2020: Mumbai is all set to see subdued Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations this year. The festival, which is celebrated with much fervour and joy in Maharashtra, usually witnesses huge processions and crowds. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the celebrations would be a low-key event this year. The 10-day festival began on Saturday, but the pandals were deserted on Friday, and only sparse workers and volunteers dotted the place with their face masks on, according to a report in The Indian Express. The celebrations are especially a major event in Ganesh Gully in Mumbai’s Lalbaug, but the report quoted the joint treasurer of the Lalbaug Sarvajanik Utsav Mandal Adwait Pedhamkar as saying that this year falls among the most subdued celebrations of Ganeshotsav.

Maharashtra has been among the worst coronavirus-affected states in the country, and Mumbai’s COVID-19 tally continues to steadily increase. This has left the pandals for Ganpati, which are a major attraction on the city streets at this time of the year, getting ready for a quiet celebration.

The larger pandals usually see over 400 visitors a day, but this year, organisers have been urging devotees to stay at home and not come out for the festival. They have also come up with a solution — promising to live-stream the celebrations on social media.

Talking about the precautions that the pandal at Ganesh Gully would be taking, Pedhamkar was quoted by the report as saying that the pandal would mark the floor to ensure that social distancing norms are followed, and the pandal would further be equipped with touch-free sanitiser dispensers, oximeters, and thermometers. He added that the pandal organisers have requested children below 10 years of age as well as senior citizens to avoid visiting the pandal, and rather watch the celebrations online.

The report added that every year the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation gets around 3,500 to 4,000 applications for approval to set up Ganpati pandal. However, this number dropped to 2,350 this year and the BMC only cleared 1,820 applications.

In July, the BMC had issued a set of guidelines for the organisers and celebrations. These guidelines capped the height of Ganpati idols in pandals at 4 feet, and this cap was 2 feet for idols at home. Apart from this, the civic body placed a ban on offerings of garlands and flowers and mandated the sanitising of the pandal thrice a day. It also said that at any given time, no more than five workers should be inside a pandal.

The oldest Ganesh mandal in Mumbai—the Shree Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Sanstha, which was established in 1893—is located at Girgaum’s Kashavji Naik Chawl. There, volunteers have decorated their colourful canopy with fairy lights and have arranged for a Ganpati idol 2.25 feet tall. Vinod Satpute, a resident, was quoted by the report as saying that their pandal is a small one and they usually only get about 40-50 visitors a day. However, this year, in case the number rises, it could lead to risk. Therefore, he said, they would try to control the number of visitors.

Andheri cha Raja, a famous pandal, hosts a prayer recital, called the Atharvashirsha Pathan, with between 200 and 250 women on stage. This year, however, the mandal has decided to conduct the prayer session online and live-stream it, the mandal secretary, Subodh Chitnis, was quoted as saying. He added that the mandal has not yet decided on the distribution of prasad, even as they let the prasad sit for 72 hours, hoping that it would take care of the coronavirus.

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