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Amid Covid-19 pandemic, Ganesh festival begins on low-key note

New Delhi: The 10-day Ganesh festival began on Saturday under the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic, with devotees restricting celebrations to their homes and using online platforms to get 'darshan' of the Lord at temples, amid strict COVID-19 restrictions imposed by governments.

The festival, which begins with grand processions and collective prayers at decked up pandals, this year lacked its usual pomp and show, with the Centre and state governments restricting mass gatherings and movement in the wake of the pandemic.

Only a limited number of people wearing face masks and gloves, and maintaining social distancing installed Ganesha idols at temples, with devotees watching the process online.

The Lalbaugcha Raja, Mumbai's best-known Sarvajanik (community) Ganeshotsav Mandal, cancelled the festival this year in view of the pandemic, while Wadala's GSB Sewa Samiti, considered one of the richest mandals in the metropolis, postponed celebrations to 'Magh Shudh Chaturthi' in February next year.

In Madhya Pradesh's Burhanpur, for the first time in the last 103 years, the idol of Lord Ganesh could not be installed at the Tilak on the first day of the festival due to the COVID-19 situation.

Freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak had started this practice in 1917 during his visit to Burhanpur bordering Maharashtra. "It is after more than a century that the city has missed on its date with Ganeshiji at Tilak Hall," Maharastrian Brahmin Samaj president Arun Shende said.

In Maharashtra and its capital Mumbai, the festival was missing its pomp and glory this year.

The Maharashtra government in its guidelines for Ganeshotsav celebrations has said that processions should not be taken out before installing and immersing of idols.

The festival of Ganesh Chaturthi, which is also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi, marks the birth of the elephant-headed God. It begins on the fourth day (chaturthi) of the month of Bhadrapada, the sixth month of the Hindu calendar. It concludes after 10 days on the day of Anant Chaturdashi, when the idol is submerged in the nearest body of water.

The COVID-19 and grim flood situation in certain parts of Karnataka cast their shadow on the festival this year with lacklustre celebrations across the state.

There was very poor turnout of devotees at Ganesha temples and very few installation of the lord's idols at public places this year in the state.

The festival in Puducherry was a low-key affair on Saturday, with Lt Governor Kiran Bedi and Chief Minister V Narayanasamy making separate appeals to the people to stay at home and celebrated.

Director of Health and Family Welfare S Mohan Kumar in a WhatsApp message to the media said, "there was lot of overcrowding in various places."

The territorial government had already prohibited installation of tall statues of Lord Ganesha at roadsides this year.

In Goa, people celebrated at homes and some community mandals set up pandals and installed idols, but they cancelled all cultural and other events this year to curb the spread of COVID-19

The festival was celebrated across Tamil Nadu with usual fervour, although the trademark large idols of the elephant God were missing this year in lines with a government directive in the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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