The organisers of Mumbai’s biggest Ganesh puja, Lalbaughcha Raja, on Wednesday cancelled this year’s celebrations for the first time in its 84-year history in view of the coronavirus outbreak, NDTV reported . “This year we will not be keeping any idol as people will otherwise throng to see it,” said Sudhir Salvi, secretary of the Lalbaug Ganesh Mandal.
Maharashtra has more cases of the virus than any other state at the moment, with 1,74,761 as of Wednesday morning. Mumbai accounts for 77,658 of these cases. The toll in the city is 4,556.
Ganesh Chaturthi, one of the biggest festivals celebrated in Maharashtra, falls on August 22 this year, according to PTI. During the 10-day festival, devotees bring home idols of Lord Ganesha and offer prayers in temporary temples. The pandals set up across Mumbai and other places in the state attract thousands of devotees. On the last day of the festival, the idols are immersed in water bodies.
Salvi said this year’s celebrations will be turned into a health festival instead. “In those 10 days [of Ganesh Chaturthi], we will be organising a blood donation camp and an awareness camp to promote plasma donation,” he added. “ We will also be felicitating the families of police [and] army personnel who gave their lives for the country. We are also donating Rs 25 lakh to the Chief Minister’s Fund for fighting the pandemic.”
The plasma donations camp will be held in collaboration with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, according to Mumbai Mirror. The Ganesh idol at Lalbaug in Parel area of Mumbai is among the city’s biggest crowd-pullers during the annual festival.
Another prominent mandal in Mumbai, the Lalbaug Sarvajanik Utsav Mandal, has also decided to not hold a procession this year and has said it will put up only a four-foot idol. The facility of “online darshan” will be provided to devotees so that they can take part in the prayers from home. Besides this, the Goud Saraswat Brahmin Ganeshotsav Samiti in Wadala area has already postponed the celebration till February next year.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had recently thanked all religious communities for showing restraint with regard to celebrating festivals during the lockdown. He said the threat of the coronavirus is not yet over so it would not be possible to celebrate the Ganesh festival with the usual pomp.