Ganesh Chaturthi or Vinayaka Chavithi is one of the grandest festivals of India celebrated with much fervor and pomp. This festival marks the birth of the elephant-headed Lord Ganesh – the God of wisdom, prosperity, and good fortune. Celebrated on the fourth day (Shukla Paksha) of Bhadrapada month, according to the Hindu calendar, Ganesh Chaturthi 2020 will be observed on 22 August.
For the first time in the recent past, Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations across India will be a low-key affair, owing to the severity of the COVID-19 situation in India. The resplendent 10-day-celebrations, involving setting up of pandals, installation of the Lord Ganesh idol, daily poojas, cultural activities, Visarjan (Immersion process) will be devoid of elaborate fanfare this year.
State Governments have already released guidelines for celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi 2020 following all COVID safety norms. Although some of our religious rituals and grandiose practices (as a part of the celebration) are going to alter (in light of our own safety), neither the true spirit of the festival nor the devotee’s reverence is affected. Here’s how COVID-induced regulations will change the face of Ganesh Chaturthi Celebrations this year.
No Public Processions:
The grand processions held while bringing the idol of the deity home, and during Visarjan are prohibited in most states like Delhi, Goa, Telangana, Karnataka, etc. Pune Police instructs people to buy Ganesh idols online, whereas The Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority decides to distribute 80,000 clay idols in the city to encourage eco-friendly celebrations at home.
SOP for Immersion ceremony:
Visarjan of the Lord Ganesh idol on the 10th day is usually accompanied by a grand parade, loud music and dance in popular cities like Pune, Mumbai, Hyderabad, etc. Contrary to the carnivalesque way it used to sound and feel, the immersion process will be simple this year. Ganesh Mandals and residential societies in Pune are advised to arrange water tanks in their premises, and the Mumbai Metropolitan Region mandates online booking of a particular time slot for idol immersion in nearby artificial lakes. The Government of Goa has released a list of the very few places where immersion will be allowed from 5 pm and 10 pm.
Restrictions on community celebrations:
While Karnataka State allows one Ganesh pandal per ward/ village, the Telangana Government urges people to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi at home just like Ugadi, Sri Ram Navami, and Eid were celebrated with families earlier this year. Public Ganeshotsav organizers in Maharashtra must take prior approval from the concerned municipality or local authority for organizing Ganeshotsav. The festival celebrations in Goa are not allowed in containment zones and are limited to one and a half days in non-containment zones.
LIVE streaming of the Aarti rituals:
Aarti is the time when pandals in every corner of the street will be crowded with devotees seeking blessings of God. To avoid the crowds, the Maharashtra Government has come up with the idea of initiating the digital streaming of Pooja and Aarti rituals so that people can have virtual darshan from their homes.
Worshipping ‘little’ Ganesh Idols:
Khairtabad in Hyderabad and Mumbai’s Lalbaugcha Raja are famous for installing mammoth Ganesh idols every year. However, Ganesh Chaturthi 2020 sees an uncommon shrinking in the size of the deity’s idol at these places. Khairatabad Ganesh Utsav Committee will set up one-foot tall Lord Ganesh, shelving its usual practice of increasing the size of the idol by one foot every year (since its establishment in 1954), and Lalbaugcha Raja idol will stand 4-feet tall this year. Maharashtra and Karnataka Governments have capped the maximum height of the idol at 4 feet.
Irrespective of the way we celebrate our festival this year compared to the celebrations of Ganesha Chaturthi 2019 or the years before, let the motive of Indian festivals to celebrate our culture and bring us together show up in our unrelenting faith in Vignaharta, the one who eliminates all the obstacles, and our mutual prayers for a COVID-free world!