Vikram Patil from Jakimirya in Ratnagiri lives right by the sea. On Tuesday, his family will bid adieu to Ganpati Bappa after hosting the deity in their home for 10 days. This year, however, there will be no procession ahead of immersing the Ganesh idol in the sea and the festival will come to an end, as Patil puts it, without any ‘josh (enthusiasm)’.
Each year ahead of Ganeshotsav, natives of Konkan are homeward bound from Mumbai, Pune and other parts of the state. The 10-day festival is celebrated with more fervour in the Konkan region than in other parts of the state.
In the three coastal districts of the region, most families host the deity in their homes. Unlike Mumbai and Pune where huge Ganesh idols arrive in thousands of pandals, in Konkan, the number of idols worshipped at home far outnumber those worshipped in public pandals. And the immersions on the second day after the idol is worshipped for one-and-half day, and on the fifth day, are higher compared to tenth day immersions, locals say.
According to the local residents, the Ganesh festival is also when extended family members living far away make it a point to come home and the family reunion is an integral part of the celebrations in Konkan.
“I have uncles, aunts, cousins living in Borivali, Palghar, Thane, Badlapur and every year they come home for Ganpati without fail. But this year because of Covid-19, they did not come. Our house is usually full of people during these ten days but this time it was rather quiet. It will only be a few of us who will immerse the idol in the sea while maintaining physical distance,” said Patil, a mango farmer.
The district administrations in Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg have implemented the directives of the state government putting in place all the measures to avoid crowding at seafronts, disallowing processions and as Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had urged all the faithful ahead of the festival to “keep it simple”. Even as the state government urged the railways to run special trains from Mumbai to Konkan ahead of the festival, the trains had only up to 25 per cent bookings in the face of the pandemic.
According to local authorities, while there were about 118 public Ganesh pandals in Ratnagiri, about 1.45 lakh people hosted the deity in their homes.
Closer to Mumbai in Alibag, the municipal council has deployed 50 lifeguards at the beach who will carry out immersions for families bringing their idols to the seashore. “Until last year, there would be at least 3,000-4,000 immersions taking place at the beach every hour but this year we are not allowing anyone to enter the beach. There is two-tier barricading near the beach and we will allow two persons per family to come and hand over the idols to the life guards for immersion. The pujas that used to be performed at the beach before immersions are now being done at home,” said Mahesh Chaudhari, CEO of the Alibag Municipal Council. “We followed the same rules for one-and-a-half day and fifth day immersions and it all went smoothly because people are also aware of the risk of infection. It will be the same on Tuesday as well,” Chaudhari said.
In Raigad, this year there were 287 public Ganesh pandals while 1,00,239 private idols (hosted in homes) that were registered for immersion. Of the private idols about 54,512 were registered for immersion on the fifth day of the festival, according to local authorities.
Shrivardhan in south Raigad that took a major battering when cyclone Nisarga struck on June 3 is just about getting back on its feet after electricity was restored to almost all parts of it. Ganpati Bappa was welcomed in many homes but the festival lacked its traditional sheen as many are still to clear the detritus of destruction that Nisarga left in their coconut and mango orchards.
“The festival was definitely quieter and about 70 per cent of the immersions took place on the fifth day and much fewer are expected on Tuesday,” said Amit Shedge, sub-divisional officer, Shrivardhan. He said that the state government’s guidelines are being followed strictly.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines